Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #557
April 13, 2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



At the upcoming World Circus Summit I am honored to be a part of a panel discussion titled "What's so Funny?  A Clown Conversation."  David Carlyan will be the moderator.  David Kiser, Greg DeSanto, Barry Lubin, Tricia Bothan, and Peggy Williams are the other panel members.  I have the distinction of being the only person on the panel to not graduate from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College (TM).  I was graduated by California State University -- Long Beach with a BA in Technical Theater.  My initial circus experience was through a youth circus named Circus Kirk.  There will be a strong presence by the American Youth Circus Organization at the World Circus Summit.  I believe this is a once in a life time event that participants will be glad to experience.


For those who are on FaceBook, you can get updates on the Clown Camp (R) Reunion by going to the Clown Camp 2016 FaceBook page.


Clown Camp (R) on Facebook


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
New Article
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

April 13,2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



"Practice is the process of doing something enough times that anything that can go wrong will, and you can figure out a solution." -- Rick De Lung


Things will go wrong. It is necessary to have a back up plan. In one of my magic routines I use a gimmick called an Invisible Thread Reel. Sometimes I would loose the end of the thread or on even more rare occasions the thread would break. So I figured out a way to hide a second gimmick allowing me to continue with the routine. Then I practiced the routine using the back up arrangement so I could switch to using it without having to stop and think about what I was doing. As a result I have never failed to be able to complete the routine successfully.


As a general rule if something does not work once in a performance I consider it as possibly a unique situation. If something does not work twice, I don't perform it again until I figure out the reason and a way to either prevent it or to compensate for it. Several years ago I had started performing a new method of doing the Torn & Restored Newspaper. It was beautiful when it worked correctly, but twice the torn pieces fell to the floor when I opened the restored paper. I talked to somebody else that I knew who used that method. He had experienced the same thing. Neither of us could figure out what caused the problem so I reluctantly stopped using that method.


In one of my audience interaction routines I begin by holding a sign upside down. I wait until somebody tells me it is that way, and then have trouble figuring out how to get it correct. During one performance I held up the sign and nobody told me it was upside down. I couldn't figure out why the audience was silent. I looked at the sign and it had accidentally gotten turned right side up in my prop case. I wasn't able to interact with the audience at a point where it was needed during that show. So, I put a small symbol on the backside near the bottom edge. I can tell with a quick glance that the sign is properly oriented when I start to take it from my case without having to look at the front. (It would ruin the impression that I didn't know the sign was upside down if the audience saw me checking its orientation.)


I juggle clubs in most of my performances. Normally you catch and throw a club by the handle. Usually it spins one or two revolutions while it is in the air. Occasionally if it is under rotated or over rotated the thicker belly end of the club will land in my hand. That end of the club is much harder to catch. During practice sessions I spend some time intentionally over rotating the club so I learn to catch it by the belly. I practice recovering by spinning it one-and-a-half revolutions so the handle lands in my hand. I practice doing that with each hand during my rehearsals until it becomes automatic. I have become so used to doing it that way that if I catch a club by the wrong end during a performance I have already recovered and am continuing with my routine before I consciously realize that something had gone wrong.


I am capable of performing more juggling tricks than I include in my shows. There is logic to the tricks that I have selected and the order in which I do them.   I am currently practicing a new trick with juggling clubs that I know I will never perform in a show because it does not fit in with the tricks that I do perform. However, I have started including it in my rehearsals because it results in the clubs sometimes landing at an odd angle or height. Rehearsing this trick gives me practice at catching clubs that aren't perfectly thrown. In a performance this past weekend two clubs collided in the air. That is something that rarely happens. They came down in unusual ways. I was able to snatch both of them and continue juggling. It happened so quickly that I don't think the audience noticed, but I impressed myself with that recovery. I realized that it was possible only because of the new trick I have been practicing. The clubs came down in ways that I had experienced in practice so I knew how to catch and throw them.


Do you practice things enough times that problems are revealed? In what other ways can you discover potential flaws in a routine? How can you prevent mistakes from happening? What backups are possible? How can you practice recovering when something goes wrong?


New Articles by Bruce Johnson


An article I wrote celebrating the centennial of the birth of Mark Anthonyappears in the March issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association.  It is paired with an article by Richard Snowberg sharing his memories of working with Mark Anthony at Clown Camp (R).


For more information on joining The World Clown Association, which includes a subscription to Clowning Around, go to


World Clown Association


A short article I wrote about my experience visiting the Kelly Miller Circus appears in the March/April issue of White Tops, published by the Circus Fans Association of America.  The 2014 CFA Convention included a visit to the circus.  There I saw an elephant named Lisa that I had worked with on Circus Kirk in 1976 and 1977.  I had not seen Lisa since that time.  Lisa is currently handled by Armando Loyal. Armando and I had toured together on the Carson & Barnes Circus in 1980 and 1981.  I had seen him a few times since then, but not in recent years.  I enjoyed being reunited with Lisa and Armando. The article is accompanied by a photo of me and Lisa in 1976 and a photo of me with Lisa and Armando in 2014.


For more information on joining the Circus Fans Association of America, which includes a subscription to White Tops, go to


Circus Fans Association of America


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 2015 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.


World Clown Association Convention


March 22- 26, 2015

Reno, Nevada

Tramp Tradition Show,

Controlling Focus,

Class of 1989 


World Clown Association


World Circus Summit

July 14-18, 2015

West Springfield, MA

Panel Discussion: Circus Today -- Clowning 

Jackpot Junction


 World Circus Summit


Colorado Clowns

Day of Education

August 22, 2015

Denver, CO


Clown Camp Reunion


June 2016

La Crosse, WI


Clown Camp Reunion

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

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