Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #513 
June 3, 2013

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


This issue includes another entry in my popular clown history trivia quiz.


I believe that a clown, magician, or other variety artist can learn by studying topics not specifically related to their field. I have learned a lot about comedy by listening to old time radio comedy performances. I have learned a lot about life and being an entertainer by reading biographies of old time radio stars. Through an organization called REPS (Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound), I have had the privilege of meeting stars who began their career as children performing in old time radio. This year I have the honor of being a presenter at the 2013 REPS Showcase convention in Bellevue, WA. On June 21 I will be giving a 45-minute lecture on comedy techniques used in radio. This kicks off the three day event featuring recreations of classic radio productions and interviews with stars from old time radio.



I'll see you down the road,



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

Thought For The Week 

June 3, 2013

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


"If we stop learning today, we stop teaching tomorrow." -- Howard Hendricks


Why does a teacher need to still be a student? One reason is that if you don't review material you begin to forget it. During the 1990's I wrote articles for a publication I called The Clown In Times. Those articles are stored on floppy discs and I am currently transferring them to the hard drive of my computer. I am amazed by how much information is in those articles that I had forgotten. Reviewing that material has been a wonderful learning experience.


Another reason is that new information gives you a better understanding of what you have previously learned. I knew that in the forward to Wally Boag's autobiography, Steve Martin said he learned about the rhythm of comedy by watching Wally Boag perform in Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Review. Wally was an accomplished dancer before he became a comedian. The 2014 World Clown Association Convention will be held in Chicago so I have been researching radio and television programs that were broadcast from that city. I recently learned that Jim and Marian Jordan, stars of the Fibber McGee and Molly program, and Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, stars of the Amos 'N' Andy program, all started out as singers and musicians on local Chicago radio broadcasts before they became comedians. I knew that Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard Nelson got their start in radio as the bandleader and vocalist on Red Skelton's program where they began performing comedy for the first time. While Fred Allen was not a musician, he started his career as a juggler which is another rhythmic activity. The top comedians who were known for their excellent timing all did something else first that gave them a solid understanding of rhythm. That started me thinking about the importance of rhythm as an aspect of comedy.


When I toured with Circus Kirk in 1977 I performed a pantomime with Dave "Scotty" Scott. The name of the routine was Scotty's Garden. (The routine is described in detail in Creativity for Entertainers Volume Two.) It became a very popular act which some people considered one of the highlights of the circus performance. After that season we both tried to perform it with different partners, but it didn't work. I thought it was because the actions were so dependent upon our specific characters, but looking back now I believe it had to do with rhythm. At first we performed the routine entirely silently until Doc Boas requested that we perform it with a musical background. The act really improved when the circus band began playing "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" to accompany us. I now believe that music helped us find the rhythm the act required. Scotty's Garden was used to fill time when the prop boys set an inclined tight rope for the following act.  If there was a problem with the rigging, the Ringmaster would whisper "Stall" as we entered. At one point in the routine Scotty poured water from a sprinkling can on my head. We discovered that the only way we could adjust the length of the act was for Scotty to spend more time pouring water on my head. I now realize that anything else we tried didn't work because it disrupted the act's rhythm. Near the end of the act, Scotty and I were facing away from each other so we couldn't see each other's actions. Yet, just as I turned to look at Scotty he turned to throw a bucket of water at me. In every performance the water hit my chest just as I completed the turn. It was the rhythm of the act that allowed me to sense when it was time to turn.


Now that I am aware of rhythm as a component of comedy I can identify it when studying other performances. I can also understand why my clowning improved when I added juggling to my repertoire. I am not musically talented, but juggling taught me rhythm. I also understand why my performances with a musical background are stronger than those without. The music helps me find and maintain the proper rhythm for my actions. I don't know how to teach that concept to others yet, but if I had not continued my own education I would not have been aware of it. That awareness is the first step in trying to find a way to teach it.


How can you continue your education?





Clown Trivia Quiz


Click on the answer that you think is the most correct.


The first movie released by M-G-M was a circus movie titled He Who Gets Slapped. The title character was a whiteface clown played by


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I hope to see you down the road.


Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy
Copyright 2013 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.
REPS (Radio Enthusiast of Puget Sound) Showcase
June 21-23, 2013
Belevue, WA
Radio Comedy Techniques

 California Clown Campin'

July 29-August 3, 2013

Ontario, CA

Dare to be a Great Clown, Introduction to Comedy Techniques, Controlling Focus, Introduction to Sleight of Hand.  How to Juggle, Open Juggling Lab, Circus Memories


California Clown Campin'

For information on additional services that I can provide for an educational event 

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