Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #537 
May 19, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


I am enjoying celebrating my fortieth anniversary of clowning. I attended a one-day clown workshop in March 1974, and my first appearance as Charlie was during a parade in May 1974.


I have a list of the classes that I will be teaching at California Clown Campin'. You will find the entire list under the Educational Opportunities column.


I would like to highlight two of the classes in this week's newsletter.


On Tuesday morning July 22, I will be teaching a two-hour session on origami at California Clown Campin'. It has been about six years since I taught this particular class. It has always been very popular. In addition to teaching the participants many different origami models I will demonstrate how to make origami entertaining. We will discuss combining origami with magic, story telling, and playing games. This is an entirely hands on class. Participants will experience using traditional Kami paper, plain paper, dollar bills, news paper, and napkins. It is a class that is a lot of fun. The class is the first full day of the educational program so participants can ask me for help during the rest of the week. Everyone stays in the same hotel and eats meals together. There are also plenty of jam sessions so I can give participants individual help folding models that particularly interests them. Nobody will leave having mastered everything I will cover in class, but everyone should leave having mastered something they can add to their repertoire. Origami provides a long lasting souvenir of your performance. It is also ideal for caring clowns because it is latex free and infection control compliant.


The other California Clown Campin' class I am highlighting this week is Introduction to Silk Magic for Clowns. This is a longer (two-hour) version of the popular class that I taught at the recent World Clown Association convention in Chicago. The greater length will allow me to demonstrate more routines using scarves, and will also allow the participants to do a few more things hands-on.


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Public Performances
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

May 19, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



"History without insight is mere trivia."  -- Jeff Mallett


I didn't like my United States History classes in high school and college because they were a matter of memorizing names and dates.  For example, we were expected to know who was campaigning for Vice President in 1856 and lost.  We didn't learn why they lost or what effect that had on the country.  It was just a class in trivia because that was easy to test.


When I became a clown in 1974 there was very little literature available on being a clown.  The first two books on clowning that I read were Emmett Kelly's autobiography and John Towsen's Clowns, a history of clowning.  I read the history books because I was hungry for information on clowning and that was all that I could find.  I was amazed to discover that I learned a lot from those books that I was able to apply to my developing career.  That sparked my interest in continuing to study clown history. 


Recently somebody contacted me asking the origin of the red nose worn by clowns.  The truth is that nobody knows.  There are several theories about its possible origin, but there is no proof that any are accurate.  The first clown to use a red nose has not been pin pointed.  However, one thing all of the theories have in common is that the red nose began as an exaggeration of something that naturally happens to the face.  That is an important insight.  The red nose was not a fantasy disguise hiding the humanity of the clown.  The red nose, as is true with so many elements of clowning, is an exaggeration of reality.


It is possible to be a clown without using a red nose.  One style of Whiteface clown has a white nose with nostrils accentuated in black.  Where this type of clown performs provides further insight into the red nose.  The Whiteface clown with a white nose worked primarily in intimate one-ring circuses.  All their features tended to be smaller because the audience was close enough to see them.  The red nose, especially the oversized one, tended to be more common in larger shows where the exaggeration allowed their features to be seen from a greater distance. That means clowns who work in more intimate settings, like caring clowns in hospitals and nursing homes, can minimize their red nose by decreasing its size or mute it by mixing the red with a flesh tone.


Other options have been used.  For example, Jimmy Graham wore a black and white checkered nose.  Such innovations attracted attention but weren't copied.  I think that was because the change seemed arbitrary and senseless.  It was different just for the sake of being different.


Why has the red nose been so enduring?  It is used by so many clowns just because it has been used by so many clowns.  Clowns have tried to establish their own identity by varying the size and shape of their red noses.  However, to the general public it is the one feature that is the most standard from clown to clown.  A clown's face may be completely white or only certain areas are white.  The shape of the mouth can be happy or sad.  The mouth can be red, black, or white.  A clown can be completely bald, have a fringe of hair, have straight hair in a page boy cut, or have wild uncontrolled hair.   The stereotype is that every clown wears a red nose shaped like a ball.  Because of that, a round red nose by itself is enough to establish that a character is a clown.  The clown characters in the PBS television series "The Big Comfy Couch" wore very little make up except a round red nose.


When you study clown history, don't just look for the facts.  Look for the meaning.  Why was something done?  What effect did it have?  What can you learn from it that you can apply today and in the future?  If you teach clown history, don't just share trivia.  What insights can your students gain from the information?



Public Performances



I believe that seeing other entertainers in performance is an excellent educational opportunity. I will be doing a thirty-minute demonstration Staff on Stage show on Thursday morning at California Clown Campin'. Attendance to that show is limited to participants in the educational program.


However I will be performing in two variety shows that are open to the public.


On May 31, I will be performing a fifteen-minute act closing the first half of a vaudeville style show at the Historic Everett Theater in Everett, WA. The show begins at 7 PM, but I will also be performing the pre-show. When I performed in a similar show earlier this year, doors opened an hour before the show. Arriving early gives you an opportunity to observe me perform up close and personal.


On Friday July 25 I will be part of the California Clown Campin' public show at the Ayres Hotel & Suites near the Ontario, CA airport. This show also begins at 7 PM. This will give you a chance to see the entire California Clown Campin' staff and all of the participants in performance.

Thank you for being a subscriber.  I am always interested in your questions and comments.

Remember if you have missed an issue, you can read it by using the archive link in the right column.  If you want to change the address where you are receiving this newsletter, use the update profile link below.  If this newsletter no longer meets your needs, you can use the SafeUnsubscribe link to be permanently removed from my mailing list.  If you want to spread the word about this newsletter, you can use the forward email link below to send copies to others that you think might be interested.

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.

 California Clown Campin'

July 21-27, 2014

Ontario, CA

Origami for Clowns (2 hour session), The Class of 1989, Introduction to Silk Magic (2 hour session), Jest Because - The Link Between Humor and Health, Character Development & Expression from the Inside Out, Trick Cartoons, Card Magic for Clowns, Staff on Stage, plus acts in the Staff Bits and the Public shows.


California Clown Campin'

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

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