Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
March 8, 2010
Issue #366

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I am always interested in the feedback I receive from readers.  I am sometimes surprised by how somebody has been able to apply one of my articles.  Thank you for your responses.  They encourage me to continue.
I originally started this newseletter ten years ago for clowns.  I have discovered that since then magicians, jugglers, and musicians have subscribed.  I also have subscribers, including pastors, who are not entertainers.  They tell me that my comments are interesting and sometimes helpful.  I try to vary the type of articles that I write so you each will find something useful at least once in a while.
Promoting my books is not my primary purpose in publishing this newsletter.  However, it was my most effective form of advertising during 2009.  Thank you to everyone who ordered books from me.  That income makes it easier to justify the time that I spend preparing this newsletter.
The articles in this newsletter are protected by copyright and you may not reprint them in another publication without my permission.  (You can read more about copyright in one of the articles below.)  However, you may forward this newsletter to anybody you think may be interested in it.  Because it does promote my books, the more people who read or subscribe to it the better.  Thank you to everyone who has been telling others about this newsletter.
Have a great week,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Web Site Update
Entertainment 80 Years Ago
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

March 8, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"People like to be entertained, but I don't think they like to be fooled.  They say lets go out tonight and have a good time.  They don't say lets go out and be fooled." - Aldo Columbini


Aldo made his comment during a lecture for magicians.  Some magicians do present their routines as proof that they can fool their audience.  They come across as being superior to their audience members who can't figure out their puzzles.  There is also a style of "comedy" magic where an audience member is manipulated into doing or saying something that is foolish.  Increasingly I have heard people say they are reluctant to assist a magician in a routine because they are afraid the magician will make a fool out of them.


Sometimes puzzles can be entertaining, but only if you let people figure out the answer.  For many years while doing strolling entertainment at Raging Waters I used a puzzle where I demonstrated how to tie a knot in a bandana without letting go of the corners.  (The puzzle is included in my new Introduction to Magic booklet.)  I always made sure at least one person in each group correctly solved the puzzle before I moved on to another group.  Most often I waited until everyone had figured it out.  That type of presentation allows audience members to feel good about themselves because they solved the puzzle instead of being fooled.


There is a purpose for fooling people with magic, and that is creating a sense of wonder.  If you don't fool them there is no wonder.  I think part of the key to creating that sense is for you to feel wonder yourself.  You aren't presenting something that you can do and the audience cannot.   You are sharing something that you think is beautiful and wonderful.


Of course, if the magic is part of a plot or story that is entertaining itself the method is unimportant so the audience doesn't notice that they have been fooled.


There is a tradition and philosophy that clown characters are tricksters.  An example is the straw flower routine.   A clown enters carrying a bouquet of flowers and offers one to somebody in the audience.  When the audience person takes the flower by the stem, the clown pulls up on the flower leaving the audience member holding a drinking straw.  (The stems of each flower in the bouquet were previously inserted into drinking straws.)  The clown then leaves having gotten a laugh from the rest of the crowd because they made one person look foolish.  That is a reason some people give for resenting clowns.


Other practical jokes tricks that laymen associate with clowns include squirt boutonnieres, squirt cameras, and hand buzzers.  At one time in Southern California people were reluctant to shake hands with me when I was in clown character.  I noticed that they would peer at my palm first.  I finally discovered that several clowns in the region were using hand buzzers when they did strolling entertainment.  People were wary of being fooled by that trick.


One way to entertain as a trickster is to be caught in your own practical joke.  I began using a hand buzzer, but I was too inept to use it properly.  I would offer to shake with my right hand, but the buzzer was on my left palm.  When nothing happened while I was shaking, I became puzzled.  I accidentally put my hands together, and jumped when the buzzer went off.  I let it run all the way down.  Then I would get the audience person to shake with their left hand, and nothing happened.  Sometimes a young person would tell me that I had to wind the buzzer up first.  I would wind it up, and then push the button to test that it was working.  I jumped again when it went off, and let it run all the way down.  Again nothing happened when we shook hands.  I would give them the buzzer to show me how to do it.  They would wind up the buzzer and put it on their hand.  When we shook hands and it went off, I jumped a third time.  Then I gave up and put the buzzer away.  I have not used that routine in years, but because of the context at that time it was very successful then.


If you perform magic, how can you do more than just fool the audience?  How can you make your effect entertaining?  If you are a trickster type character, how can you be caught in your own joke yourself? 



Greg Wood, a subscriber from Canada, contacted me last week asking permission to reprint one of my articles in the newsletter published by his magic club.  (I did give him permission.)  He pointed out that the copyright notice at the bottom of my Thought For The Week newsletter, which is autmatically copied from one issue to the next, still said 2009.  Thank you Greg for your request and pointing out the mistake.  This issue has the correct copyright date.


Somebody else contacted me to ask my permission for posting an article I wrote on their web site.  I turned down that request because I have learned that once an article is on another web site I loose all control.  It is difficult to update the article if necessary because I don't have administrative access to their site. 


Also, I have had problems with people giving reprint permission to articles on their site without contacting me first which is illegal.  According to the copyright law, all rights to an article belong to the original author unless the transfer of specific rights has been negotiated with the author.  The transfer has to be done in writing.  Some variety arts publications claim on their masthead to control the rights to articles that appear in them.  However, that is not true.  I have had articles published in those magazines, and I have always specified that I am retaining all reprint rights.  The editors have agreed to that, although without having a transfer of rights they don't control any rights to the articles despite what their masthead claims.  Remember that only the original author can grant or deny you the right to reprint an article.  If somebody else gives you permission to reprint an artilce or post it on your web site you are both violating the copyright law.


There is a lot of misinformation circulated about the copyright law.  Part of that is because of changes in the law and precedents set in court cases.  Originally the author had to demonstrate that they were retaining the rights to their work.  Currently, a piece of writing is automatically protected as soon as it is in a fixed form whether or not it has a copyright notice.  (There are some advantages to including a copyright notice.)  Now the burden of proof is on the user.  If you copy something written by somebody else you have to be able to prove that you have received permission to use it.

Web Site Update

I have been working to update my web site which is  The list of performances open to the public is current.  (Right now all of my public performances are in the Puget Sound Region of Washington State.)  My publication page is also current with several books out of print now because I've sold all of the available copies.  You can now purchase my two newest booklets using PayPal from that page.  You can always access my book list using the Books by Bruce button under Quick Links on the right side of my newsletters.
The biggest change has been in the history section of my site.  I have corrected or updated some of the pages.  I have also added some new pages.  I am planning to add some more pages in the near future.  If you are interested in the history of comedy and clowning go to

Entertainment 80 Years Ago 


In 1930, Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights" was released.  It was a sound synchronized film without spoken dialogue.   Chaplin was one of the last silent film stars to resist the transition to spoken performances.  He considered silent movies to be artistically superior to talking films and thought "all talking" films were a fad that would soon pass away.  Chaplin is an International Clown Hall of Fame inductee.

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 2010 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
Jacksonville, Florida
 Introduction to Juggling, Creativity Techniques, Trick Cartoons, 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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