Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #389 November 29, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


I believe in seeing and being inspired by entertainers who use a variety of skills.  I know that I am not alone in this philosophy.  I started this newsletter for clowns, but have many other variety arts represented, including musicians, in my subscribers.

I recently saw a performance by Swil Kanim who is a Native American violinist who alternates playing music and telling stories.  Many of his stories contain humor and most of them are inspirational.  It was an amazing and moving performance.  You will read more about it in this week's main newsletter.

I also attended a performance by the Everett Philharmonic Orchestra that included Jon Deak's 1982 compostion B.B. Wolf.  In this number a bassist provides noises and sound effects while a narrator reads a poem that is the Big Bad Wolf's lament about being misunderstood.  For example, "about the sheep thing, we just happen to be running at the same time.  When they see me, they flee.  When I see one of them, I have to pursue him."  Again it was a very entertaining piece that also demonstrated wonderful technical skill by Br. Anna Jensen playing the bass.

About seven years ago I heard about Storygami, a combination of storytelling and origami.  In this style of performance originated by Michael G. LaFosse each fold of the paper corresponds to an element of the paper.  I couldn't find details of his performance, but knowing about it was the inspiration for my Swan story where each twist of a balloon creates a new object used in the story until I finally end up with a swan.  This story is available on my web site.  I recently found a book and DVD set on Story-gami written by Michael LaFosse & Richard Alexander.  I looking forward to the chance to explore this art form.

How can you combine Storytelling with one of your variety arts skills?
Have a great week,

In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

November 29, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


"The Swil Kanim Foundation's mission is to inspire Self-Expression for the Honor of All... 'Fine Arts' includes music, poetry, story telling, and other artistic expressions that bring the elements of self-respect, honor, enjoyment, and self-confidence to target audiences." - Swil Kanim Foundation flyer.


The opportunity for self-expression is one of the benefits that attract many variety artists.  However, not all self-expression is positive.  I recently attended a performance by Swil Kanim, who is a Native American violinist/ storyteller/ inspirational speaker.  He said that when he realized that some self-expression is not honorable, he decided to concentrate on expressing himself in ways that would bring honor to others.


Your appearance is one way to honor others.  When my wife and I go out for dinner, I dress a little nicer than I do when I am working in my office because I want to honor her.  When I spoke at the general session at the 2010 South East Clown Association Convention, I wore a dress shirt and tie because I wanted to honor those attending the convention to continue their education by demonstrating that I took the lecture seriously.  As a variety artist you honor your audience when you look your best for a performance.


Another way to honor your audience is by doing your best possible performance.  That means practice and proper preparation for each show.  If I get lazy and don't spend as much time as usual preparing for a performance I am not honoring that particular audience.


Another way I try to honor an audience is by doing something they will recognize as being prepared just for them.  For example, when I do a birthday party I magically produce a greeting for the guest of honor that has their name and age printed on it.  If I am performing for an organization I try to incorporate their logo into one of my routines.  You can read many ways that I do this in Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three.


When I have somebody from the audience join me on stage, I try to honor them by treating them with respect.  I escort them onto the stage.  I lead the audience in applauding them when they succeed in the task that I give them.  I escort them off the stage when they are through.


I think it is interesting that Swil Kanim just doesn't stop with honor and respect.  He says there are three other elements you should bring to your audience.  One of those is enjoyment.  Often that is missing in variety arts acts.  Some performers do something because they can or they enjoy it themselves.  If they have worked hard to develop a skill they are going to use it regardless of audience response.  Swil Kanim refers to a target audience.  I have some routines that I perform mainly at clown and magic conventions because I know that members of that special audience will enjoy them.  Often this is a routine that starts off like they would expect, and then I add an unexpected twist.  I don't use those routines with a lay audience who wouldn't have the same frame of reference.  There are some things that I know go over great with a lay audience that don't work well with an audience of entertainers so I shorten or eliminate those routines.


The other two elements, audience self-respect and audience self-confidence, are ones that many performers overlook.  I have heard many people say they don't like magicians because they are afraid the performer will pick them as a volunteer and make them look foolish.  Clowns do a better job of presenting magic to create self-respect and self-confidence because often their character has trouble making something work and then an audience volunteer succeeds.  One way that I meet this goal is to start a plate spinning and then transfer the plate to a volunteer's finger so they are balancing it.


What are your target audiences?  How can you honor your audience?  How can you increase your audience's enjoyment of your act?  How can you build up the self-respect of your target audience?  How can you increase their self-confidence?

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


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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