Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #533 
March 10, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


I am 


celebrating my 40th Anniversary as a clown. I took a one-day class taught by the Klassic Klowns in March 1974. One of the things I learned that day was how to incorporate the natural lines of your face into your make up design in order to enhance your expressiveness. I have a drawing of the make up design I created that day, and it is amazing how close it is to the design I use today. I have enhanced the design during the past four decades, but that original design is recognizable as Charlie. I experimented with some other characters. I incorporated my love of mysteries into a Whiteface character named Sirlock Homes, Private Defective. He was my favorite alternate, but I kept coming back to my original character which is drawn the most from my own personality.


I will be appearing as Charlie in the Opening Ceremony at the World Clown Association Convention the last week of this month. I will be performing a scarf routine (silk magic) that will include a variation of a bit I created and performed as a circus clown in 1982, the Silk Fountain routine that I refer to in this week's main message, and I'll be using a new prop I am finishing up this week that I am excited about. I will be using two customized silk scarves in the Opening Ceremony on the first day of the convention, and then demonstrating how I make silk scarves in my class on the last day of the convention. My display in the Circus Model Builder exhibit room will include information on how I built the new prop. I am an educator at heart, and I try to tie everything together that I do at a convention to make as effective a learning experience as possible for the participants.  


I also use this newsletter to try to promote attendance at conventions where I am lecturing.


If you are planning a convention, I would be interested in exploring how I can be a part of that convention. I also provide pre-convention or post-convention intensive workshops. I have one-day and two-day workshops available. Please let me know about your group, and I will see how I can best meet your needs.



I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three
World Circus Day -- Art of Happiness
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

March 10, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson




"A clown must be in action and reaction." -- Bill "Pinky" Greene


"The reaction is the best part of comedy. The action might be funny, but the reaction is funnier." -- Harry Shearer


I attended a one-day workshop by the Klassic Klowns, an amateur clown club in Southern California, in March 1974. That was the start of my clown career. I joined the club that day and made my first appearance as Charlie in a parade in May 1974. Bill "Pinky" Greene was one of the instructors that day, and his statement about action and reaction formed the foundation of my clowning. I am grateful for all of the instruction I received that day because it got me started in the right direction and I avoided many mistakes made by inexperienced clowns.


The character's reaction is the key to comedy. Humor is not what happens to the character. It is how the character reacts to what happens. Duane Laflin and I both perform a magic effect known as the Silk Fountain or Silk Cascade. In this effect the performer is holding a small handful of scarves when suddenly one scarf after another pops up from the center of the bundle of scarves. It creates a very beautiful image. Even though we perform the exact same magic effect the audience response is different. When Duane performs it the audience applauds. When I perform it the audience laughs. Our reaction to the effect causes the difference in response.


When Duane performs it, his reaction is pride and joy at being able to share something so beautiful with his audience. When I perform it, my reaction is surprise and amazement. Duane presents it as something he has caused to happen through his magic powers. He does it quickly and smoothly. He gestures dramatically while it happens and sweeps the hand holding the scarves around to display them to each section of the audience. I present it as something that happens to me and I have no idea what is causing it. I do it slowly. I move the hand holding the scarves as little as possible so there is less of an indication that I am doing anything to make it happen. As the scarves begin to appear, I scratch my head. I look around to see if somebody or something near me may be causing the magic to happen. I look at the audience and give a little shrug. I sigh with impatience waiting for the scarves to stop appearing. Sometimes I finger my collar because I am nervous about what will happen next. My actions are a little different in each performance because I am also reacting to the audience.


I vary my reactions based on audience response. If they laugh when I act nervous, I continue to act nervous. If they laugh when I look to see what is causing the magic, I continue looking around for the cause. At a recent performance some of the kids began predicting the color of the next scarf to appear. I reacted to them and whether their predictions were correct. I don't think ahead or do a series of prepared reactions. I react in the way that seems most appropriate at the time. Entertainers refer to this as "being in the moment." Reacting to what is currently happening is what keeps my act fresh for me and my audience. I have performed the Silk Fountain hundreds of times, but it is still one of my favorites.


Sometimes people promote "simple" magic effects as being "comedy" magic, especially when pitching products to clowns. However, simple doesn't necessarily mean funny. Some of the magic that I do is considered technically difficult. It is not sold as "comedy" magic. The comedy comes from my character's reaction, not from the magic prop.


Reacting requires that you slow down and not rush a performance. I recently watched a DVD of the 1973 film version of "The Three Musketeers". The bonus extras included an interview with Raquel Welch, one of the film's stars. This was her first comedy role. She said she kept doing large "oh" and "ah" reactions to what happened, but Richard Lester, the director, told her to slow down and do less when she reacted. That is known as "under playing it." If you over react it can seem phony as if you are simply being silly. If you pause and do less it seems more realistic. It creates the illusion that your character is alive because they are thinking. It allows the audience to imagine what you are thinking which is often funnier than what you are actually thinking. Watch performances by Jack Benny and the cast of the Burns and Allen television show to see how under played reactions add to the humor of a situation.


How can you pace a performance to give your character time to react? How does your character react to circumstances? How can you use reaction as a technique to turn a dramatic effect into a comedy effect? How can you practice "being in the moment" when you perform? How can you incorporate "under playing" as a comedy device?





Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three


Directions for making and performing a Silk Fountain/Cascade are included in my Introduction for Silk Magic lecture notes available for purchase on my web site. (Use the Books by Bruce button under Quick Links to go to the page with information on those lecture notes.)


Those directions are also included in Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three: Creative Routines. That book has 443 pages of magic and clown routines that you can perform. Many of the routines use props you can build yourself, while the other routines are a new way of using props many clowns and magicians already own. There is enough information that you can perform routines right from the book. However, the true value of this book is the idea sparkler questions incorporated into each section to help you develop your own routines. Patty Wooten said, "When I read a really good book I find myself thinking about the author's ideas. When I read your book I found myself thinking about my own ideas." For more information go to



Creativity for Entertainers 3



World Circus Day -- Art of Happiness




March 20, 2014 is the United Nations Day of Happiness. April 19, 2014 is the fifth annual World Circus Day. The International Circus Federation (Federation Mondiale Cirque) is promoting the dates between those two dates as a month-long celebration of the Art of Happiness. Any appropriate event during that time can be registered on the International Circus Federation web site as an official World Circus Day celebration of the Art of Happiness event. This gives the organizing group international publicity. The World Clown Association Convention in Chicago is now an official World Circus Day Art of Happiness event. For more about this celebration go to



World Circus Day

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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
Introduction to Silk Magic for Clowns,  
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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