Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #408 
July 4, 2011

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Make up demonstrations are often paired with something else because the people applying their make up don't need the entire period.  During several years at Clown Camp after the staff members got into make up and costume they demonstrated some walk around routines.  At the California Clown Campin' program the first week of August the make up demonstration will be paired with a clown history presentation.  Following the demonstration, participants will have the option of applying their own make up.  During that time Bob Neil and I will discuss clown history.  We will have some prepared material, but participants will have the opportunity to ask the questions they have about clown history.  I think the way that it will work is they will be given index cards to write their questions on.  Bob and I will arrange the cards in a logical order and offer our answers.  If people will put their contact information on the card, when I return home I will answer any question that we did not answer during the session.  That may be a question we didn't have time to get to, or one that I will need to do a little research to answer.  I remember a lot about clown history, but there are some things that I am not able to remember.  Also you may have some questions that I have never considered before which will lead me to searching for new information.  Two recent questions from the editor of Clowning Around magazine inspired a new article and started me studied an aspect of clown history that I know very little about.  For that reason I keep extensive files, have a large personal research library, and continue my own education.  You can learn more about the California Clown Campin' program under the Educational Opportunities column to the right.
I recently attended a convention called the Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound 2011 Showcase.  It is a convention of people who love old time radio comedy, drama, and mysteries.  The special honored guests were entertainers that had been child stars during the peak of radio and beginning of television.  I met a woman who had appeared as a child in the film "The Greatest Show on Earth."  That was a special treat for me.  The guests, plus local performers, recreated the broadcasts of some classic radio programs.  It was a fascinating weekend that greatly added to my knowledge of comedy.  I also picked up a little information directly related to the history of clowning.  If you are creative about where you go to continue your education you will be amazed by what you will learn.  I would like to thank the officers and members of REPS for a wonderful experience.  This week's main article was inspired by some information that I got at the REPS convention.
I'll see you down the road,


In This Issue
Thought For The Week
History Trivia Quiz
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

July 4, 2011

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


 "May you live as long as you want."  -- Chic Johnson

"And may you laugh as long as you live," - Ole Olsen  


That is how Olsen and Johnson concluded each of their performances.  (They teamed in 1921 and performed together of 47 years.  They began in vaudeville, and then made the transition to Broadway with their tremendous comedy hit titled "Hellzapoppin".)  Their ending is an example of a Tag Line.  That is a line used to close an act.  It serves as a signature.


A Tag Line can be philosophical.  After many of my clown lectures I say, "Being a clown is like a balloon.  It doesn't matter what you look like on the outside, it is what is on the inside that makes you go up." 


A Tag Line can be humorous.  I usually conclude my last lecture at an educational event by saying, "It has been said everybody brings a little happiness into your life... Some when they enter the room and others when they leave.  (Pause for laughter.)  Thank you for the happiness you have brought into my life this weekend."


It doesn't have to be profound.  The Tag Line for Jack Benny's television series was "good night folks.  I'll see you again real soon."  Jack didn't actually see his audience sitting at home, but the line created the impression that they were friends he would visit. 


It can be intriguing like Jimmy Durante ending his performances by saying, "Good night Mrs. Calabash.  Where ever you are?"  (He never revealed who she was.)


It can be a song like Carol Burnett singing, "I'm so glad we had this time together..."  Perhaps the most famous closing song of all was "M-I-C- See you real soon. K-E-Y Why? Because we like you.  M-O-U-S-E..."


Sometimes a Tag Line is extended into a short speech, which then is known as a Curtain Speech.  Red Skelton's curtain speech was "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for putting up with my nonsense. I sincerely hope I haven't said or done anything to offend anyone.  If I have, I didn't mean it.  I hope you have had as much fun as I have had.  It is a lot of fun to try to make people laugh.  Regardless of what your heartache might be, while laughing for a few seconds you have forgotten about it.  God bless and good night."


Victor Borge is another entertainer who used a Curtain Speech.  He would sit down at the piano and play quietly while speaking to the audience.  The way he said it was just as important as what he said.  His speech combined humor and heartfelt philosophy.  Every video compilation of his performances includes his speech so you can watch him deliver it.  You may be able to find his videos at your local library.  His programs are still shown frequently in the United States on PBS stations, especially during their pledge drives.  You can purchase some of his videos directly from the PBS on line store. 


Victor Borge Videos


You can use a Tag Line even if you don't speak during your act.  Kenny Ahern performs his show silently, and then at the end speaks directly to the audience for the first time.  It is a very effective ending for him.


Don't copy a Tag Line used by another entertainer.  First, it is unethical, and in certain cases illegal, to do that.  Second, somebody will eventually recognize what you have done undercutting your credibility.  Third, that is the other entertainer's signature.  You want to find your own signature that uniquely identifies you.  An ideal Tag Line is an expression of your personality. 


Have you considered using a Tag Line?  What do you want the audience to remember about you?  Do you want their lasting image to be funny, philosophical, or friendly?  How can you express that?  Try out a potential Tag Line several times.  How do you feel delivering it?  How does the audience respond?  Does it accomplish what you want?  If not, try something else until you find what clicks for you and your audience.




What Is A Clown? 

In 1982 the editor of White Tops, published by the Circus Fans of America, invited me to write a series of articles on clowning.  The first of the three articles was my definition of a clown as I understood it at the time.  It was the most popular of all the articles that I have written and was extensively copied and distributed.  At one of my early lectures a participant told me she was pleased to finally meet the author of that article because six different instructors had given her copies of it.
It is available on my web site, if you have not read it, I thought you might find it interesting.

Circus Fans of America 

As an organization, Circus Fans of America has expressed an interest in reaching out to the clown community and becomming a group that clowns will want to join.  Barry "Bonzo" DeChant is one of their officers.
I had submitted some additional articles to White Tops in the 1990's.  They  were turned down because the editor at that time felt the members of Circus Fans of America were not interested in clowns.  There are new editors in charge of the magazine now who are doing an excellent job.  They have invited me to submit some articles because they feel their magazine needs more information on clowns.  I won't be writing a column for them, but will be writing an occassional artilce.  They have accepted an article, a profile of clown artist Jim Howle, for their next issue.  I do not simultaneously submit articles to different publications so initially this will be the only place you will be able to read this article.  The editors have worked hard obtaining illustrations of the article, and the pages of White Tops will be the only place you will be able to see those illustrations combined with the text.
At their up coming convention they will attend the dress rehearsal of the Big Apple Circus where Barry "Grandma" Lubin, an International Clown Hall of Fame inductee, will be performing. 
Their web site currently has a link on their news page to a YouTube interview of Lee Andrews, the 2011 advance clown for the Cole Bros. Circus.  Their resources page has a link to an interesting article on clowns.
For more information on Circus Fans go to

Circus Fans of America

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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
Springfield, MO
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