Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #566
October 5, 2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I am pleased to announce that I have been invited to be the headliner for the 2016 Midwest Clown Association Convention. The announced theme is "Motoring Back in Clown History." There will be an emphasis on clown history during the convention. In addition to the classes I will be teaching, I will be performing a demonstration show. The convention will be September 27 through October 2 at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana. The convention hosts are the Purely Michigan Clowns.

I will see you down the road,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Trick of the Trade
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 
October 21,2015
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"A comedian operates on only one emotion - laughter, and by voice. A clown seeks all the emotions, laughter, sorrow, grief, pity and so on. He must be adept at all these and to evoke them must use voice, gestures and facial expressions." - Danny Chapman, Circus Buffoon
A clown whose performance remains on one constant emotional level can be boring.
In addition they are not as effective as possible because we understand things by contrast. Once I read that Alfred Hitchcock's success was partly due to his juxtaposition of humor and suspense. The example of how this can be done is somebody alone in a house who becomes terrified when a door begins to creak open. When a cat slithers through the opening the person relaxes and the audience laughs. Then when they bend over to pick up the cat, a hand reaches through the doorway and grabs them. The audience jumps in fright. Without the initial tension the appearance of the cat would not seem funny. The break in tension and contrast to laughter increases the terror of being grabbed unexpectedly.
I saw International Clown Hall of Fame Inductee Red Skelton in a live performance at the Long Beach Arena. In the middle of the show he performed Guzzler's Gin, a very funny routine where he plays both a TV host and a commercial pitch man who becomes increasingly intoxicated as he samples the product. It includes much visual and verbal humor. There was a lot of laughter throughout the routine. Then he performed a pantomime about an astronaut on a space walk. It concluded with the astronaut's umbilical cord breaking. The audience sat in stunned silence as the astronaut began to float away. Skelton subtly shifted his feet backwards so he seemed to move away from the audience without any effort on his part. Skelton paused to let the audience appreciate the emotion, and then he broke the mood with a quick verbal comedy bit. Throughout the performance Skelton interspersed verbal comedy, sight gags, and pantomimes eliciting other emotional responses. For example, he would fluff his hair out, tuck his thumbs into his armpits, and do a comic dialogue between two seagulls named Gertrude and Heathcliff. Then he pulled out a comb to smooth out his hair. Suddenly he sneezed which caused his head to jerk forward disturbing his hair again. Then he introduced a pantomime about an elderly military veteran watching a parade and his shifting emotions as he interacted with people around him and then as he saw the color guard pass carrying the American flag.
I have tried to create some performances that invoke many different emotions. Richard Snowberg invited me to do a motivational performance closing the 2006 session of Clown Camp®. I created one that I call Peace. I started with some short comedy routines. Then I told the story of Sadako Sasaki, a victim of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima seventy years ago. Hospitalized for treatment of radiation poisoning she received her medications wrapped in a small square of paper. She began folding those bits of paper into origami cranes. She thought if she could fold one thousand cranes her prayers for healing would be answered. She died before she reached her goal. Her friends finished the thousand cranes as a tribute to her. Since then one thousand cranes threaded like beads on string have come to symbolize peace and prayers for health. As I told the story I folded one crane, and then began magically producing additional cranes concluding with a chain of fifty cranes. (Traditionally cranes are threaded in strings of fifty for health and strings of one hundred for peace.) I transitioned to talking about how clowns have been able to break through barriers between people. I performed some routines associated with Bert Williams, a black entertainer who broke through many racial barriers in segregated America though his outstanding talent as a clown. I challenged the audience to do what they can to use their talents to break through barriers between people and spread peace.
I have created a scarf routine I call Evolution of a Butterfly that I can use as a motivational piece for educational clown events. It illustrates that reaching your potential as a clown is an evolving process. That routine is described in Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three: Creative Routines.
In another routine I tell the story of Snow White while twisting an animal balloon into a swan. Each twist creates a new object that is part of the story. The conclusion is that Snow White was not the fairest in the land because of her physical beauty, but because of her character. When performing it for an audience of clowns, I add that clowns sometimes put too much emphasis on appearance when what is inside is most important for success. Directions for performing the story are available at
How many emotions do you evoke during your performances? How can you increase the variety of emotional response from your audience? How can you use routines of contrasting emotions to increase their effectiveness?

Trick of the Trade

Roll silk scarves to store and transport them. Until about ten years ago the advice I always heard was to be sure to iron silk scarves. However, I wasn't always happy with their appearance when I produced them. What I didn't realize is that if you fold silk scarves or load them into a gimmick shortly after ironing them, the heat will actually set the creases in place. Also, since the rest of the scarf is smooth any wrinkles stand out in contrast.
Instead if you roll the silks scarves there are no sharp creases. Also the scarf is covered with many small wrinkles that cancel each other out.
Another advantage is that you can roll all the scarves for one routine together. After I performed a birthday party last weekend, I unloaded the gimmicks. Then I rolled all the scarves for a happy birthday blendo together, and I rolled all the scarves for a Happy Birthday Twentieth Century routine together. Both rolls of scarves went into a box of props for birthday parties. Now when I do my next birthday party I won't have to search for the correct scarves. I will pull the appropriate roll of scarves out, do the necessary set up, and I'm ready to go.

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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.


Clown Camp Reunion


June 12-17, 2016

La Crosse, WI


Clown Camp Reunion

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