Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #387
November 8, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


Thank you to those who responded to last week's newsletter.  I continue to use your feedback to chart the direction for my issues.

I will be performing in a magic variety show this weekend in Everett, WA.  The show is in the Historic Everett Theater on Colby St.  This is the third time that I have performed in this grand old theater and I really enjoy it.  It is an intimate enough venue that the audience can really get involved.

You can always pick up ideas by attending different types of shows.  I attended the Disney On Ice Let's Celebrate show last weekend.  I was impressed with how they handled the transitions between skating acts, especially during the first half.  It was interesting seeing how the performers connected with the audience, especially the person who played Ham from the Toy Story movies.  There were also some great audience participation routines.  I enjoyed seeing the old "balloon chase" circus clown routine performed using the Mad Hatter's hat instead of balloons.  The more shows you see, the greater your understanding of entertainment and showmanship will become.  Then you can adapt the principles that you discover to your own performances.

Have a great week,

In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Magic Variety Show
Circus on PBS
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

November 8, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless." -- Thomas Alva Edison


Here is an example excerpted from my book Creativity For Entertainers Volume One: The Creative Process.  "Almost every idea has some value or you wouldn't have bothered considering it.  Before you discard an idea, look at it carefully for those elements that you might be able to use in another way.  The 3-M company makes Scotch Tape.  One of their scientists was attempting to improve the glue they use on their tape.  He came up with a new formula but it was easily peeled off.  He thought his glue was a failure, but asked others in the company if they could think of an application for the glue.  Art Fry worked at the company, and sang in his church choir.  Art was looking for a way to temporarily mark songs in his hymnal.  He put some of the new glue on squares of paper and discovered it worked well for his purpose.  That evolved into the Post-It Note, one of the company's best selling products."


I have become increasingly interested in adding motivational messages to my performances so several years ago I purchased a set of "The HERO in You" silk scarves from Wonder Imagery.  The set has four small scarves each with one letter on them.  Together they spell out the word "hero."  As you display them you describe qualities associated with that letter.  For example, H means to be Honest and to give a Hand out to others.  You put the four scarves into some kind of change device and they are transformed into a 36-inch scarf depicting the body of a superhero.  (This is a headless cartoon scarf.  According to the directions you hold it up in front of a child who is supposed to embody all of those qualities so the child becomes a hero.)  I have never performed that routine in a show because the script that comes with the props does not fit my personality, and I have not yet written one that I like better.  Also, I haven't found the right spot in my performances to do the routine.


That does not mean the scarves are useless.  The current Funundrum edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus includes the classic clown car of enormous capacity act.  In this particular variation all the clowns exiting the car are costumed as superheroes.  For example, somebody exits in a parody of a Batman costume and then juggles three baseball bats.  This past weekend I entertained at a birthday party for a boy who had seen the circus two months ago.  He loved that act and told his parents that he wanted a superhero clown party.  They put up clown decorations, had carnival style games, and some of the kids came dressed in superhero Halloween costumes.  I wanted to do something related to being a superhero without going to the effort of constructing a new costume for this party.  I have one routine where I produce a headless cartoon scarf depicting a monkey and hold it in front of me without realizing what it looks like.  I used the headless superhero scarf instead of the monkey and got a tremendous response because it was topical for this party.  That was worth having originally purchased the set.  Now I will experiment with the headless cartoon scarves that I own to see which consistently gets the best response.


Here is another example of the unexpected benefit concept.  When I painted a bald eagle on a 36-inch scarf I used a product called Gobo to keep dye from spreading into neighboring areas.  I used black Gobo to give the edge of the feathers a black shadow.  Gobo contains latex and it turned tacky so the scarf stuck to itself when I tried using it.  I had the scarf dry cleaned which removed the Gobo, but also left white areas around each feather and looked wrong.  I used dye to paint new black outlines, but left a little of the white showing.  That formed a highlight and a shadow making it easier to see the feather design.  What was a series of mistakes ultimately improved the design.  I may purposely do something similar in the future when I want that effect.


When something doesn't work the way you expected ask yourself, these questions:  How else can I use it?  How can I turn an apparent mistake into a benefit?  Can I make it do that again on purpose when I want what just happened?



Magic Variety Show

I will be one of the acts appearing in An Evening of Unforgettable Magic! on November 14th at the Historic Everett Theatre on Colby in Everett, WA.  There will be two performances at 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM.  The show is being produced by Shawn O'Donnell who is also serving as the emcee.  The other acts are Brian Cook, Steve the Pretty Good, Trevor Wattes and Lorena, Brothers from Different Mothers (Juggling), and Enik and Rickie (Junior Ballroom Dancers).  The ticket prices are $8 for children and $10 for adults.


Evening of Unforgettable Magic

Circus on PBS

Last week I watched the first two one-hour episodes of Circus airing on America's Public Broadcasting System.  It was very interesting.  They commented that often clowns are expected to come up with a new act overnight.  I experienced that myself when I toured with tented shows.  Sometimes an act flopped and they needed something new in that spot.  Acts joining or leaving during the season was not unusual which might mean a change in the running order requiring that the clowns fill a rigging break.  Besides creating entirely new acts, when I was with the Carson & Barnes Circus I sometimes had to incorporate people new to the show into the clown routines.  D.R. Miller, the owner of the Carson & Barnes Circus, didn't want relatives of performers traveling with the show without having a specific job.  He thought it was easier to turn them into instant clowns than into an acrobat.  I discuss this experience in more detail in Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three.


I am looking forward to seeing the next two episodes this week.


The program is also available on DVD if you would like to keep it for archive purposes or if your local PBS station does not carry it.


Circus on PBS  

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Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy
Copyright 2010 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.
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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


California Clown Campin'

August 1-6, 2011

Santa Barbara, CA

Topics to be announced

CCC Information

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

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