Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #567
November 2, 2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I want to wish my American subscribers a very happy Thanksgiving. Many countries and cultures observe some type of celebration of gratitude. In America that falls on this Thursday.
One of the things that I am thankful for is that you are one of my subscribers. I enjoy seeing subscribers when I travel to lecture. I appreciate the feedback I receive from you in person or by email.
I am a volunteer leader in my local Boy Scout Council. A couple of years ago the council sent out Thank You cards to all of the volunteers expressing gratitude to their service. I greatly appreciated that. This year for Thanksgiving I am sending out Thank You cards to the clients who have booked my entertainment this year. Who are you thankful for? What sign of appreciation can you send them?
Somebody I am thankful for is Maureen Brunsdale, Special Collections and Rare Book Librarian, at the Illinois State University Milner Library. She and her staff are working to preserve information about the history of our art. Not only do they preserve it, but they make it available for study. If you read the acknowledgement page of any book on the circus, fictional or nonfictional, and you will likely see the Milner Library listed as a source for some of their information. For years I had searched for a complete copy of The Tramp's Story, a poem recited by Charles Burke in 1882 during his circus performances. Maureen found a copy for me, and I performed the poem during my Tramp Tradition Show at the 2015 WCA Convention in Reno. I wrote an article on equestrian clowns for the November 2015 issue of Clowning Around, and the Milner Library staff located photos that I could use as illustrations. You will find more about the Milner Library in a brief article below.
Thank you for being a subscriber.

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

Thought For The Week 
November 23,2015
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"Gladly We Learn and Teach." - Illinois State University Motto
Part of the philosophy at Clown Camp® is that everyone there is both a student and a teacher. Everyone, no matter how new, has something of value to share with others. Everyone, no matter how experienced, can learn more. The margins of many of my notes from classes I taught there have notations of an idea that was suggested by one of the participants.
My position as World Clown Association Historian specifically requires that I continue my education. I could write articles for the organization's magazine based on the knowledge that I already have, but I do additional research for each article that I write.
Sometimes you need to be creative with where you are a student. The Boy Scouts of America are known for the quality of their training materials. My local council runs an annual day-long University of Scouting. I have taught classes there, but I am required to attend classes to stay "trained" for my current positions in the council. The University of Scouting was held this month. I took a class titled Serving Scouts with Special Needs. Much of what I learned can be used in my performances.   Some times during my career I have encountered individual people with special needs in my general performances or done shows for groups of people with special needs.. Here is an example of how I can apply what I learned in the class. People on the autism spectrum may have difficulty in loud environments so it is best to use more peaceful music and turn down the volume when entertaining people in this category. Another thing I learned is that people with special needs may become anxious if they don't know what to expect. That means you can use them as a volunteer in a performance if they have seen you interact with another volunteer so they understand the role of a volunteer. Also, instead of just asking them to help you, ask them to do something specific. For example, ask, "Would you come up on stage and select a card for me?
Be cautious of information that you find on the internet. Since the information is not screened prior to posting there is no guarantee that what you read or see will be correct. When I wrote my Creativity for Entertainers trilogy I decided to test the accuracy of what I could find on the internet. I searched for information on the origin of the yo-yo. I found many web sites claiming that the yo-yo was invented as a weapon for hunting. I found just as many web sites explaining why it is impossible to use a yo-yo as a weapon.
I try to be as accurate as possible with what I write, but sometimes additional research reveals that I made a mistake. In an article that I wrote about 25 years ago I referred to Ogden Nash when I meant Thomas Nast. That article is posted on a web site owned by somebody else. About once a year somebody contacts me to point out the error. However, since it is not my web site I can't make the change myself and I have not been able to get the owner of the web site to correct it. That is one of the reasons why I no longer permit others to post my articles on their web sites.
Part of continuing your education is being aware that you do not know everything. I just completed an article for Clowning Around about clowns who have appeared on postage stamps.  (It will bein the Janurary issue of the magazine.) I discovered that I don't know anything about some of the clowns depicted on stamps. I invited readers to share any information they had about those clowns.
Part of being a teacher is realizing that you don't have to wait to learn everything. If you don't know enough yet to teach an entire class, you can still share a single idea during a convention Jam session. You can share ideas with somebody while eating together. You can write a brief article sharing a single idea for a variety arts magazine. Your fresh perspective is valuable.
How can you continue to be a student? What opportunities are available for you to learn? How can you be a teacher? Where can you share some of your ideas?

Milner Library

An excellent resource for studying clowning and other circus related arts is the Milner Library at the Illinois State University. The library has a large collection of circus publications including complete sets of Calliope, Clowning Around, and New Calliope. Because it is housed in the Special Collections and Rare Book room it is not always available. Call the university to make an appointment to study some of their materials.
The ISU Milner Library has placed some of the photos from their collection on line. This is the only internet source for viewing these photos. Their site is easy to use. You can browse all the clown photos, search for a category, for example, clown bands, or search for a specific clown by name. For example, you can find photos of Lulu Adams and Rose Hanlon, women who clowned with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus™ prior to the creation of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Clown College™. This on line collection of photos is a good way to learn from your home. You will find the photos at

Trick of the Trade

Many entertainers impersonate Santa Claus at this time of the year.  Some of them wear a pillow under their costume to make them plumb.  A pillow is not anatomically correct.  To create a better shape, wear a t-shirt over the pillow.  A better option is to wear a Santa Stuffer, which is a padded vest, under the costume.
Many Santa costumes do not include belt loops on the jacket.  If you cinch up a belt tight enough to keep it in place it ruins Santa's plump silhouette.  Look for a costume with belt loops, or add them yourself.
Many cities like to have Santa arrive by riding on a fire truck for a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.  If that is requested of you, be sure to have a back up plan.  One year I was hired by Mill Creek, WA to be their Santa.  A fire truck picked my up at a nearby vacant parking lot.  Half way to City Hall the fire department got a call.  They pulled over to the side and I had to get out.  They left me standing on the curb as they roared away to handle the emergency.  Eventually the mayor found out what happened and sent his station wagon to pick me up.
One last trick is to be sure to unbuckle your seat belt before Santa exits a vehicle.  You can't feel that the belt because of the padding and you can't see it because of the beard.  That means it is easy to forget that it is still buckled.  Trying to exit while still belted in makes a very awkward appearance.

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

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