Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
October 18, 2010
Issue #384

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


This issue contains another entry in my popular Clown History Trivia series of questions.  This is one that more magicians than clowns may be able to answer.

I have confirmed that I will be doing two lectures at the World Clown Association Convention in New York next March.  You will find a link for more information under the Educational Opportunities column to the right.  I will be presenting Trick Cartoons and The History of American Clowning. 
Trick Cartoons is my most popular and successful hands on class. (At the recent SECA Convention the participants in that session ranked as 4.0 on a scale of 1-4.)  I love doing that lecture because I am able to see the surprise on participant's faces when they realize that it is something they can actually do and use in their performances.  I also am amazed afterwards to hear back from participants with reports on what they have done with trick cartoons.  It is a session to inspires participants to be creative.

I am excited to be doing The History of American Clowning.  I don't do that presentation very often so this will be a rare opportunity for those attending the WCA Convention.  It is an update on the presentation that I did at the World Clown Congress in Harnosand, Sweden in 1993.  It was one of four papers selected from around the world to be presented at the Congress.  In this presentation I give an overview of the history of clowning in this country, which I think surprises many people.  As I go, I perform some routines associated with important entertainers who contributed to the development of clowning.  It is an entertaining educational session.

In addition to the content of this newsletter, I have placed a longer article on my web site.  It is one that I think you will find interesting and helpful.  You will find the link for that down below.

Also, I would like to call your attention to the fact that I have a new P.O.Box Address.  In a move to a new Post Office facility, a bank of boxes had to be eliminated.  Unfortunately my original box is one that no longer exists.  I had to get a new number which is P.O. Box 82084, Kenmore, WA 98028.  If you send something to my old address it will be forwarded until the beginning of the summer.  I did not realize how many places my business address was listed until I started correcting the box number.

Have a great week,

In This Issue
Thought For The Week
New Web Site Article
History Trivia Quiz
Creativity Newsletter
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

October 18, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I recently read The Pixar Touch by David A. Price.  This book documents the history of the Pixar animation studio.  One of the interesting threads running through the book is how the animators and directors used their personal lives as inspiration for their cartoons.  The book also has a lot to say about character and storytelling.  The book states that John Lasseter, head of the studio, follows a philosophy he learned from studying classic Disney animation.  That philosophy is a cartoon character appearing to think creates the illusion of life.


I have often heard clowns described as cartoon characters.  Usually the person who says that means a clown is bright, colorful, and moves in an exaggerated way.  However, even more important than that is the concept of thought.  Just like a cartoon character, a clown has to think to be alive.  Some performers worry about having the right costume elements or make up design so kids will think they are real.  However, about ten years ago one of the most successful clowns had a very simple appearance.  She wore a red nose, her hair in pig tails, and a jumper.  That was Loonette on the Big Comfy Couch TV series.  It wasn't her appearance that made her real and so loved by children.  It was that she thought about the things that she did.  Frequently the camera would zoom in for a close up as she pondered a situation or decided what she wanted to do next.  She had a doll named Molly who was also alive.  What made Molly different from other dolls is that she could think.  Sometimes a special effect was used to show a thought bubble over Molly's head so the kids knew exactly what she was thinking.  (In one of the Big Comfy Couch children's books, Loonette goes to a garage sale and sees a lot of different dolls who are all the wrong choice.  They are all too big or too fancy.  None of them are alive.  Then she discovers Molly in a barrel of discards.  Molly isn't a very pretty doll.  Loonette learns that Molly can think, and chooses her.)


There are two parts to the thinking process in performance, motivation and reaction.  Motivation is the reason for why a character does something.  Reaction is how the character responds to something that has happened. 


That reaction needs to be motivated by a thought.  A physical action alone is lifeless.  In my Mismade Flag routine (described in detail in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three) I display a red scarf, a white scarf, and a blue scarf.  While putting the scarves into a bag, I "accidentally" drop the blue scarf.  I reach into the bag and pull out a partially made American flag that is missing the field of blue in the corner.  My wife Carole told me that she felt I wasn't reacting enough when I discovered that the blue scarf was lying on the floor.  In performances I began hitting myself on the forehead like they do in the V-8 Juice commercials.  That didn't improve the response to the routine.  Then I began thinking, "Duh that was dumb."  Sometimes I hit myself on the forehead, but not always.  That little change improved response to the routine.  Instead of just going through meaningless motions, my character was thinking.  I've had people tell me that made it realistic.  They believed that I really didn't know I had dropped the blue scarf so they were amazed the first flag that I produced didn't contain any blue.


"Duh that was dumb" is an example of something known as a silent script.  (Magicians call it silent patter.)  It is something planned that you think instead of speaking.  Part of its advantage is that thinking that phrase each time forces me to pause momentarily in the routine.  If you keep moving at the same tempo the audience knows that you are doing it automatically because you aren't taking time to think.  Another advantage to a silent script is that your thoughts get communicated in ways you aren't conscious of.  When I just used the arm movement to hit myself on the head, only my arm was reacting to my stupidity.  By thinking that I was dumb, my posture and facial expressions also react to my stupidity.  A third advantage to a silent script is that it keeps you focused on what is happening instead of letting your mind wander.


Does your character think?  What motivates your character?  How does your character react to things?  How can you use a silent script?

New Article on my Web Site

I placed another new article on my Web Site.  It is titled the Value of Practice and was originally published in 200 in the New Calliope magazine.  It is related to the main article in this week's newsletter because it discusses how proper practice makes it possible to use a silent script.  It also discusses things that you want to make sure are deleted from your silent script.


The Value of Practice

History Trivia Quiz

Click on the link that you think is the best answer to the following question.  (These links will be valid through November 1.  After that date use the History Trivia archive link to check your answer.)


This is the fiftieth anniversary of The Magic Land of Alakazam premiering on television.  It was one of my favorite television shows growing up.  It starred Mark Wilson, his wife, Nani Darnel, and Rebo the Clown.  Rebo was a siltent character and I know that he influenced my decision to make Charlie a silent clown.  Rebo was portrayed by


Bob Keeshan


Bev Bergeron

Creativity Newsletter

As part of my effots to make my Creativity for Entertainers book trilogy as useful as possible to the owners, I publish a second internet newsletter titled Creativity For Entertainers.  It contains corrections, additional ideas, and more resources.  Anybody may read it, but it is most useful if you own copies of my books.  I don't reveal any actual magic secrets in the newsletter because it is archived in a way that is accessible by the general public.  Instead I refer readers to the relevant pages in my books for the information that they need.  It is not published on any set schedule.  When I have something to share and the time to do it, I write an issue.  Issue Thirteen was sent to subscribers this past weekend.  If you thought you were subscribed, and didn't receive it, please check your profile using the link at the bottom of this page.  If you would like to read some issues before deciding to subscribe, use the archive link on the upper right.  Both of my internet newsletters are archived on the same page.


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

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.

World Clown Association Convention
March 14-18, 2011
New York, NY
The History of American Clowning,
Trick Cartoons

For information on additional services that I can provide for an educational event 

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