February 2010 Vol 1, Issue 10

Creativity For Entertainers Trilogy

Creativity For Entertainers

Welcome to the tenth issue of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter.  
This is an occasional newsletter for owners of my Creavity For Entertainers books.  I am not sending it out on any particular schedule.  There was no issue of this newsletter in January.
In this issue I am continuing to define and describe the Comedy Techniques that are included in a checklist in Volume Two.  Let me know if you find this type of information helpful and I will include it in future issues.  I do truly want this to be a valuable resource for you.  I rely on your feedback to let me know what is helpful.
It was my pleasure to teach an introductory magic class at the 2010 Mount Baker (WA) Boy Scout Council Scouting University.  I had 25 cub scout leaders in the class.  (That was the limit.)  It was great seeing them make connections between what I had to share and their own experience.  I think everyone came up with at least one creative way they were going to be able to use magic in working with the young boys in their units.  I came away with a couple new ideas that I am going to use myself.  It was a good reminder to me that we need to be open to ideas all around us.  People who are new to variety arts bring a fresh perspective that can be an inspiration to us all.  Everyone, even novices, have the ability to be creative.
Have a very happy holiday season,
In This Issue
Mistaken Identity
On the Spot Creativity
Business Card Magnets
Suitcase Latch
Quick Links
Join our Mailing List!

Mistaken Identity

This is another comedy technique from the checklist found on page 186 of Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two: Creative Techniques and Tools.


Mistaken identity is when a character uses an object in the wrong way because they don't realize what it is.  The audience however knows the object's true identity.  For example, when I was in college I saw a comic opera where the cowardly villain was challenged to a duel.  He substituted a banana for one of the dueling pistols.  His dimwitted opponent picked up the banana without looking at it and vainly strutted around brandishing it.


In the opening scene of the 1965 Disney film "The Monkey's Uncle," a chimpanzee gives a banana to the judge in a courtroom.  When the spectators start laughing, the judge attempts regain order by pounding his gavel.  He picks up the banana by mistake and pounds it on his bench.


The mistaken identity routine that you may be most familiar with is banana/bandana.  (You can read more about this routine on pages of Volume Two - 11, 77, 78, 103, 199, 355 Creativity for Entertainers Volume Two and pages 246-251 of Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three.)


The Top Ten exercise on pages 102 through 104 of Volume Two will help you create other mistaken identity routines using a banana.


When I have taught about mistaken identity in lectures I have used a cartoon by Smiley from the 1950's.  It depicts a man setting his watch while looking at an old fashioned gas pump with a dial to register how much gasoline was sold.


I explain that to perform that gag today you would need to switch it by using props people can recognize.  I suggest setting a digital watch while looking at some type of digital display.  (You will find a chapter on Switching in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two 110-124.)


Recently I had my own experience with mistaken identity.  I glanced at the digital display on our stove and saw that it read 425.  I thought I was late for an appointment that I was supposed to leave at 4:00 to meet.  I began to rush to leave and then noticed a clock that said 3:45.  What I hadn't realized is that the digital read out on our stove that normally displays the time was displaying the oven temperature because Carole was doing some baking.


That could be a potential clown skit.  It would be difficult to set it up so the audience understands what is happening, but it would be possible.


Mistaken identity does not only apply to objects.  People can also be misidentified.  For example, in the classic fairy tale of the Brave Tailor, the tailor brags about how many flies he has killed.  The king thinks he is referring to dragons and mistakenly thinks the tailor is a knight.  So the king sends the tailor off to fight a dragon menacing the kingdom.


What mistakes would your character make in identifying an object or another character?  How can you make sure that the audience knows the true identity?  What would you do as a result of your mistaken identity?


You can read more about mistaken identity in Creativity for Entertainers Volume One on page 134 and Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three pages 250 through 251.

On The Spot Creativity


As entertainers we often come to rely upon our favorite props, but sometimes they aren't available.


In 1992, I taught and performed at a weekend clown training program for teenagers sponsored by the Tennessee Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Commission.  Randy Munson was one of the other instructors.  His luggage, including his ventriloquist figure, was delayed.  He purchased some Dr. School Foot Plasters from the hotel gift shop and used them to form eyes for a puppet improvised from one of his socks.  He performed a very funny routine with this temporary character.


In 1993, I was invited to lecture at the World Clown Congress in Harnosand, Sweden.  I took a few props along with me just in case there was an opportunity to perform.  After I arrived I discovered that several theme shows had been scheduled during the Congress.  For example, one was a show by American clowns.  The shows were cast and organized during the week.  One theme was Magical Clowns.  I figured that I could do a nice ten-minute act with the props I had with me so I volunteered for the show.  The day before the show nobody else had volunteered, so Ruben Madsen, the director of the Congress, told me he would do a half-hour during the show.  The morning of the show, Ruben discovered that he was required in a meeting at the same time so I would have to do the show solo.  I had a few hours to scrounge around the hotel to find items that I could turn into magic props.  I managed to come up with enough for another thirty-minutes of performance.  Two young girls who were students at a Swedish circus school were in the audience, and they volunteered to do a couple of skits which filled out the required time.  It wasn't the best performance of my career, but it filled the needs of the Congress.


The ability to entertain with common objects when required is a valuable one to develop.  One of my newest publications is Charlie The Juggling Clown Presents Introduction to Magic.  None of the magic effects in this booklet require any specialized magic props.  They can all be performed using easy to find objects.  I wrote the booklet for young people and novice adults, but the information can be useful for more experienced entertainers as well.  It will provide you with a repertoire of entertaining effects that you can quickly and easily prepare to perform.


The price of the booklet is just $10 plus $5 for shipping and handling in the United States.  (Foreign orders will be billed exact postage.)



I will be teaching a class on simple magic with common objects at the Singapore Clown Camp in July.


If you had to prepare to do a performance without access to your normal props, what routines would you use?  How can you make substitute props using items that would be easy to find?

Business Card Magnets

Several years ago I discovered some business card magnets in an office supply store.  They are thin soft flexible adhesive backed magnets the size of a standard business card.  Here are some ways that I have used them.


I turn my photo business cards into refrigerator magnets that I present to the guest of honor at a birthday party.  They have been very popular.


I appreciate the plaques I have received during my career, yet I don't have room to display them on my wall.  I didn't want to pack them away because out of sight too often means out of mind.  My solution was to take the engraved part of the plaque off and attach business card magnets on the back.  Now I have new magnets to hold papers and important reminders to the side of my filing cabinets.  In addition since I see these magnets often I am frequently reminded of people connected to some special events during my career.


I was helping somebody refurbish a What's Next (aka Spot Card) effect.  They had lost some of the magnets.  We were able to cut replacement magnets out of the business card magnets.


How can you use business card magnets?

Suitcase Latch

Twice when I have lectured recently one of the things that people were interested in was the way I keep my suitcase lid open when I use it as a prop case.  I normally use a trunk or foot locker to hold my props.  They have a latch that holds the lid in an open position.  However, I can't take them with me when I fly so I use a soft sided suitcase instead.  The suitcase zips open and there is nothing to keep the lid from flopping all the way back.  If you put the suitcase on a chair and lean the lid against the back of the chair, the lid will cause the suitcase to slide off if there isn't a lot of weight in it.  The solution that I discovered was to get four binder clips from an office supply store and two shoe strings.  I tie a loop in the end of each shoe string.  I put each loop over a binder clip.  Now I can temporarily attach the shoestring to the suitcase and its lid.  By adjusting where I attach the binder clip I can control how far the suitcase will open.  A hotel suitcase stand or a pair of chairs will hold the case at the right height for working out of it on stage.  I use Velcro dots on the lid and the back of a sign to temporarily attach my identification on the case for a show.


This method works so well, that I use it whenever I travel.  I use the binder clips and strings to hold the suitcase open while packing and to hold it open in my hotel room so I can easily access my clothing.


What other method could you use to hold a suitcase open temporarily?  What other uses can you find for binder clips?

That's it for this tenth issue.  I am always interested in your questions, comments, and how you have been able to apply the information from my books.  Often readers come up with ideas that I would not have.  Their ideas then inspire me to create additional related ideas.  This newsletter is an attempt to keep two-way communication with readers of my books flowing.
Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy