Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #562
July 27, 2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson





The Worldwide Circus Summit was a wonderful experience. There were many clowns participating and I think circus fans gained a new respect for the art of clowning. I would like to thank Peggy Williams for selecting me to be part of the Clowning - What's So Funny panel. David Carolyn did a great job of moderating our discussion. I was honored to be a part of the group, and we all received wonderful feedback afterwards.


I was involved behind the scenes with the International Clown Hall of Fame for about twenty years after it was established. During the Summit I accepted an invitation to join the International Clown Hall of Fame Board of Directors. Now I will be officially working to honor those clowns who have made important contributions to our art. You can read more about the International Clown Hall of Fame and join the organization by going to


International Clown Hall of Fame


My one-day workshop for the Colorado Clowns is just a month away. You can find more information using the link under educational opportunities to the right. I hope to see many of my subscribers 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 27,2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson




"Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience." - Fanny Brice


An idea that was expressed by several different Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College ™ graduates during the recent Worldwide Clown Summit is that the college gave them the foundation they needed, but they didn't become clowns until they began performing for audiences. The audience guided the development of their clown character. I have stated before that great clowning is an interaction with the audience. You can't learn how to do that without having an audience present.


I know that audiences really guided the development of my clown character. I began by performing in parades with an amateur clown club. We had to arrive early to get through traffic and check in. Most of the clowns would sit on the curb waiting for the parade to begin. I noticed that Dolly the Clown, from San Diego, would go around entertaining the waiting parade participants. I began following his example. I got hours of experience working close up with small groups where I could immediately see and understand their reactions. I quickly discovered that some things I thought were funny didn't get a response from the audience. I did some things by accident, and they got big laughs so I figured out how to repeat them intentionally. The audience completely changed my original concept for Charlie. I originally wanted him to be shy, but that is not what the audience wanted so he became more outgoing.


A group of young majorettes was having watermelon after a parade. They kept offering some to clowns who passed them, but the clowns turned them down. Finally I accepted their invitation, sat down with them, and joined them in enjoying their treat. That made them feel very special because they were the only group that a clown joined. They became my first fan club, and twenty years later some of them would come to see me perform. When I first began performing at Hispanic family birthday parties I discovered that food and generosity was an important part of the celebration. I could tell that the hosts were very disappointed if I turned down food they offered. Not wanting to offend them I would accept some and join the family in eating. Later in my career when I heard some clown instructors proclaim that clowns should never eat in make up and costume, I already knew that rule was not valid for me because my audiences had taught me they wanted me to eat.


I toured with the Carson & Barnes Five-Ring Circus in 1981. In addition to five rings it had two platforms so there were seven juggling acts. I was assigned to ring one as I developed my juggling act. I learned what appealed to the audience because I could see them look away to watch one of the other six acts if I bored them. I started eliminating tricks that the audience did not like. By the time I joined a one-ring show the next year my juggling act had improved enough that it was placed next to closing, a spot usually reserved for one of the best acts in the show.


The audience can also direct you in a specific performance. I begin most of my shows the same way, with a plate spinning routine that includes some audience interaction. The way the audience responds to that routine provides direction for the rest of the show. I vary the pace of my routines and change the amount of interaction I expect based on how the audience responds to that routine. I have options built into my shows so I can make adjustments. In some shows I perform more juggling if that is what the audience responds to. In other shows, I perform more magic. In some shows, I increase the number of routines requiring response from the audience. In other shows, I do more things that the audience can relax and observe. When possible I perform during the come in, which is the period between the audience being admitted and the show beginning. That gives me a chance to get to know the audience and sometimes I have a chance to change the way I have preset my props to better accommodate that audience.


How can you pay attention to direction from the audience? How can you tell what the audience thinks? How can you adjust what you do to fit your audience?





American Circus Youth Organization

There was a strong presence by representatives of the American Youth Circus Organization at the Worldwide Circus Summit. There was a wonderful performance by representatives of twelve youth circuses and circus schools.


Following the Summit many circus fans visited a nearby city to see a performance by Circus Smirkus.   It was a great show and my father and I returned to see the evening show. Circus Smirkus has a great clown alley, and over the years at least ten young people from the show have become professional clowns.


I started with Circus Kirk, the first touring tented student show, in 1976. Marsha "Modine" Gallagher and I toured together with that show in 1977. We are both still clowning, and both members of the World Clown Association.


If you are planning a variety show, you can schedule some outstanding acrobatic, aerial, and juggling acts from a youth circus or circus school near you.


However, two things came out during the Summit. First, most of the youth circuses and circus schools don't include clowning in their curriculum and performances. The youth circus showcase included only one clown act. The directors said they would be interested in including clowning, but they don't know how to teach it. Second, many of the directors said they would be open to having guest instructors teach clowning at their schools.


If you would like to work with a youth circus or circus school to teach the art of clowning you can locate one near you by going to


Youth Circuses and Schools

Formula Joke - Punny Book


This is a book whose title or author is a pun.


Jokes in which the author's name is a pun are often included in the jokes sent in by Boy Scouts on the Think & Grin pages of Boys Life magazine. They are listed as "books not written." An example is The History of Aviation by Emma Byrd.


Book title puns are often used by mystery publishers. For example, Jenn McKinlay writes a series of books about a sleuth who owns a hat shop. The title of one of her books is Cloche and Dagger. (A cloche is a type of hat. It is pronounced like cloak.)


This type of joke can be used by clowns and other entertainers. When I did strolling entertainment at Raging Waters I carried a box that looked like a book. The cover said, "History of Aviation by Emma Byrd." When I opened it, the audience saw a large artificial fly. When performing with it I did not stress the author's name, but sometimes it got an extra laugh from those who noticed it. It provided an extra layer of humor, and those who spotted it felt superior to less observant guests.


The loading area for the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride attraction at Disneyland is a study with a case full of books. The title for each book is a pun related to amphibians. I don't remember any specific examples, but I do remember being amused by reading the titles while I stood in line.


These types of incidental details make your entertainment richer. If you do a routine where your character reads instructions from a book, for example how to juggle, don't just make it a generic cover. Turn the title or author into a pun and you increase your humor quotient.




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. 
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.

Colorado Clowns

Day of Education

August 22, 2015

Denver, CO


Colorado Clowns Day of Education 


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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