Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #560
June 15, 2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



I am introducing a new feature this week.  That is a formula joke article.  A formula joke is one that follows  specific pattern.  It can serve as inspiration.  It can lead t something you use in performance or it can be used to exercise your creativity.


The second article is of importance to balloon artists.  It deals with the growing incidence of latex allergies and the impact that is having on potential venues.  I will be speaking on this more during my workshop for the Colorado Clowns in August.  During my workshop I will demonstrate several possible alternatives for use in venues that ban latex balloons. 


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Latex Balloons and the Need for Creativity
Formula Joke
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

June 15,2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson




In discussing the "Ozzie and Harriet" radio program, Chuck Schaden asked Ozzie Nelson, "You did a preview before a studio audience? Like a dress rehearsal?"


Ozzie answered, "Exactly. It was like a dress rehearsal, so we could overwrite the show and then bring it down to time by cutting, because the more you cut the better it is."

Overwriting and cutting is a useful technique no matter what type of material you are writing. I use it in preparing magazine articles, routines, shows, and lectures.


When I write an article for a variety arts magazine I often cut a third to a quarter of my rough draft in completing the finished version. Why do I overwrite?


First, I do not want to censure myself during the initial creative steps. In Creativity For Entertainers Volume One I discuss the four steps in the creative process. One is the Artist, which is when you generate new ideas. Next is the Judge, which is when you evaluate ideas. The two steps are mutually exclusive. Once you start to evaluate your ideas you shut off the flow of new ideas. Even a positive evaluation will stop new ideas. So I try to delay evaluating ideas as long as possible. I write everything down without worrying if it is a good or valuable idea.


Second, figuring out the structure of an article is a process of discovery. I begin with a mass of potential material. I have to get it down so I can see what it looks like. Then I can begin to see relationships. I figure out what goes together and how to make transitions. I just finished the second of a two-part article on clowns in opera for Clowning Around magazine. I intended to continue the format that I had used for the first part. However, as I worked with the material I discovered a different way of organizing it that made it easier for the reader to understand and use. That meant cutting a large section of material because it did not fit the new format. However, the end result is much stronger.


Third, what you write is always of varying quality. Nothing is consistently great. You need to cut to get the best possible result. If you cut the bad material, you will have a good article. If you cut the good material, you will have a great article. By overwriting and cutting you gain the confidence that what remains is the best possible product.


The concept is true with other material. For years I have performed a mismade American flag scarf routine, and knew that some magicians have performed a repeat torn and restored newspaper routine. This past winter I figured out a repeat torn and restored mismade newspaper routine. When I began practicing it, I realized that I tore the newspaper too many times. By cutting it I discovered better motivation for the moves. In the current version I actually tear the paper just once. I am still working on smoothing out the routine so I have not performed it in public yet.


I do the same when creating shows. I performed my Tramp Tradition show at the 2015 World Clown Association convention. I had some new material I wanted to add for this performance. I started by cutting some of the material in the existing script. I wrote the new material and then cut out part of that. Audience response showed me where I can further cut the new material to improve the next performance of the show.

I do this in preparing lectures. I write too much and then have to give it a few times to decide where to cut. I actually leave it a little overwritten. Then each time I present the lecture I make additional cuts on the spot depending on feedback I receive from that group of students. By overwriting I am able to customize the lecture to fit the needs of a specific audience.


How can you overwrite? How do you decide what to cut? How much are you willing to cut?



The Need For Creativity - Latex Balloons


One reason it is important to remain creative is that you have to adjust to changing conditions.


There is nothing inherent in balloon sculpture making it suitable for clowning. Many people expect it of clowns because so many clowns have done it in the past. New clowns do it to meet the expectations of their clients.


That may be about to change. There is a growing incidence of latex allergies and an increased awareness of the problem. People who have undergone chemo therapy seem to develop latex allergies. When Carole and I first started volunteering at the Seattle Ronald McDonald house over twenty years ago, she would do balloon sculptures for the young residents. Then the Seattle Ronald McDonald house banned latex balloons because many of their residents were young cancer patients. Now most hospitals ban balloons. I used to perform at a summer camp for children and young adults with special needs, and there were so many campers with severe latex allergies that the camp requested I not enter their property with balloons in my possession. I couldn't have them in my pocket even if I did not intend to use them.


There seem to be other factors behind the increased problem. Recently the Edmonds School District banned latex balloons from school facilities and school sponsored events. That means balloon sculpture can no longer be included in elementary school carnivals or high school grad night parties.


I recently had to renew my archery range master certification for the Boy Scouts of America. Shooting at balloons attached to the target has been a popular activity in the past. Starting this year, the BSA policy is that I have to ask if anybody has a latex allergy before I attach balloons to targets which are about fifteen feet from the boys. The problem is the powder inside the balloons. When balloons are manufactured, powder is sprayed inside to keep the latex from sticking to itself. That powder has enough latex on it that if somebody with an allergy breathes it in they can go into anaphylactic shock.


So clowns may want to start looking for alternatives to balloon sculpture. I have used trick cartoons for years. One of my marketing phrases is that is a latex free activity. Origami is another excellent possibility. I will be teaching some origami and trick cartoons during my workshop sponsored by the Colorado Clowns on August 22.


If a venue bans the use of latex balloons, what can you use instead? What new entertainment tools can you add to your repertoire?


Formula Joke - Tom Swifty


A formula joke is one that follows a definite pattern. The pattern serves as a spark of inspiration. Formula jokes can also become a running gag or a part of your comic identity. For example, when Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show, he would say, "Boy, was it cold."


The studio audience would shout in unison, "How cold was it?"


Johnny then replied, "It was so cold that..."


You can create formula jokes for use in performance.   However, writing formula jokes is an excellent way to exercise your creativity which becomes stronger with use.


One formula joke is known as a Tom Swifty. The name is supposed to be a reference to the Tom Swift series of children's books where the author used a lot of adjectives in connection with dialogue. (That was not true in the books in the series that I have seen in antique stores.)


In this type of joke, you have a line of dialogue, followed by "he said" and an adjective related to the dialogue. For example:

"Somebody broke the lead on my pencil," he said disappointedly.

"I lost my favorite doll," she said ruthlessly.


As an exercise see how many Tom Swiftys you can write. Try for at least ten. If ten are easy, try to write twenty.




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 Circus Summit


July 14-18, 2015

West Springfield, MA


Panel Discussion: A Clown Conversation-- What's So Funny?


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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