Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #405 
May 23, 2011

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

It seems like an astonishing number of people are in need.  For the second time in a month extremely large tornados have struck in the United States.  The devastation in Joplin, Missouri is amazing.  That is not the only place to be affected.  For the first time since 1939 a tornado touched down in La Crosse, WI, a town many of my subscribers are familiar with because it was the home to the Clown Camp program.  (The tornado touched down one street over from the home of the Ahern family and they are alright.)
In addition to that has been flooding along the Mississippi river.  Major towns were spared by opening dykes to release water into farm areas.  That meant fewer people lost their homes.  It was still a disaster to those who dis lose their homes and businesses.
The residents of Japan are still trying to recover from the earthquakes and emergency at the nuclear power plant.  In the wake of the more recent disasters it is easy to forget that people in Japan continue to need aid.  Donations are still being accepted to help them.
No matter how large a disaster is, it is the ultimate disaster to those affected.  Yesterday our local news carried a story of fire started by a boy playing with a lighter in a closet.  The fire destroyed his home and his family lost everything.  The impact on their lives is the same as those how lost everything when their home was destroyed by a tornado or earthquake.
In addition to those "natural" disasters, many regions of the world are involved in wars and other conflicts.  Those leave victims who are just as much in need as the victims of the natural disasters.
Some tragedies are more personal.  One of my subscribers lives in a small community where during the past week high school students have died in two separate traffic accidents.  Each accident left one teenager still alive, but in a coma in intensive care.
I encourage you to do what you can to help somebody in need.  The Red Nose Relief organization was set up to train clowns to bring humor to evacuation centers.  That is a valuable response, but is not the only response. 
You can make a cash donation to organizations helping disaster victims.  (It is best to send cash.  Experienced aid organizations know what is needed in the areas, plus if supplies can be purchased near the disaster it saves on shipping costs while contributing to the economy of the region most negatively affected.)  Besides donating your own money, you can perform in a fund raising show.  Next Saturday I will be performing in a show benefitting Good Cheer, a local food bank that does a wonderful job seving their community.
Another approach is to use your clown and other variety art skills as a medium for teaching how to prevent accidents and how to prepare for a disaster.  I know several of my subscribers are involved in Fire Safety training.
Who do you know that has been struck by a tragedy or other disaster?  What area touches your heart?  What practical steps can you take to help them?
I'll see you down the road,


In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Good Cheer Food Bank
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

May 23, 2011

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



"At Arby's we pledge that every person who walks in our door walks out feeling better."  -- Sign inside the door of a local Arby's restaurant


I began paying attention to what that restaurant did that made people feel good.  I was greeted when I came in.  Everyone smiled.  There was no pressure.  The person at the counter said, "I'll be glad to assist you when you are ready."  An employee was assigned to the seating area to keep things clean, to check with customers that everything was alright, and to bring them anything they needed.


A new independent restaurant opened nearby.  I noticed that they had a menu posted outside the door so I stopped to see what kind of food they offered.  When I started to read the menu, the door popped open.  A women beckoned me inside and said, "Please, come in we have pictures."  While I was looking at the pictures of entrée items over the counter in the empty restaurant, the woman walked over to a table, picked up a menu, and said, "Here sit down.  You can read the menu here."  I knew she was desperate for a customer, but her pressure made me feel trapped.  All I wanted to do was flee. 


I thought the two restaurants were good metaphors for entertainers.  I have seen strolling entertainers invade the personal space of others clearly making them uncomfortable.  I have seen theatrical entertainers drag audience members on stage who obviously did not want to be there.  I could tell that their volunteer just wanted to escape as soon as possible.  For example, I saw a magician tie two scarves together and ask a male volunteer to tuck the knotted ends into the front of his waist band.  The magician said something to him, and the man started to edge away.  The magician turned to the audience and said, "He's going to hate me in a moment."  The magician continued to perform an effect called Twentieth Century Shorts.  I wondered why he performed the effect if he knew the volunteer wasn't going to like it.


For a period of about ten years I worked as a street performer whenever I did not have a paid booking.  I found that the hardest part was getting the first person to stop, and the best way to do that was to do something that made people feel good.  If I saw a child in a stroller, I might wave to them and use my hat to play peek-a-boo with them.  Depending upon how they responded, I would begin an improvised interaction with them.  If I saw a family with a little older child approaching I might start juggling, and then drop a prop when they were near me.  Often the child would pick it up and hand it to me.  That gave me a chance to perform a comedy handshake with them.  If that went well, I would do a close up magic effect just for the child.  I didn't care if other people could see the effect.  I wanted the parents to see their child's enjoyment.  Knowing that their child was having a good time made them feel good and they would smile.  Then people would stop to see what they were smiling at.  My next effect would still be an interaction with the child, but I would turn so everyone could see the props.  By the end of that routine enough people had stopped to see what was making everyone feel good that I could begin a show.


Now I often make a napkin rose to give to a mother or grandmother to break the ice while strolling.  They stop to accept it which makes the rest of the family stop as well.  The rose makes them feel good so they are interested in seeing what else I will do.  Because I make roses out of regular napkins instead of the specially printed ones, I can use them in other ways.  If I notice somebody with an ice cream cone starting to run, I hand them a napkin.  They almost always thank me, and then watch me do some routines while finishing their treat.  Other people then gather around to watch as well.


Napkin Rose Directions


What would happen if you adopted Arby's pledge to your performances?  It doesn't matter what venue you perform in, your performance space is your theater.  If you perform on a stage in a physical building people open an actual door to enter your theater.  If you do atmosphere or street performing, people open the door to your theater when they stop to observe you.  If you do strolling entertainment or caring clowning you have a portable theater.  People open the door by giving you permission to enter their personal space to set up your theater.  In each case, are they glad that they opened the door?  Do you respect their right not to open the door?  How can you make sure that everyone who enters your theater leaves feeling better?  If you ask somebody to be a volunteer you are opening the door to your stage?  Do you let them decide whether or not they want to go through that door?    What can you do to make sure they feel better when they exit your stage?  In each interaction with an audience member, how can you make them feel better?



Good Cheer Benefit

The Mother of All Talent Shows 

 Saturday May 28, 7 PM

South Whidbey High School

Langley, WA USA


I will be performing a ten-minute act during the show.  I am one of the professional ringers participating in the show to help quarantee the audience will be entertained.  Like all of the other performers I am volunteering my services to help raise money for the food bank.  To learn more about the Good Cheer Food Bank and the show see below.



Good Cheer Food Bank 


Thank you for being a subscriber.  I am always interested in your questions and comments.

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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.

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August 1-6, 2011

San Bernardino, CA

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Show Me Clowns for Jesus
February 17-19, 2012
Springfield, MO
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