Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #539
June 9, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


I am trying a new occasional feature with this week's newsletter. I am calling it Tips of the Trade. It will be a short technique that makes something about the art of entertaining a little easier.


I would like to thank Curt Shriner for including me in the recent Vaudeville 2 show in Everett, WA at the Historic Everett Theater. The theater was built in 1910 and actually used for vaudeville. Many famous entertainers performed there. Curt does an excellent job of producing and directing the shows. This performance had a great mix of music. There was a barbershop woman's chorus, a country singer, classical guitarist, pianist, singer who accompanied herself on a keyboard, and a duo singing tunes from Broadway shows. There was a quartet of hip hop dancers and a magician. Curt and his wife, Laurie, performed Burns & Allen routines between the other acts. It was a great evening. As a solo performer it is always a treat to be around other professionals. Several of the acts also performed in the first Vaudeville show so it was fun spending some more time with new friends.


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
In Memory: Kathy McLaughlin
Tip of the Trade
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

June 9, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." - Helen Keller


I recently entertained at a small grade school carnival. I could have done it with little effort and they would have been satisfied. Instead I treated it as a major booking. I spent an hour moving my equipment into the gym, setting up a circus backdrop and a sound system, and marking out a stage area. I had made a show time sign to place in front of my set. I was glad that I had made the extra effort because there was also a book fair and silent auction in the gym.   There were no signs announcing my show.   Without the back drop and my sign people would not have known I was going to be performing. I did an hour of strolling entertainment before my stage show which also helped make people aware I was there and would be performing a stage show. I had a small audience when my show began, and the crowd steadily grew. I got a lot of nice comments afterwards.


This was my second year at this particular school carnival. I know that what I do there is remembered by the students and their families. Over a month ago I was performing at a preschool birthday party, when one of the young students suddenly exclaimed, "I know who you are!" That started a discussion between us which revealed his older brother attended the grade school and he had seen my performance at the carnival last year. This year one of the first students I saw requested that I draw a trick cartoon for her because she remembered the one that I had drawn for her last year.


I think the stage show was not my most important performance at the school carnival. After the formal show was over, I did another hour of strolling entertainment. A woman approached me with her two grandsons. She asked if the magic show was over. When I told her that it was I could see the great disappointment on the faces of the boys. I said, "However, if they are really interested in magic, I'll do a show for them now." Then I did some close up sleight of hand effects. During my stage show a small minority of the kids got to come up on stage to assist me and I did what was expected. During this impromptu show every kid got to assist me in some way, and I did more than was expected. As a result I was able to change unhappiness into joy. Later the boy's mother found me to express her thanks for what I had done for her sons.


I try to treat every audience member as if they are a VIP, and sometimes that is who they turn out to be. In 1986 I had the opportunity to perform on the CircusWorldMuseum grounds in Baraboo, WI as part of the Clown Camp program. I used a young boy as a volunteer during an atmosphere show. His responses turned out to be so good that I improvised other interactions with him throughout the rest of the show. Afterwards one of the museum employees approached and asked, "Do you know who that boy is?" When I said I didn't, they informed me, "His mother is the director of the State Historical Society that owns this museum. She was standing over by the gift shop watching you, and was very impressed. You don't know how much good you just did for us."


Sometimes entertainers want to do great routines, but often a simple routine done well has more of an impact. I was watching clowns doing walk arounds during a performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Ruth Chaddock came past wearing a beautiful kimono and Japanese style wig. With all the grace of a Geisha girl, she opened a parasol, balanced a ball on it, and kept the ball in place while she spun the parasol. She stopped, bowed, and the ball dangled from the end of a thread attached to the parasol's ferrule revealing the stunt was a hoax. I had thought of the ball on umbrella as a beginner's trick. I had done it during my first year as a clown. However, Ruth Chaddock's performance of the simple routine was so well done and enchanting that I have never forgotten it. She changed my opinion. I realized that there are no beginner routines, only beginner performances of routines. Any routine can be an expert routine when done well.


How can you approach every show as if it is a great one? How would you treat a celebrity in your audience? How can you treat everyone that way? How would you perform a great routine? How can you approach a simple routine in the same way?




In Memory: Kathy McLaughlin



After a long battle with cancer Kathy "Huggles" McLaughlin passed away on June 5, 2014. I knew Kathy through our mutual involvements in the World Clown Association and Clown Camp.


Kathy was a Caring Clown. She was well known and respected in that community. She had been on staff at Clown Camp teaching Caring Clown class and served on the WCA Caring Clown Committee.


She was a very positive person who made the best of every situation she found herself in. We both attended the Clown Camp Japan program in 2005. The airline lost her luggage on the way to Japan. Kathy didn't let it get her down, but turned it into a running joke for the rest of the trip. Her luggage finally caught up with her on the last day. When the airline offered her an upgrade in seating as compensation for her inconvenience, she wasn't satisfied. She was traveling with several of her friends in clowning.   She demanded a seating upgrade for them as well, which the airline granted.


People who attended Clown Camp or WCA conventions could easily spot her and her friends because they wore feather plumes in their hair. As a group they were known as the feather ladies. It was a close knit group with Kathy at their core.


Kathy participated in the 2014 WCA Convention in Chicago. She wanted to attend to see her many clown friends again. I was privileged to have several conversations with her during the week.


Kathy will be missed by her many friends and all the people she touched during her lifetime.


Lee Mullally is collecting submissions for a memorial article which will appear in Clowning Around, published by the WCA. Members who wish to contribute memories to this tribute will find his email address inside the front cover of Clowning Around under the list of committee chairs.



Tip of the Trade


I have sometimes done embroidery with yarn to create details on costume accessories. The yarn produces bold lines that can be seen from a distance but looks good close up. However, the problem with yarn is being able to thread a needle. The fibers of yarn are loose enough that it is easy to miss the eye with some of them preventing the yarn from going all the way through the eye. To easily thread yarn onto a needle fold a piece of scotch tape over the yarn. About half of the tape should stick up beyond the yarn. Now trim the tape with scissors so it is narrow enough to fit through the eye of the needle. Cut off the tip of the tape at an angle. Now it is easy to get the tape through the eye of the needle. The tape keeps the yarn compressed and pulls it through the eye. Now remove the tape and you are ready to start sewing.


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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.

 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'

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