Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #541
July 14, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


This month (July 6) was the 70th Anniversary of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Big Top burning down in Hartford, Connecticut. It was one of the largest disasters in circus history. The clowns, in particular Emmett Kelly and Felix Adler, were signaled out for their heroism in trying to help the victims. Nobody that I know who was there has ever described their experience to me. A book has been published on the disaster but while interesting it is difficult to read due to its graphic descriptions of injuries.


One day while I was touring with Circus Kirk in 1976, the manager asked me to leave the tent during the come-in to speak to a woman on the midway. She wanted to explain that she had been a nurse in Hartford on the day of the circus fire, and could never enter a circus tent after that. However, she didn't want the children in her neighborhood to miss out on the fun of the circus just because of her fear. So she bought them tickets to see the show and would wait outside until the show concluded. She said she wanted to explain that to a clown because of her respect for clowns based on their actions on the day of the fire. I was touched by her thoughtfulness. I gave the manager her message, and reentered the tent to do some special routines just for the group of kids that were her guests. The circus also provided them with free popcorn and cotton candy.


I have always remembered that woman and how she was touched by clowns in the midst of tragedy. It is a reminder to me that I may never know how my actions will affect others.


I hope to see some of my subscribers next week at California Clown Campin'. It is not too late to register. I will be doing something unique during my Staff on Stage performance. I will open and close with some of my stage routines, but the setting is going to allow me to leave the stage and do part of my atmosphere show among the participants. I spent eleven years doing both stage and atmosphere shows at Raging Waters, performed atmosphere shows for the grand opening of Disneyland's Toontown, and this year about half of my performances have been atmosphere shows. This is the first time that I will perform an atmosphere show as part of a Staff on Stage performance show at an educational program.


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
In Memory Don Gonsalvez
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

July 14, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


"We must nurture creativity. We must encourage the new. We must not squelch every idea that does not conform to previous established ways of learning and thinking." - Jackie LeClaire

According to a book titled Everything Origami, by Matthew Gardiner, for centuries there were about 100 known traditional Origami designs that were passed on from parent to child. There were no written instructions. Everyone conformed to those designs. Many of them had a ceremonial significance so it was important that they be done as accurately as possible. Creativity in origami was limited to designing kami (the official word for origami paper) in interesting prints to make more beautiful versions of the traditional shapes.


According to Gardiner, following World War II exchange students from Japan and tourists from other countries visiting Japan began to spread origami world wide. At the same time Akira Yoshizawa, of Japan, and Samuel Randlett, of the USA, developed the standard symbols for illustrating the steps in folding a model. This led to increased interest in origami around the world. For the first time origami books were published in English. When the first contemporary designs were published people realized that it was possible to create more than the traditional models by folding paper. According to Gardiner, in the past 70 years over 30,000 designs have been documented, and hundreds more are created each year. All that was required for that surge in origami was creativity to be encouraged.


While preparing for my Origami class at California Clown Campin' next week I have been doing some experimentation. Many years ago I realized that the traditional drinking cup can be used as a flower pot for the napkin rose that is so popular with entertainers. You will find directions for making it at


Napkin Rose and Flower Pot


Last week I ran the archery range at a Cub Scout Day Camp. On the first day we did not have any trash cans or bags. We wanted to keep the range area clean and organized. So, I created my own trash can by folding a piece of newspaper like a large drinking cup. It worked very well. In fact, after we were provided with large trash bags my assistants on the range still made newspaper trash cans from newspaper because they were easier to carry around. Also, unlike plastic they are biodegradable so they are kinder to the environment. This technique would work well for balloon artists and facepainters desiring an inexpensive disposable trash receptacle to keep their work station clean.


I discovered that a drinking cup folded from a sheet of newspaper can also be worn as a Fez shaped hat. By adjusting some of the folds you can create a hat with a bill and other shapes.


When folding a drinking cup the bottom two corners are folded to opposite sides and then covered by the upper flap. I discovered that if you fold the corners back on themselves you can make them stick out beyond the side of the cup. Then after you fold down the upper flap, you fold a little of that top corner back up. If you rotate the Drinking Cup 180 degrees you have the shape of an animal head that can be used as a finger puppet. I drew the face of a cat on my cup. I have some commercially produced kami (the official name for origami paper) that is preprinted with a design for folding specific models. I unfolded my cup, traced the lines onto another piece of paper which I photo copied. Now I have my own preprinted kami which becomes a cat finger puppet when folded.


I think that over the years I have folded most of the basic designs. I have increased my origami skill by doing that. However, for me the most important and enjoyable part is discovering what I can do beyond the traditional and finding new ways to use origami. For example, I have created a "board game" that can be quickly folded out of inexpensive paper so Caring Clowns can leave it with a patient.


What new methods of learning can you use? How can you change your thinking? When you learn something considered traditional, how can you change it to create something new?


In Memory Don Gonsalvez

I recently learned that Don "Dee Gee" Gonsalvez passed away last week. 


I first met Don at the 1987 World Clown Association Convention in San Diego. He was chairman and it was a great convention. He was honored as the WCA Clown of the Year.


I saw Don frequently over the next seven years at educational events in Southern California. I discovered that most of the leading clowns in San Diego had at some point attended his clown course at San Diego State University. If you judge an instructor by the quality of their students, Don was one of the best clown instructors in the United States. However, he was always very modest about his accomplishments.


Don was a tramp clown without being constrained by the stereotype of constantly portraying sadness. Dee Gee would express a variety of emotions. One of my favorite torn and restored newspaper routines was one he performed at the 1992 WCA Convention in Las Vegas. The tramp entered and spied a sheet of newspaper. When he picked it up the stripper song began playing. Dee Gee looked around and then slyly tore a strip of newsprint off the sheet. He seductively tore strip after strip from the paper. Then just as the song ended, he suddenly restored the sheet to its original condition. He laid it back down where he had found it and contentedly strolled off the stage to thunderous applause. I can't recall ever laughing so much during a torn and restored paper routine.


Don was a Gentleman and Dee Gee was a gentle character. This was perhaps best exemplified when he began teaming with Lorle "Sweetheart" Buehl. They wanted to perform the Busy Bee skit but didn't think it was appropriate to the relationship between their characters to spit water on each other. So they came up with the idea of using a squirt bouquet instead. Their routine was published in an issue of Clowning Around in the early 1990s.


It has been said that certain people leave foot prints in your heart. For me Don was one of those people. I was fortunate to have known him, exchanged ideas with him, and be influenced by him. I know that my life is better as a result. I will always remember him fondly.  
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.

 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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