Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #531 
February 24, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


I watched broadcasts of the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I found a couple of things of interest.


First, Michael Christian Martinez, a figure skater from the Philippines, performed a Frick Cantilevered Spread Eagle in both his short and long programs during the men's competition. The trick was invented by ice skating clown Werner "Mr. Frick" Groebli as part of his comedy act in ice shows. That verifies that some clowns have been Olympic caliber athletes.


In the closing ceremony for the Sochi Olympics the audience was guided through modern Russian culture by five host characters, three children, a White Face clown, and an Auguste clown. The narration explained that was a tribute to the importance of clowns in the Russian culture and the respect given Russian clowns. Three aspects of Russian culture were highlighted during the closing: painting, ballet, and circus. The circus scene included large groups of clowns although they seemed to be performers wearing clown costumes instead of actual clowns. I was encouraged that the importance of clowning was saluted in a performance seen by millions of people around the world.


I am looking forward to the World Clown Association Convention a month from now.  You will read more about it below.  Use the link under Educational Opportunities to get more information.  I hope to see many Thought for the Week subscribers there.  I will be easy to find.  Please stop by my table in the circus model display room to say hello and chat.


I am sharing an interesting resource in this issue.  It is an on-line collection of circus photos that includes some rare clown photos.


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Circus Model Display
Clown Photos
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

February 24, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



"Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work." -- Jack Nicklaus


I watched the figure skating competition broadcasts during the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The commentators kept referring to the importance of confidence in being able to land the jumps. If a skater was confident, and didn't think too much, the jumps happened naturally as a result of preparation. The skaters had landed the jumps thousands of times in practice so they knew how to do it. Muscle memory means you have done something often enough that the neural pathways for that action have been firmly established. One step in a sequence quickly and automatically leads to the next step in the sequence. It happens faster than you are capable of doing by conscious thought. If you hesitate in any way due to a lack of confidence that causes a detour in the pathway and you fail. I noticed that when a skater made one mistake, they frequently made others because their confidence was shaken.


In one of my comedy routines I extend my left arm straight up in the air and then flip a spinning plate from my right hand up to my left hand. I am looking to my right when it happens so I do not see the plate's trajectory. I have to catch it by muscle memory. Before I performed in a variety show earlier this year I stood backstage and flipped the plate up to my hand fifty times in a row without a miss. When it was time to do the trick on stage I was confident that I could do it, and I caught it perfectly.


This past weekend, I was performing at a Cub Scout Pack Blue and Gold Banquet. Just as I flipped the plate I thought, "I hope that I catch it." That thought was just enough of a hesitation that it changed the way I threw the plate. It didn't go quite high enough. I felt it hit my hand, but it had already started to fall before I could close my hand. I missed it and it hit the floor with a loud clatter.


I let that mistake shake my confidence. When I started my three-ball juggling routine, I dropped right away. I resumed juggling, and had a couple of more drops before I finished the routine. I wasn't doing my most difficult tricks when I dropped. I can do those tricks easily. However, being nervous about dropping, made it happen. When I got to my four-ball routine I dropped again.


I switched to a magic act that is very easy to perform. That restored my confidence. When I performed my three-club juggling later in the show I was not real smooth, but I didn't drop.

At the end of my act I was going to do a routine where I spin a plate on a mouth stick that I hold between my teeth while juggling three clubs. I juggle around my back. When the weather is nice enough I have been practicing juggling clubs this fall and winter. Just before I began that routine, I reminded myself that I can do it easily because of my preparation. I took a deep breath, exhaled, and picked up my props. I performed that routine flawlessly.


So, what do I need to do? First, I need to return to a regular juggling practice schedule. I don't need to learn how to do the tricks because I can do them. What I have to do is perform them often enough to rebuild my confidence that I can perform them.


Another thing I am doing is scheduling a series of volunteer performances at the Seattle Ronald McDonald House. That is a venue where I feel little pressure. I have performed their often enough over the years that I feel comfortable there, and I know the audience there is very receptive. I can relax there. I know that succeeding in performances there will boost my confidence. That confidence will allow me to succeed in venues where I am more nervous.


How confident are you that you can perform successfully? Where can boost your confidence by performing in low pressure settings that will insure your success? What work do you need to do to maintain your confidence?






Circus Model Display



I will have a table in the circus model display room during the upcoming World Clown Association Convention in Chicago. I will have some of my circus models on display. I am attempting to make my display interactive. I will be at my table on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during the convention. I am making arrangements for somebody else to man my table on Wednesday when I will be doing research at a Chicago area museum and archive.


Each day I will have some type of paper souvenir available to pick up at my display.


Each day I will have a new interest item. For example, one day I will have a display of how latex rubber noses are made. Another day I will have a display of circus arrows and explain how you can follow the arrows to find a circus lot when you know a show is in your area.


I am preparing a different circus themed magic trick to perform at my table each day.


Each day I will have different circus and clown trivia quizzes.


I will be teaching something different each day. For example, one day I will teach who stops by my table how to fold origami models of circus elephants. (I folded 300 elephants that were used as table favors at the 2005 Circus Fans Association convention banquet.)


Finally, each day I will give away door prizes at my table. Convention participants will have to come by my table each day to enter that day's drawing.


So, if you are attending the 2014 WCA convention, please visit the circus model room and stop by my table. I will do my best to make sure you are happy that you did.


For more information, use the WCA convention link under the educational opportunity column.


Clown Photos Online




Paul Tharp, a used book dealer specializing in circus publications and memorabilia, sent me a link to a Blog with photos taken by Charles Cushman in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when the show was in Chicago during the 1940's. Chicago was a major population center visited by the major circuses, and also a cultural center with many photographers. Collections of photos have been preserved by various archives in the Chicago area.


Clowns in this Blog are:

Photo 8. Clowns in the backyard including Felix Adler's pin head costume. Sometimes Felix Adler wore this costume, and sometimes it was worn by his wife, Amelia, who was one of three female clowns featured by the RBB&B Circus at this time.

Photo 9. Paul Wenzel's stork walkaround for spec.

Photo 12. Lou Jacobs with a shoe in a birdcage.

 Photo 14 Clowns from Paul Jung's 1946 Adam Smasher routine. Price Paul Alpert is at the bottom left. Paul Jung is behind and to the right of Prince Paul.

Photo 16. Little person, possibly Frankie Saluto, as a miniature Charlie Chaplin.

Photo 18 Felix Adler doing a walkaround advertising Jello

Photo 20 Paul Wenzel preparing his goose carriage routine

Photo 23 A clown I have not identified and a show girl

Photo 25 Felix Adler with one of his baby pigs.


Charles Cushman Photos


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 2014 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 25-29, 2014
Northbrook, IL
Trick Cartoons for Junior Joeys,
Circus Model Display

 California Clown Campin'

July 21-27, 2014

Ontario, CA


to be announced


California Clown Campin'

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

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