Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #390 December 6, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


I am pleased that entertainers are recognizing that variety arts history is interesting and a great resource for inspiration.  My historical articles in Clowning Around magazine continue to receive more positive feed back than any other series of articles I have ever written.  The occasional history trivia questions that are part of this newsletter are among its most popular features.  Below the main article this week you will find a short article about a new on-line archive of fascinating photos.  They are slides taken by Sverre Braathen during his visits to circus lots in the 1940's and 1950's.  Most of them are back stage scenes that the general public never got to see.

I will be doing a presentation titled The History of American Clowning at the World Clown Association Convention in New York.  In this presentation I will discuss important trends in the history of clowning in North America and perform my version of routines associated with significant clowns.  This is an update of the paper that I presented at the 1993 World Clown Congress in Harnosand, Sweden.  I have been working on a new companion publication that I am very excited about.  You will find more information on this convention under the Educational Opportunities column.

I know that this is a very busy time of year for everyone.  I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season.

Have a great week,

In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

November 29, 2010

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


"Welcoming imperfection is the way to accomplish what perfectionism promises but never delivers. It gives us our best performance and genuine acceptance in the family of human -- and by that I mean imperfect -- beings."  -- Martha Beck


"Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.  Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person." -- David M. Burns


In the film Christmas with the Kranks, Nora Krank panics when her daughter, Blair, unexpectedly announces on Christmas Eve day that she is flying home with her new fiancÚ to attend the annual family holiday party that evening.  The Kranks had cancelled their party for that year, but Nora declares they have to quickly organize it and that it has to be perfect.  That includes purchasing a canned Mel's Honey Hickory Ham because that is Blair's favorite.  Nora races another woman for the last can on the shelf, and loses when she knocks over a display of Christmas cookies.  Then Nora bribes another couple at the checkout stand to allow her to purchase their can at much more than the regular price.  She drops the can in the parking lot and it begins rolling away.  She chases it out into the street where it is run over and destroyed by a semi truck. 


This time of year many people feel a great deal of stress trying to make the holidays perfect.  Part of the reason is the fear that other people will like us less if we don't live up to their expectations.  The paradox is that effort creates a feeling of tension that prevents people from being able to relax and enjoy being together for the holidays. 


In trying to produce perfection we refuse to accept what is good enough, and often end up with nothing.  One year I tried to find my mother the perfect present.  I considered and rejected many things she would have liked because I didn't think they were good enough.  By the time I resigned myself to not being able to find the perfect gift, many of the great gifts had sold out.  I almost couldn't find her anything. The drive for perfection is the very thing that keeps the holidays from being perfect.


I have been watching the televised 2010 Grand Prix of Figure Skating series of competitions.  There have been very few perfect performances in the six events.  It has been interesting watching the response to imperfection.  When some skaters missed the first jump, the rest of the performance spiraled out of control.  You could tell by the end that they are just going through the paces eager to leave the ice and they made minor errors on simple things.  When other skaters missed the first jump, they seemed to accept it and the rest of the performance was perfect.  The commentators would point out that tension caused many of the skaters to miss their jumps.  If their muscles were too tight, they weren't able to generate enough rotation.  If caution made them hesitate their timing was off and they didn't get enough height.  Because this is the first year after a Winter Olympics many of the veteran skaters had retired from competition which allowed many younger skaters to qualify for the first time.  It was often these younger competitors without any expectation of perfection that performed with the fewest mistakes.  Being relaxed allowed them to perform their best and they challenged the more experienced skaters for the winner's podium.


I know that in my own performances when I worry about being perfect I make more mistakes.  However, when I relax and accept that the audience will be entertained by a performance that isn't perfect I actually do a better performance.  I have mentioned this before, but when I enjoy performing my audience also enjoys it more.  Not expecting perfection allows me to take more chances and try new things.  Sometimes they fail, but more often they succeed.  Sometimes they succeed gloriously.


How can you embrace imperfection?  How can determine if something is imperfect but good enough?  How can you reduce stress so that you are able to relax and do your best?  How can you relax and enjoy what you are doing so others can relax and enjoy it as well?


Historical Circus Slides
The Milner Library of Illionoes State University has a special collections archive of circus and clown history.  They are currently placing the Sverre Braathen Slide Collection on line.  Use the link below to go to the special collections home page and then click on Passion for the Circus.  You can browse all the slides or you can use the search box in the upper right corner to search for something specific, for example, clowns. 

These are rare photos.  For example, this collection has the only picture I've seen of Bluch Landolph, a famous clown who was Lillian Litzel's uncle.  (Lillian was a star aerialist who appeared with the RBB&B Circus.)  Bluch was known for a walk around where he walked along balancing a plank.  Suddenly he spun around reversing directions, but the plank did not turn with him.  (This is explained by inertia.  The plank didn't turn because their was no force applied to make it turn.)  I have seen this amazing bit performed by other clowns and it always drew a gasp from the audience, and then laughter.

There is a slide of Felix Adler in a king costume for the 1944 RBB&B Circus Spectacle titled Pantos Paradise.  In this spectacle, a worker impersonating Emmett Kelly's Weary Willy tramp character wandered into the center ring and fell asleep.  The fantastic parade was supposed to be a dream by the pantomime clown.  The real Emmett Kelly rode on the last float in the parade.  Unfortunately this was the year the RBB&B Circus season was cut short when the Big Top caught fire in Hartford, Connecticut.

It is my understanding that they are still in the process of getting the kodachrome slides converted to a digital format and posted so if you check back later you will find additional pictures.

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 

Quick Links
Join Our Mailing List