Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
January 4, 2010
Issue #359

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Welcome to a new year of my Thought for the Week newsletter.  I started this newsletter in 2001.  It has not come out every single week because I fit it into the schecule of my other commitments. 
One of my goals has been to complete 365 Thought for the Week articles that I would then combine into a Thought for the Day book.  I am getting close to accomplishing that.  I have some other writing projects that are nearing completion as well.  That means I may send the Thought for the Week out a little less often this year as I concentrate on those projects.  However, the Tought for the Week has been a fun and interesting challenge.  (Carole frequently asks how I keep coming up with ideas to write about.)  I treasure my relationship with each of you.  So, I will not be turning my back on it completely.
Have a very happy and sucessful New Year,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Circus Lingo
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

January 4, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"One of the most important assets a writer has is her authority.  The reader has to trust you enough to believe in your writing."  - Susan Breen


The same thing is true about entertainment.  The audience has to trust you enough to believe in your performance.


It is my opinion that some of the clown organizations put too much emphasis on appearance, and that there are many clowns who look great but don't know how to entertain.  However, your appearance does play an important role in establishing your authority.  When you enter, if you look like you know about clowning the audience will assume that you do.  If your appearance is amateurish the audience will assume that you don't know what you are doing.  The more that your audience knows about clowning the more this is true.  Your appearance is not limited to your make up and costume, but includes your props and any set pieces.


Other aspects of showmanship contribute to establishing your authority.  Your use of pre-show music and the musical introduction to your show can contribute to the perception of your ability as an entertainer.  The way that you enter and using a microphone properly, if you use one, influences that perception.  The proper use of lighting can also help convince an audience that you know what you are doing.


Gaining credentials is another way to establish your authority.  Many people enter competitions just so they can be introduced as an "award winning" entertainer.  I know a magician from the state of Washington who worked hard to obtain a booking in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, just so he could be introduced as an "international entertainer."  The fact that I could claim to be a columnist for Laugh-Makers Magazine opened many doors for me as an instructor and a performer in the mid-1980's.  That did not mean that I knew more than others, but it was a credential indicating that others accepted me as an authority.  I was honored by the World Clown Association as their 1993 Clown of the Year.  For a while I used that as a credit in my introductions and promotional material.  I have stopped using that because a credit that old makes it seem like I haven't accomplished anything worthwhile since then.


The first few moments of your act or show are vital in establishing your authority.  I work hard on my openings.  I want them to establish my character and gain the respect of the audience as soon as possible.  I want my act to begin with something amazing, a big laugh, or both.


Before the audience will trust you, you have to trust yourself.  You have to be confident in your success.  Being thoroughly prepared is a key to confidence.  I try to be well rehearsed, and if possible have back up plans in case things don't go as I want.  I don't worry about things going wrong if I know I am prepared for that eventuality.  For example, I used invisible thread for my floating balloon swan routine.  I knew that the thread could break, so I always had a second thread available to insure I would ultimately succeed.  It is not necessary to have a perfect performance if you don't let mistakes shake your confidence.  I have found that often if I make a mistake and persevere, the audience appreciates my eventual success even more.  If I forgot about a mistake and continued with the show, the audience forgot about it as well.


Audience members know that what we do is not real.  However, if they trust that you will give a good performance they will voluntarily "suspend their disbelief" and willingly enter your world of make believe.  Then they will become participants instead of dispassionate observers.


How do you gain the trust of your audience?  How do you demonstrate that you know what you are doing?  Do you look like you know what you are doing?  What elements of showmanship do you use to establish your creditability?  What credits do you have that can be used in an introduction?  Does the opening of your show establish you as a performing authority?  What can you do to bolster your confidence?


Circus Lingo: Cherry Pie and Chinese

Cherry Pie is additional labor for extra compensation.  For example, while I was with the Carson & Barnes Circus in 1980 and 1981 I received seven dollars a week for helping to set up the backdoor curtain (performer's entrance.)  I also received additional pay for driving a show owned pickup truck and trailer from lot to lot.  Some people were able to double their income by picking up enough Cherry Pie assignments.
Chinese is additional labor that you are not paid for.  For example, when I toured with the Funs-A-Poppin Circus, most of the acts assisted in setting up and tearing down the show.
Terms can vary from show to show.  When I toured with Circus Kirk everyone was assigned to a crew with specific duties for set up and tear down.  For example, during the second half of the 1976 season I was on the crew that set up the sideshow tent, banner line, and stages.  Chinese was work not normally assigned to your crew.  For example, if the Big Top Crew fell behind in completing their work, the other crews would assist them in getting the tent ready for the performance.  That backfired on the Big Top Crew when they began to rely upon that.  One day several of that crew's members were observed slacking off.  Somebody overheard them asking their crew chief if he would be requesting Chinese from the other crews that day.  Word was quickly spread through the other crews who rushed to complete their work and then eveyone hid.  Suddenly the Big Top Crew was forced to work extra hard to get their job done on time without any assistance from the others.
An emergency situation is one time when everyone participates in Chinese.  The Carson & Barnes Circus had a tent crew that was responsible only for setting up and tearing down the Big Top.  They could take down the tent in about an hour.  On rare occassions if there was an approaching storm that could potentially damage the tent, a Chinese situation would be announced.  Then all of the performers assisted in getting the tent down.  With everyone working it could be taken down in less than fifteen minutes.
Thank you for being a subscriber.  I am always interested in your questions and comments.
Remember if you have missed an issue, you can read it by using the archive link in the right column.  If you want to change the address where you are receiving this newsletter, use the update profile link below.  If this newsletter no longer meets your needs, you can use the SafeUnsubscribe link to be permanently removed from my mailing list.  If you want to spread the word about this newsletter, you can use the forward email link below to send copies to others that you think might be interested.
I hope to see you down the road.

Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy
Copyright 2009 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.
All rights reserved. 

Educational Opportunities
April 29 - May 1, 2010
Branson Magic Bonanza
Branson, MO
I will be there with a dealer table.
July 9-15, 2010
Clown Camp Singapore
Sixteen hours of classes over three days plus four days of performing in Singapore schools. 
I believe in promoting any event I will be lecturing at.  If you schedule me for an educational event that you are hosting, I will list it here.  My goal is to do what I can to best meet the needs of you and your group.
For information on additional services that I can provide for an educational event 

Quick Links
Join Our Mailing List