Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #561
July 6, 2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson




My one-day workshop for the annual Colorado Clowns Day of Education is just over a month away. You will find more information using the link under the Educational Opportunities column.


I got several responses to my article about latex allergies in the most recent issue of this newsletter.  It really is an important issue that clowns will have to address sooner or later.  I ran the archery range at a Cub Scout Day Camp last week.  The man who ran the BB Gun range and I decided not to use balloons as targets partly because of this issue.  We were not able to confirm that those participating did not have a latex allergy.


I will be in a panel discussion about clowning at the Worldwide Circus Summit next week. Just the fact that topic has been included in a Circus Fans event is a great advance for our art. I have a letter in my files from the editor of one of the circus fan organizations from the mid 1990's rejecting an article I wrote because he said, "I don't believe circus fans have any interest in clowns." (Another publication did accept and print the article.) In addition to the panel discussion, Barry Lubin will be the speaker at the annual Circus Fans Association of America banquet that concludes the Summit. So in just twenty years the art of clowning has gained in acceptance, interest, and credibility among circus fans.


I hope to see many of my subscribers next week at the Worldwide Circus Summit. One of the participants told me that the biggest problem is there will not be enough time to do everything she wants while she is there.


I will see you down the road,



In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Trick of the Trade -- Heat
Formula Joke
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

July 6,2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson



"All your props are tools which can be used for a specific strategy.  When a carpenter goes into a home to do some remodeling, he doesn't always know which tools he's going to need.  From experience he expects a great variety of situations, so he comes equipped with a large tool box.  The more professional a carpenter becomes the more he can do with his tools.  The same can be said about a caring clown.  You need to have three things: 1) a variety of tools/props, routines, or strategies with which to work, 2) skill to get the most out of your tools/props, routines, or strategies, and 3) the ability to determine which tools to use."  -- Richard Snowberg

This past weekend I did strolling entertainment at the Joint Military Base Lewis McChord Freedom Fest. I wore a fanny pack with several close up magic effects. I also carried a flight bag with juggling props, napkins, pad of paper for trick cartoons, some origami paper, more magic props, and a balancing bird. That gave me a variety of tools to select from.


Most of the time, my audience was a small family group. Once I gathered a large group of kids. I used a few to assist me with magic effects. However, they all wanted to do something. So I pulled out the balancing bird and let everyone have a turn balancing it on their finger. That was the only time I used the bird all day, but it was exactly what I needed at that moment.


On this particular day I made a lot of napkin roses. I got many requests from people who had seen me make one for somebody else. One woman commented that she would like to learn how to make them. So, I taught her. I also taught her how to make an origami flower pot to hold the rose. She told me she is planning to make them for an upcoming party she is hosting.


When I did a close up magic effect for one young girl her jaw dropped open. So I did another magic effect for her and her jaw opened further. I did a few more effects before her parents decided it was time to go on to another attraction. Her mother told her to close her mouth. As they left, I heard her father comment, "I was afraid we were going to have to pick her eyes up off the ground and put them back into her head."


By having more than I needed I was able to select what was best for each particular situation. I have done strolling entertainment at this venue for at least eighteen years.


Amanda O'Leary's caring clown column in the May 2015 issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association, includes a photo of me and a little boy. I am sitting on my heels on the floor and the boy has his back to the camera. Amanda's caption to the photo says, "Bruce 'Charlie' Johnson working his magic on a little fellow who didn't like clowns 3 minutes earlier."


Here is the story behind the photo.


A large group of clowns participating in the WCA convention returned to our hotel after visiting the Veterans Affairs hospital. It was a boisterous group entering the lobby because everyone was excited about what they had just experienced. All of those excited clowns were overwhelming to a young boy and he fled to his parents.


When I noticed him hiding behind his mother's legs, I moved away from the rest of the clowns to a quiet spot, and sat down on the floor. This accomplished a few things. First, it got me down to near his height so I was not such a large overwhelming presence. Second, it anchored me to a spot giving the boy control over how close we were to each other. He knew that I could not move closer without plenty of warning. That way as his comfort level changed he could come closer to me or back away.


Without looking at the boy, I removed a balloon from my pocket. Normally you want to make eye contact with somebody to establish a relationship. I have found that with young children who are uncertain it is better to avoid eye contact because that bolsters their confidence. If you are not looking at them they think you are not aware of their presence so you are not a threat. Sometimes young children creep closer to me as they become more comfortable with my presence while I am doing something else. Then if I make eye contact with them, they know I have spotted them but they aren't sure what I am going to do so they scurry away.


In working with this young boy I blew the balloon up part way. Then I held one finger against the balloon and inflated it completely. The balloon apparently bent around my finger forming a heart shape. (Don Burda taught me this method of inflating a heart balloon.) This action intrigued the boy and he peered around his mother's legs to watch me. As I tied the balloon he took a few steps towards me.


Then I looked at him for the first time and held out the balloon towards him. He came closer to me, but he still wasn't comfortable enough to reach out for the balloon. I tossed the balloon in his direction. He ran to grab it, and threw it back to me. I bounced the balloon off the floor back to him. Soon he was giggling as we played a game of catch with the balloon. Before long he was having so much fun he forgot that clowns might be a little scary. When one of his throws went behind me, he chased it, brought it back, and handed it to me.


I have used a similar strategy with juggling. I would arouse a child's curiosity by juggling balls. I appeared to ignore them, but I watched them out of the corner of my eye. When they were beginning to feel more comfortable with my presence, I dropped a ball so it bounced in their direction. They would chase it and either brought it back to me or threw it back. Sometimes this evolved into a game of catch.


How many tools do you have available? What new tools can you add? How can you select the right one for each circumstance? What strategies do you know for getting the most out of your tools?




Trick of the Trade -- Heat


Since it is summer in the northern hemisphere many of my subscribers are performing in the midst of heat waves. Here are some ways to cope.


Be sure to drink water or other fluids. Not only do you need to replenish the water that your body sweats to reduce your temperature, but you also have to drink enough to maintain urine production so you eliminate toxins from your body. When I am doing strolling entertainment in the heat, I keep several bottles of water in my prop bag so I can frequently stop and drink a little.


Reduce caffeine. The physical effects of caffeine make your body retain heat. Reducing caffeine intake allows your body to adjust so heat radiates away.


Replace electrolytes. Some people advise drinking lots of water, but that can be hazardous to your health as well by diluting your blood stream causing an electrolyte imbalance. It can cause headaches or life threatening conditions. I know somebody who was hospitalized due to drinking too much water without eating and she was placed on limited fluid intake until the sodium concentration in her blood stream returned to normal. Some people drink Gatorade to replace their electrolytes, but not everyone cares for it. When I worked at Raging Waters, I kept snacks handy to munch on when I took a break to cool down and hydrate. My snacks usually included a source of protein and salt. For example, crackers and cheese, crackers and peanut butter, or trail mix.


Remember to stay safe and healthy while performing. You can't be at your best if you have a headache or other physical effects of heat. A clown may be funny when they fall down, but not when they pass out.


Formula Joke - Knock Knock

Perhaps the most famous formula joke is the Knock Knock joke.


Here is one of my favorites.

Clown:  Knock Knock

Audience:  Who's there?

Clown:  Cows Go.

Audience: Cows Go Who?

Clown: Silly, Owls go who, Cows go Moo.


Knock Knock jokes are a simple way to customize a program.  For a Cub Scout program in October I wrote new Knock Knock jokes involving witches, ghosts, vampires, and other Halloween objects.


See how many Knock Knock Jokes you can write.  When you think you have done as many as possible try to write a few more, then take a break.  Come back later and see how many more you can add.  Often the best ideas are those that come after you think it is impossible to come up with any more.


Knock Knock jokes are a favorite with young kids.  Don't forget to give them a chance to tell you some of them.  If a kid tells you a particularly good one, compliment them, write it down, and then add it to your repertoire.


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 2015 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.
All rights reserved. 
Colorado Clowns
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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