Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
January 18, 2010
Issue #360

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

This weekend I will be teaching at the Mount Baker Boy Scout Council Scout Univerisity in Marysville, WA.  My first appearance as a clown and my first magic show were at Cub Scout events.  I learned many classic skits and comedy bits through Cub Scout Pack Meetings, Boy Scout Court of Honors, and Boy Scout Campfires.  My first originial comedy writing efforts were for performances at scouting events.  I attended Boy Scout Leadership training and first learned how to teach classes by serving as Troop Instructor while I was in High School.  I owe a lot to the Scouting program, and this weekend is my attempt to pay back part of my debt.  I will be teaching a class on magic that can be used to meet the magic elective for the Cub Scout Bear requirements.  I hope that maybe this class will start somebody on the path to becoming an entertainer.
 To go along with the class this weekend, I am finishing up a booklet called Charlie The Juggling Clown Presents An Introduction to Magic.  It is the first of a new series of publications aimed at introducing variety arts to youth and adults.  I am excited about this new writing and publishing project.  I'll be announcing here in my newsletter when these books are available.
Also, under the Educational Opportunities column you will see a new event listed.  I will be teaching and presenting the banquet entertainment at the South East Clown Association convention in Florida next September.  I am listing two of the three classes that I will be teaching.  Lee Mullally, the SECA Education Director, and I have not yet decided upon the topic of the third class.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Theatrical Term
Articles by Bruce Johnson
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

January 18, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way."  -- George Evans


Somebody had contacted me by email with some questions about plate spinning.  I answered their questions.  A month later I got another email from them.  They said that it took them three weeks to learn to spin plates, and wanted to know how long it had taken me to learn.  I replied that it took me over a year, but I had taught others to do it in as little as ten minutes.  Their response was, "If I had known that it took you that long, I might not have tried."


There were other juggling tricks that I learned much faster.  When I was taking juggling lessons from Randy Pryor he would sometimes say, "This is a hard trick.  Don't be discouraged if it takes you several weeks to learn it."  I learned some of those tricks within a few days.


Don't compare yourself to other students.  It will take you as long as it takes to learn something.  One reason why there is such variety in the length of time that it takes to learn plate spinning is that there is one connection that your brain needs to make for you to succeed.  Plate spinning is impossible until that connection is made and it is something that cannot be forced.  As an instructor I search for the switch that will make that connection for my students, but it is really something that they have to discover by experiencing it happening.  Then once that connection is made plate spinning is easy.  I struggled and struggled to spin a plate the first time.  Then within a week of my initial success I had mastered enough tricks that I added plate spinning to my juggling act.  Sometimes you just have to be patient with yourself.


(The important concept is that to start a plate spinning, the plate does not spin around the stick.  The tip of the stick makes a circle the same diameter as the bottom of the plate.)


Don't be discouraged if it takes you longer to learn something than it does others.  If you decide that you can't learn something because it is taking you longer, you won't learn.  Sometimes a little more effort is all you need.  If you give up you will never know how close you came.  I was in the advanced studies program in junior high.  Most of my friends in that program took typing in ninth grade because we knew we would have to type lots of term papers in high school and college.  They all learned to type quickly and were often the top of the list in speed trials.  I had a great deal of trouble with typing.  Even though I was one of the slowest in the class I made a lot of errors.  I checked typing books out of the library to use for extra practice in the evenings at home.  In my year book, my teacher wrote, "Typing has really been a 'trial' for you, but you came through nicely!  Your perseverance won out.  Keep typing!"  My teacher would be shocked if she knew how much time I spend typing now.  I could not be the writer that I am without having stuck it out through that initial class to develop one of the tools of my craft.


I have been fortunate to have had some wonderful teachers.  There were several of us who had difficulty in the beginning of my high school chemistry class.  One of the things we had difficulty understanding was the "mole" which is a unit of measurement used in chemistry.  Our instructor, Mr. Wolfe, started a "Chemistry for Lunch Bunch."  We all brought sack lunches and Mr. Wolfe spent his lunch hour trying different methods to explain a mole.  Finally by the end of a week we all understood the concept.  We all earned an A for that semester.  A year later I was Mr. Wolfe's assistant in the chemistry lab.


As a clown instructor I have tried to follow Mr. Wolfe's example.  I use a lot of different methods to try to communicate concepts.  I explain the theory, share my experiences, describe historical examples, lead discussions, and where appropriate provide hands on opportunities.  I create written materials to support my classes.  I extend the learning time outside the class period and provide individual assistance at my dealer table.  Every class that I teach is different, even when I use the same outline, because the students are different and I change what I do based on how they are responding.


How do you respond if it takes you longer to learn something than others or than you expected?  How can you change the way you are trying to learn?  What extra effort can you make?  How can you be patient with yourself while learning that particular skill?


If you teach variety arts, how can you vary the methods you use to present the information?  What can you do to help those who have not understood a concept? 



Theatrical Term: Blocking

A production has two parts: the script, the spoken part, and the blocking, the movement part.
Blocking also refers to the process of planning the physical movement.  When you are blocking the show you are deciding where people will move and the cues for their movement.  The decisions that were made are then referred to as the blocking.  In a theatrical production the cast, director, and stage manager mark the blocking in the margins of their script.
For movies, commercials, physical comedy, and other productions with an emphasis on visual elements the blocking is often recorded as a series of panels similar to a comic strip.  These panels are known as the story board.  Tammy Parish, former RBB&B Circus Boss Clown, told me that they would use story boards to figure out the blocking while they were still on the road.  Then when they reached winter quarters for rehearsals they were ready to actually begin practicing.
Articles by Bruce Johnson

The January issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association, is in the mail.  I wrote the cover article of this issue which is a history of Avner Eisenberg's career.  Avner is the headliner for the 2010 WCA Convention.  This article is part of my series as the WCA Historian.

The January issue of Clowning Around, also has some history trivia fillers that I wrote.  Most of them deal with significant events that happened fifty years ago.  Clowning Around is the only publication for clowns publishing historical information on a regular basis.  (Several of the magic publications have history columns.)
The March issue of The Joyful Noiseletter, published by The Fellowship of Merry Christians, has also been published.  A short article that I wrote on the comedy sermons by famous jester Nasir Ed Din appears in that issue. 
That issue also has a short article titled "Reigniting an Old Tradition" that describes the participation of Bob "Kiwi" Neil in the Holy Humor Sunday Service at Christ Church in Des Plainnes, IL.  I known that many Thought For The Week Subscribers have met Bob at Clown Camp and other clown events.  Holy Humor Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday following Easter.
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. 
September 8-12, 2010
South East Clown Association Convention
 Introduction to Juggling, Creativity Techniques, Banquet Show, and Dealer Table
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 

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