Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #566
October 5, 2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I have been writing this newsletter now for fourteen years. When I first began my intention was to publish a short article once a week on my web site to attract repeat visits. Then people began asking if I could email the articles to them. So I began gathering a list of subscribers. Eventually the articles grew a little in length. My schedule did not allow me to publish a new article every week, but I have kept the Thought for the Week title. My goal for the near future is to publish it a little more frequently than I have during the past year. My primary goal has always been to serve my readers. I depend upon feedback from you to determine the direction I take with this newsletter. I have tried some short features that nobody responded to so I dropped them. I have continued with the Trick of the Trade and History Trivia Quiz because those seem to be popular. You can hit reply with any newsletter to respond with your comments. Let me know what you like about this newsletter and what you wish I would be doing.
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I will see you down the road,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Trick of the Trade
New Articles
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 
October 19,2015
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"You remember to make a joke out of your own mistakes and you'll have people on your side - laughing with you. That way they won't be embarrassed for you." -- Joan Davis
Something I learned from Doc Charles Boas, owner of Circus Kirk, is if the audience likes your character they want to see you succeed. If they like your character enough to start to empathize with you when you make a mistake they remember how it feels when they make a mistake. They feel sorry for you. They may be embarrassed because they don't know how to react. They are afraid if they laugh they might hurt your feelings.
I was the emcee for the Puget Sound Boy Scout Award Banquet last spring. I performed a magic effect related to each award. In 1986 Jimmy "Happy" Williams taught me to perform a card effect where you magically locate the four Aces in a poker deck. I created a routine based on that using a deck of alphabet flash cards to produce a four letter word. (Directions are included in my book Creativity for Entertainers Volume 3: Creative Routines.) At the banquet the word I wanted to spell was not produced. There was a stunned silence. Then I said, "It's a good thing the Cub Scout Motto is Do Your Best." There was a great deal of laughter and everyone relaxed. I have used that line many times in scouting events. (Later I discovered the effect didn't work because when I pulled the deck out of the box some of the cards got left behind.)
I normally perform silently, but will sometimes break character to put the audience at ease. Their needs are more important than my need to maintain my fantasy. I was doing a sleight of hand coin routine recently when a boy about nine-years old suddenly announced, "I know where it is. It's in your other hand." His parents looked mortified that he was ruining my performance. I said, "Of course it is. What do you think I am a real magician?" Everybody laughed and his parents relaxed. That also removed the adversarial element of our interaction. Since I apparently didn't care if he knew how I did something, he wasn't challenged to try to figure it out.
Your response to a mistake can be improvised or it can be a planned ad lib. I improvised the line about not being a real magician many years ago. It got a great initial response so I remembered it and used it the next time the situation came up. Now it is part of my normal repertoire. I have figured out potential responses to many mistakes and actually practiced them so I am ready to use them when necessary.
Here is an example of an improvised response that I have used once. While doing strolling entertainment I dropped a coin I was secretly holding. Everyone heard it hit the ground and I knew I had to react to it. I picked it up and looked up into the air as if trying to figure out where it came from. I used a sleight called a French Drop to vanish the coin as I apparently threw it back up into the air. After I successfully completed the rest of the routine a man came up behind me and whispered, "You're good."
If you are part of an ensemble, you can make a joke out of someone else's mistakes. Mary Livingston, Jack Benny's wife and a member of his radio program cast, was prone to spoonerisms, switching sounds between words. In one episode she was supposed to say she saw a car up on the grease rack. Instead she said, "grass reek." When the laughter started to die down Jack responded, "Grass reek! What is that? I challenge you to use that in a sentence."
Jack's writers built on that in the script for the next week's program. Mary was reading out loud a letter from her mother. Her mother wrote, "A skunk ran across the lawn last night and boy did that grass reek." That brought a lot of laughter from the studio audience because they knew it was a response to Jack's challenge following Mary's mistake the previous week.
How can you turn a mistake into a joke? What potential mistakes might occur during your performances? What jokes can you prepare for them? How can you develop the ability to improvise a response to mistakes?

Trick of the Trade

If you try to cut Fun Fur and other types of fake fur with a pair of scissors it is difficult to avoid cutting through the hairs. If you cut the fur from the front with a knife some of the hairs will be cut because they become trapped between the blade and the backing fabric. The easiest way to cut fake fur is to turn it over and use a sharp knife to cut it from the back. As the blade penetrates the fabric it parts the hairs. As long as you don't use too much pressure the hair will not be trimmed giving you perfect coverage right up to the edge of the cut.

New Articles by Bruce Johnson

The second part of my article on clowns in operas was published in the September 2015 issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association. This article focuses on two tragic operas, Pagliacci and Rigoletto. These extremely popular operas are based on clown history and have done much to influence the public perception of clowns. The article includes with information on how clowns can incorporate opera into their performances. I use Albert Alter, as part of the BoZoArtZ Duo, and Karen Bell and Robin Eurich, working with Cirque du Viox and the Naples Opera Company, as examples. This article is part of my WCA Historian Column.
The same issue includes a brief article on a prop that I used while doing strolling when I worked at Raging Waters in San Dimas, CA. It was a birdie, a badminton shuttle cock, in a bird cage. In the article I discuss how I used the prop to create interactions with the audience. This article is part of the new Back 2 Basics section in Clowning Around.
These articles are not available on line.  The only way to read them is to become a member of the World Clown Association.
To learn more about joining the World Clown Association, which includes a subscription to Clowning Around, go to
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.


Clown Camp Reunion


June 12-17, 2016

La Crosse, WI


Clown Camp Reunion

Midwest Clown Association Convention
Sept. 27 - Oct 2, 2016
Merrillville, IN

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

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