Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #406 
June 6, 2011

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I enjoy visiting with Thought for the Week subscribers when I travel to lecture and perform.  The next educational event that I am scheduled to attend is California Clown Campin' during the first week of August.  You will find a list of the classes that I will be teaching there under the Educational Opportunities column to the right.  Many people, particularly in the United States, celebrate National Clown Week August 1-7.  Spending a week surrounded by other clowns as you continue your education is a wonderful way to celebrate that week.  I have seen a copy of the class schedule and have already picked out some classes that I will attend during my free time at California Clown Campin'.  I know most of the people on staff also continue to attend classes when they have the opportunity.
I had a wonderful experience appearing in the Mother of All Talent Shows Rides Again benefiting the Good Cheer Food Bank on Whidbey Island.  The organizers did everything they could to support the performers.  I would like to thank them for their hospitality.  The show was held in the South Whidbey High School Auditorium.  Students from the school served as our stage crew.  I learned something from them.  It can often be very dark backstage, especially when the front curtain is closed.  The young stage crew had gotten LED headlamps from a sporting goods store.  Designed for campers these lights emit a soft blue light that does not interfere with your night vision.  This provides just enough light to see backstage without interfering with lighting effects on stage.  Also, it is hands free allowing you to see to check and set your props easily.
I'll see you down the road,


In This Issue
Thought For The Week
In Memory: Wally Boag and Betty Taylor
History Trivia Quiz
Article by Bruce Johnson
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

June 6, 2011

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



"Keep in mind, however, that most audiences want you to succeed.  They don't want you to be embarrassed because then they get embarrassed for you!  So, if something misfires, look at it as part of the process.  You shift to plan B and keep moving on."  -- Kristin Arnold, Boring to Bravo


Kristin Arnold's book is intended for people who give speeches, but it has much in it that is applicable to being a performer.  I am reading a library copy, but it is so full of great advice and information that I will purchase my own copy because I know that I will want to refer to it frequently.


I have mentioned before that your attitude and emotions on stage will be communicated to the audience who will begin to feel the same way.  If you make a mistake and let it embarrass you, the audience will be embarrassed.  If you make a mistake and continue without it bothering you, it won't bother your audience.


Kristin's advice provides a key to being able to do that, having a plan B.  For example, during one period in my career I performed a magic effect that depended upon a thin thread to work.  Sometimes that thread would break.  So, I developed a way to have a second thread available.  If I broke one thread, I could easily obtain the second thread and continue.  (That basic concept is one that I learned from Kevin James.)


A few years ago I was in a variety show with a lot of other performers.  Two of the performers were using an identical high tech system to remotely control their music which was stored as a file on their lap tops.  For some reason their method was not compatible with the sound system in the theater.  I did not understand the problem, but they spent 45 minutes trying to get their music to play through the theater's speakers.  Finally, they got it to work marginally.  During the performance their music did not sound as good as the music used by the other acts which was controlled by a technician in the sound booth.  They did not have a plan B so they were stuck with inferior sound.


Because music is important to my performances, I always have a plan B, especially now that there are so many music formats available.  I often use an iPod for my music, but at one performance I couldn't get it to play because the battery had run down.  So, I have started to carry a power cord that can be used to plug in my iPod.  I also carry a CD of the music for each show in case the iPod can't be used.  (I have been in some shows where they wanted consistency so they required that all music be on CD.)  I burn the CD's using my computer, but I have learned that they can't be played back on every player.  So, I test the CD at the venue.  In case the CD is not compatible with the house system, I always have a small player with me that I have played the CD on at home so I know it will work.  I carry a patch cord to connect it to a sound system.  I also have spare batteries for the player plus a power cord.  So, in a way I have back ups, and then back ups for the back ups.


I also have a plan B for the content of my shows.  I plan my show, and then have some additional props for alternate routines.  The timing of my style of audience interaction entertainment depends upon the type of feedback I get during a specific performance. Last November I appeared in a variety show with matinee and evening performances.  There were many kids in the matinee audience who excitedly yelled instructions at me when I did things wrong.  I played with their response which extended some of my routines.  The evening audience was mainly adults who were less willing to respond to me verbally.  So, I cut short my interaction routines, and added a silk magic routine I had not performed in the earlier show.  The stage manager told me that my acts were exactly the same length at both shows.


What can go wrong during a show?  What plan B will allow you to continue successfully?  What plan B will give you the flexibility to give the best possible performance under different conditions?




In Memory: Wally Boag and Betty Taylor

The Golden Horseshoe Review was performed at Disneyland for over 30 years.  It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running stage production in history.  It was written by Wally Boag.  His long time partner in the show was Betty Taylor.  Wally passed away on June 3, 2011 and Betty passed away on June 4. 2011.


I saw Betty and Wally perform together many times while I was growing up in Southern California.  Wally performed two comedy acts in the show.  The first was his travelling salesman act.  During part of this act he created a multiple balloon dog that he presented to a youngster from the audience.  He inflated one balloon the normal way.  The next balloon started filling at the nipple end and then filled up towards the nozzle.  The third balloon started to fill in the center, and then towards the nozzle, and finally towards the nipple.  While making the sculpture Wally kept up a running string of jokes related to what he was doing.  I have never seen anybody be more entertaining than Wally while performing balloon sculpture.


Wally's second act was Pecos Bill.  He was most famous for his teeth spitting routine during this act.  After being accidentally hit in the mouth he began spitting out teeth one at a time.  He spit an incredible number of teeth which were actually dried beans.  He taught the routine to Bev Bergeron who performed at Disney World in Florida.  (Bev performed the routine at the World Clown Association Convention in Orlando.)


Wally's acts were full of many wonderful comedy bits.  At various times in my career I have used gags inspired by his performances.  I have taught others some gags based on his material as well.  He contributed greatly to the art of family entertainment.


Betty Taylor was an excellent straight woman.  Ed Wynn was a guest star in a TV special celebrating the 10,000th performance of the Golden Horseshoe Review.  Betty did an excellent job working straight to Ed Wynn in that telecast. 


I have many fond memories of both Wally and Betty.

History Trivia Quiz 

Click on the answer that you feel is most correct.  These links will remain active until July 1.  After that date use the History Trivia Archive link under the quick link column on the top right to check your answer.
In comedy, using a wrong but similar sounding word is called a

Article by Bruce Johnson

An article that I wrote on the history of clowning in South East Asia appeared in the May issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association.  This is part of my WCA Historian's column and is currently available only in this magazine.  For information on the WCA and joining, which includes a subscription to Clowning Around go to
I have placed some supplemental material on my web site.  It is a glossary of historical Asian clown characters.  This is information that did not fit into my Clowning Around article.  Knowing the names of the characters does not explain much about what they were like, but it does serve as a sign post helping you to learn more about clowning in this region of the world.  To read this glossary go to
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.

California Clown Campin'

August 1-6, 2011

San Bernardino, CA


Classes:  Make Up Demonstration (Tramp) and  History of Clowning, Physical Comedy, Staff on Stage Demonstration Performance, Beginning Juggling, Juggling Practice / Jam, Creative Routines with a Message: Gospel Routines



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Show Me Clowns for Jesus
February 17-19, 2012
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