Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #540
June 23, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


The main article this week is related to my class titled Character Development and Expression from the Inside Out.  I will be teaching this class at California Clown Campin' a month from now.  There is still plenty of room for additional participants.  You will find more information using the link under the Educational Opportunities column.


I am including another trick of the trade tip this week.


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
New Article by Bruce Johnson
Tip of the Trade
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

June 23, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


"The clown comes from within and is an aspect of oneself, mixed with a quirky observation of the world." -- Nola Rae


Often we start backwards and try to create a clown character from the outside. We develop a make up design and costume. Then we try to develop a personality to fit inside of the appearance. That is why many people change their make up design drastically in their first years of clowning. As they explore and find their clown character, they discover that the original appearance no longer fits. When I teach a beginning clown course I spend a minimal time on make up design and application because I know that what the students develop during class probably will not last very long.


We all play many roles in our life, each that relies on different parts of our personality. For example, you act differently as a parent, spouse, employee or employer, and friend. In each role you draw upon the appropriate aspects of your personality. I believe that clown is another role that we play. Like your other roles, it draws upon appropriate aspects of your personality.


Bill Ballantine, former RB&BB Clown College Dean, described Emmett Kelly and his clown character this way: "Weary Willie was born of Emmett; the two never could be completely separated. When his rags came down, the gentle hobo withdrew to being a gentle man."


Just to say that the clown comes from within does not provide too much useful information. There are unlimited options and possibilities. How do you know what your clown character is like? Sometimes imitation provides inspiration. Those characters you like tend to resonate with some aspect of your personality. For example, while I admired Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden character in the Honeymooners, the character that I really liked was Jackie Gleason's Poor Soul. There was a gentle wistfulness to that character which I think matched my own gentleness. One summer early in my career I saw a lot of Poor Soul routines when the local Public Broadcasting System station began airing episodes of Jackie Gleason's American Scene Magazine TV program. When I performed that summer I began noticing that I had copied many of the Poor Soul's mannerisms.


For the March issue of Clowning Around magazine, published by the World Clown Association, I wrote an article celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Charlie Chaplin creating his Little Tramp character. In the article I listed several entertainers who imitated Chaplin early in their career. There were many Chaplin imitators. The successful entertainers were those who used that as a step in the development of their own character. They chose Chaplin's Little Tramp because it matched aspects of their personality. That gave them a starting place. Then through audience interaction they learned what aspects of the character worked for them. Eventually they discovered their own way of expressing those qualities.


Clowning also requires observing the world and seeing something different from others. When news reports about splitting the atom were spread, producing clown Paul Jung asked himself how a child might misunderstood the news. He decided that atom sounded like the name Adam. So he built an Adam Smasher, a machine that turned one tall clown into four midget versions that scampered off in opposite directions Emmett Kelly, in his autobiography, said the audience response to Jung's Adam Smasher was the loudest laughter he ever heard in a circus tent.


I like to play with words and take them literally. Recently one of my granddaughters showed me a lady bug. I said, "Now let's see if we can find a gentleman bug." She informed me of my error.


I have incorporated that outlook into my clowning. In the late 1970's the invisible dog leash, created by Chuck McCann, became very popular with clowns. I wanted to take it a step further. I created an oversized hot dog to fit into the leash, and used it in some parade appearances. Then it was used as one of the props for the 1980 Carson & Barnes Circus "The Clown is King" spec.


What aspects of your personality are part of your clown character? How can you become more observant? How do you see things differently?





New Article by Bruce Johnson



I wrote an article titled "Here's The Pitch", which appears in the May 2014 Issue of

Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association.  The topic is how circus clowns are used to promote and sell products.  This article, part of my World Clown Association Historian column, is a little unusual because it is part autobiographical and part the result of research.


For more information on joining the WCA, which includes a subscription to Clowning Around, go to 



 World Clown Association

Trick of the Trade


During a theatrical show it is often very dark backstage, especially in contrast to the level of light on stage.  It can be extremely difficult to find or double check props, especially if they are inside a trunk or other container.  The solution is to take a LED pen light to use while in the wings or behind a backdrop.  Make sure that it is dim and focused enought that it is not visible to audience members.  Some LED pen lights now have several colors.  If possible switch it to red.  This allows you to see without destroying your "night vision."


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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