Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #394
January 17, 2011

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


While discussing the importance of paying attention to details in the last issue of this newsletter I mentioned my friend Greg Wood.  Greg responded that I got a detail wrong, I added a letter "s" to his last name.  Sometimes I have to slow down and pay attention to my own advice.

I would like to thank Anita Thies for recommending my e-newsletters in her column in the January 2011 issue of Clowning Around

.  Anita is the chair of the World Clown Association Caring Clown Committee.  Among the items for consideration in the current WCA election is a by-law making the Caring Clown Committee Chair a position on the board.  This reflects the importance this clown specialty has gained in that organization.  There will be many classes and jam sessions of interest to caring clowns at the 2011 WCA convention in New York.  You can find more information on this convention under the educational opportunities column.


I would like to welcome my new subscribers.  You can read previous issues by clicking on Newsletter Archive in the Quick Link section to the lower right.


Have a great week,


In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Article by Bruce Johnson
Pioneers of Television
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

January 17, 2011

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


"A clown is always working, always trying to find something new.  A lot of people think that clowns use the same act year after year and that the stunts a clown pulls now are the same ones clowns pulled in Shakespeare's Day.  There is a certain amount of truth in this.  People like to see the old familiar routines.  But every year there have to be new ones along with the old, and the old ones have to have a new twist.  That's what gets the laughs - the unexpected new twist, the element of surprise."  -- Paul Jung


It is true that some routines are centuries old.  There are descriptions from the 1600's of the clown dentist pulling the wrong tooth.  That routine can be seen performed today.  Some magic ideas are also centuries old.  The basic idea of the transforming book was described in a book titled The Discovery of Witchcraft written in 1584.  Today clowns and magicians perform a variation of that routine called the Magic Coloring Book.  Nobody knows for sure when the linking rings routine originated, but it is a classic that has been successfully used in entertaining audiences for centuries.  Another classic routine is the torn and restored newspaper.


I was one of the people who gave Don "Dee Gee" Gonsalves a standing ovation following his performance of the torn and restored newspaper at a clown convention about twenty years ago.  The way he tore and restored the newspaper was not unusual.  I was not surprised by how he restored the paper because I had previously done it that way myself.  What surprised me was the context he gave the routine.  Dee Gee, a tramp clown, entered carrying a newspaper.  Then the stripper song began playing.  He slowly, sensually tore a piece off the newspaper like a stripper teasingly removing the first item of her clothing.  While tearing the rest of the paper he performed a brilliant parody of a Burlesque star doing a strip tease.  Most of the audience was helpless with laughter by the time the song finished.  The final restoration of the paper was anticlimactic, but necessary.  It was the punctuation point of the routine signaling the end and giving us our cue to jump to our feet and cheer.  His surprising twist made it one of the most memorable torn and restored routines I have ever seen.


In 2003 my wife, Carole, and I performed a different twist on the same routine with the identical method of restoring the paper.  Each year the U-W Clown Camp honored instructors by depicting them on the logo and posters.  Bonnie Donaldson and I were on the 2002 logo.  During the staff show starting the 2003 program, I did a short juggling routine and then pulled out a poster from the previous year.  I very arrogantly pointed to my picture on the poster.  Carole came onto the stage, grabbed the poster from me, and ripped it up while telling me that I was a "has been" and that old poster was history.  After properly deflating my pompousness she restored the poster transforming it into the 2003 poster depicting Marty Bloes who was being honored that year.  That got a great response.  We received many comments by people who enjoyed seeing Carole putting me in my place.


Another memorable twist on an ancient routine was Barry DeChant's linking ring act at the 1987 World Clown Association Convention in San Diego.  He managed to link the rings, but couldn't unlink them.  Suddenly they linked to part of his costume.  (It was either his belt or suspenders.)  He got out a hack saw to cut the rings apart, and suddenly the saw was linked to the rings as well.  After he got them apart, he tried linking them again, and one of them broke apart instead of penetrating.  I have seen many linking ring routines during the past quarter century, but none of them have stood out in my memory as much as Barry's version.


Another memorable version was seeing the Magic Plumbers do a linking toilet seat routine at the HollywoodMagicCastle in about 1991.


Look at the old routines that you perform.  How can you give them a new twist for the new year?  What new context can you put them into?  How can you change the ending?  What different objects can you use for the routine?  What difficulties can you encounter?  How can you surprise your audience?


Article by Bruce Johnson
I wrote an article titled A Tribute to the Boy Scouts of America From A Clown that appeared in the November/December issue of The White Tops published by the Circus Fans Association of America  The article describes the contribution the scouting program made to my career as a clown, in particular during my years touring as a circus clown, and to the field of circuses in general.  I have talked to many male clowns who tell me that scouting was an important part of the foundation of their career.
In the article I describe how an article in Exploring, published by the BSA, led directly to my first circus booking.  After I submitted this article, I heard from Terry De Volt that an article in Boys Life, also published by the BSA, led to his career as a clown.  The article that Terry read was about Tommy Parrish, an Eagle Scout, who was touring as a clown with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The article is available on my web site.
To learn more about the Circus Fans Association of America go to their web site.
Pioneers of Television

  Last year the Public Broadcast System in the United States broadcast a very intersting four-part series on early television.  The series was called the Pioneers of Television.  Due to the popularity and success of the original four episodes, the PBS is broadcasting four new episodes this year.  The fourth episode is titled Local Children's Television.  Since local TV was a major venue for clowns, I expect this program to include some of the early clowns.  More people saw the clowns on local television stations more often than in any other venue making it one of the most influential sources of the public's perception of the art of clowning.  Each local PBS station sets their own schedule so you will need to check your listings to find the station.  (In Western Washington the series is being aired on Tuesday evenings.)

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 2011 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


Clowns Of America
International Convention
April 13-17, 2011

Anaheim, CA


Topics to be announced


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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