Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
July 26, 2010
Issue #378

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Happy National Clown Week / International Clown Week.  Both terms are used for August 1-7.
When I am booked for a convention or conference I try to be as useful a resource as possible for the organizers.  One of the things that I do is write an article for the organization's publication to help promote the event.  You can read about an example of this under the Article by Bruce Johnson title in this week's newsletter.
Another thing that I do is list the event in the Educational Opportunities column and provide a link to the organizer's web site.  I have learned that those links do get used.  Just about every week somebody uses a link to learn more about an upcoming event.
A service that I can provide, but  haven't promoted much, is being able to fill in for other instructors if needed.  I have several sessions that don't require much in terms of instructional aids so I can do them on the spur of the moment.  I have enough knowledge of other topics that I can do an impromptu class with little or no warning.  For example, at one convention it was discovered after it was time for a skit performance class to begin that the instructor had not arrived.  I stepped in and filled the remainder of the time with information on doing a performance.  On other occasions I have filled in with classes on history, improvisation, magic, and creativity.  Once I taught a pre-conference intensive workshop on magic when it was announced after I arrived that the instructor had to drop out due to a family emergency.  One convention organizer said he received many compliments on his planning because after I filled in at the last moment people credited him with scheduling an emergency back up class.  They didn't believe that a class that good could have been done on the spir of the moment.  I was pleased to let him take the credit.  I believe that part of my job is to make the organizer look good to the participants.
The popular trivia feature returns with this issue.
Have a great week,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Article by Bruce Johnson
History Trivia
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

August 2, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."  -- Albert Einstein


While visiting museums in Singapore, I discovered that there are several styles of shadow puppets.  The museums placed the puppets in two sided displays so you could see the puppets and move around to the other side of the screen to see the shadow that they cast.  Some of the puppets are translucent and colored so the shadows are tinted.  Other puppets are opaque and cast a dark shadow on the screen.  I was surprised to see that some of the opaque puppets were intricately painted.  That sparked my curiosity.  Why spend the time and effort to decorate them if it didn't affect the shadow on the screen?  I consulted some books with information on shadow puppets and was surprised to discover that there are two answers.    The first reason is that the shadow puppet plays are traditionally performed at night, but sometimes there is a desire to perform them during the day.  In that situation the screen is taken down and the audience sees the show as if they are watching rod puppets perform.  By being decorated the puppets are more versatile.  The second reason is that in some cultures it was traditional to divide the audience.  Women and children were limited to sitting in front of the screen where they saw only the shadows.  Men were allowed to sit in the back where they could observe how the puppeteer manipulated the puppets.  Now that tradition is no longer followed, and anybody can sit in the back to watch the puppeteer's technique.


That brought back a powerful memory.  When I was growing up my family frequently visited the Knott's Berry Farm amusement park where I saw Tony Kemeny performing with his puppets.  His stage was built into a wagon representing the ones itinerant performers might have used going from town to town.  One of my favorite things to do was sneak around behind the wagon and peek through the crack in the door to watch Tony as he operated his puppets.  I cherished those behind the scenes glimpses.  They helped feed my youthful interest in puppets as a hobby.  I don't use puppets much now, but I incorporated them into my performances when I appeared at the Raging Waters amusement park for eleven years.


That is a reminder to me that I might be observed from the side or back while performing.  For example, when Carole and I visit the Seattle Ronald McDonald House the parents sometimes stand behind me so they can watch the expressions of their children while I perform.  I need to be sure that my props at least look presentable from that side.  Often it is easy to let the back of things like signs get worn because the audience normally doesn't see it.  As a magician it is also important that I try to keep secrets from being seen when somebody is at that angle.  That is why I use an open top box on my magic table to hold gimmicks.  No matter where somebody is standing their view is blocked so they can't see the secret.  Also, when I am holding a gimmick in my hand I tend to keep it in front of my body while manipulating it so my torso blocks the view of those behind me.


Satisfying my curiosity about shadow puppets was applicable to being an entertainer.  Sometimes curiosity is its own reward.  Somebody recently asked me if I knew why Maple leaves have such large indentations.  It turns out that they allow the leaves to fold up during a high wind so there is less wind resistance and the tree is less likely to be toppled.  Sometime when you see a Maple tree, start at the stem of a leaf and run your hand towards the tip to see how easily the leaf collapses.  I may never use that information but it does fill me with a sense of awe at how wonderfully our world was created.


How can you maintain your curiosity?  What questions can you try to answer? 


What if somebody watched your performance from behind?  Would you be content with what they saw?

Article by Bruce Johnson

I wrote an article on constructing inexpensive juggling balls for practice that appears in the current Summer 2010 issue of the Giggle Gazzette, published by the South East Clown Association.  The article is tied into my Introduction to Juggling class that I will be teaching at the SECA convention in September.  It is not practical for instructors traveling by plane to carry beanbags, especially since it was announced today that some airlines are starting to charge a fee for carry on as well as checked luggage.  That means participants in juggling classes are required to supply their own beanbags.  The method that I dscribed in the article makes it easy for them to do that.
If your organization books me as an instructor at a convention or conference, and you distribute a publication to your members, I will supply you with an article to publish in advance to help you promote the event.  That is just one of the services that I supply convention organizers.

History Trivia

Click on the answer that you think is correct.
The first history of court jesters was written in
These links will remain working until September first.  After that date use the link below to check your answer.  You can use tht link now to read previous questions and answers.
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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
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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