Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #544
August 25, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


A friend recently commented on the contacts I have within the circus industry and among circus archives.  One way that I have built up those contacts is by attending Circus Fans Association of America and Circus Historical Society conventions.  At next month's CFA convention there will be representatives from circus museums and archives as well as from some of the circuses themselves.  You can find more information on the convention using the link under the educational opportunites column.


Many performers and retired performers also attend the CFA conventions.  Usually it turns into a reunion with somebody that I have worked together in the past.  I am usually surprised by who I run into while I am there.  However, I know that at the CFA convention next month participants will be visiting the Kelly-Miller Circus, and that Jim Royal, the show's general manager, will be there.  Jim was the Carson & Barnes Circus Ringmaster when I toured with that show in 1981.  He worked extremely well with clowns.  You can read more about how we creatively solved a performance problem in my book Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two:  Creative Tools and Techniques.  I am looking forward to "cutting up jackpots" with Jim and his wife Beverly.   (Cutting up jackpots is a circus term for exchanging stories and memories.)


My first season with a circus was 1976 when I toured with Circus Kirk.  That year a five-year old elephant named Lisa made her performing debut with that same show.  I have a couple of photos of the two of us together in 1976 and 1977.  Lisa is currently touring and performing with the Kelly Miller Circus.  I am looking forward to seeing her again.  I wonder if she really will remember me.


The fact that circus performers, who share a lasting bond and rapport, are likely to see each other again some where at some point in their carreer means that traditionally they never say goodbye to each other.  The traditional circus farewell is "I'll see you down the road."


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Interational Clown Hall of Fame Inductees
New Article by Bruce Johnson
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

August 25, 2014

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson


"Find a need and fill it." - Motto of Henry J Kaiser, industrialist


I was hired by a country club to entertain at their Easter party. When I arrived my contact asked me to announce at the conclusion of my show that it was time for the Easter Egg hunt and direct everyone to turn right out of the dining room and go through the doors at the end of the hall. I told her that my character didn't speak. So, at the end of my show I didn't say anything. People milled around until somebody from the country club came in and made the announcement. I had made the mistake of thinking my need to maintain my fantasy character was more important than the needs of my client. Most of my jobs are repeat bookings, but I was never hired to work for that country club again.


To be a successful entertainer you have to be sensitive to the needs of your audience and then find the best way to meet those needs.


I spent eleven years working at Raging Waters, a water slide park in Southern California. My shift usually started when the park opened. If I was ready early I often did a little show for the people waiting for the turnstiles to open to make the time pass quicker. If they were enjoying watching me they didn't look at their watch and start complaining if the park didn't open exactly when they thought it was time. Then I worked in the area in front of the ticket booths. The need of our guests was to enter the park as soon as possible in a positive frame of mind ready to enjoy the rest of their day. I noticed that people tend to get into the first line they see. Even if they can see another shorter line they don't want to move to it because they are afraid of loosing their place in the long line if there is some reason they aren't eligible to use the short line. So I began escorting people from the long line to the short lines. I usually offered my arm to a mother and her family followed. Once I had the lines equalized, I would stand in the space between two lines and do some magic to distract them from realizing how much time they were standing there. I took this one step further on hot days. I realized that if somebody is uncomfortable they are not in the mood to laugh at a clown's comedy. So I carried a squirt bottle filled with water. If the heat made somebody uncomfortable, I would sprits them to cool them off. I never sprayed anybody without first getting their permission. Then when they were comfortable, I would do a few close up magic tricks before moving to the next group in line. Because I was making eye contact with people I sometimes would realize somebody was going to pass out. More than once I caught a collapsing body before they hit the cement walkway. I would move them to a shady spot and start administering first aid while the park's medics were on their way.


My actions in the admissions area weren't always funny, but they established a relationship between me and our guests. Later in the day when I was strolling or doing atmosphere shows most people walked past me. However, those people I recognized from having seen them earlier in the admission area often stopped to watch my performance. The park hired additional entertainers during the last years that I was there, but they had trouble getting attention from the guests because they had not connected with them first by meeting their needs.


Something else I learned at Raging Waters was that I was one of the few people guests could speak to without having to stand in line. So, I became a walking information booth. If a parent with an anxious child asked where a restroom was, they did not need a comedy routine. They needed me to give them clear directions to the nearest restroom. So I would break character and tell them. If possible, I would actually lead them there. When I attend conventions, even if I am only a participant, people ask me questions. So when I arrive at a convention hotel one of the first things I do is locate registration, the meeting rooms, restrooms, and restaurants. I learn when registration is open. That way I am prepared to meet the information needs of other participants.


How can you discover the needs of your guests? How can you creatively meet them?

International Clown Hall of Fame Inductees


The International Clown Hall of Fame honored four new inductees in Baraboo, WI on July 23.  The new members of the ICHOF are Dougie Ashton, Paul Wenzel, Chuck Burnes, and Swede Johnson.  Congratulations to the new inductees.


Dougie Ashton is a Chaplin type clown.  You can read a little about him near the end of my article on the centennial of Chaplin's Little Tramp character posted on my web site.  Go to





The International Clown Hall of Fame is starting a fundraising campaign.  To learn more about the ICHOF, make a donation, or become a member of the Friends of the ICHOF go to


International Clown Hall of Fame

New Article by Bruce Johnson

An article I wrote on the 2013 World Clown Association Convention being named the best convention of the year by the Sarawak Borneo Tourism office was published in the July/August issue of White Tops, published by the Circus Fans Association of America.   For more information on the CFA go to

Circus Fans Association of America

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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.

 Circus Fans Association of America

September 17- 21, 2014

Dubuque, Iowa


CFA Convention 


World Circus Summit

July 14-18, 2015

West Springfield, MA



 World Circus Summit


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

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