Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #568
December 7, 2015

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

This is a time of year when people are busy with the holidays.  I hope that you also have time for fun and love shared with family and friends.
Clown Camp (R) has just announced an optional Baraboo trip the day after the reunion to visit the Circus World Museum and International Clown Hall of Fame.  One of the Clown Camp participants will have an opportunity to perform in the Big Top during the Circus World Museum Circus.  They will be selected during an open mike performance and coached by staff members prior to their circus performance. 

Other Clown Camp (R) participants will be able to perform strolling entertainment on the museum grounds.  When I was a Clown Camp participant in 1986 I enjoyed doing strolling entertainment at the museum.  I returned to the museum several times over the years.
You can find more information using the Clown Camp Reunion link to the right.
Have a very happy holiday season,

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

Thought For The Week 
December 7,2015
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Your costume is an expression of your character, but it is not your character.
Last summer an article appeared in a magazine published for clowns in which the author stated his opinion that you should not deviate from your approved costume when working for a client. I disagree with that opinion.
First, in 42 years of clowning I have never had somebody ask me to submit photos of my costume for approval. I have worked some large events, like the grand opening of Disneyland's Toontown, where I was provided a costume that I needed to wear. Otherwise clients trust me to provide a professional quality costume.
Second, sometimes it is necessary to make changes. This past weekend I performed two indoor stage shows for a community tree lighting festival on Friday night. I wore my eighteen-inch long clown shoes for the performances. I wore a blue vest over a white dress shirt with thin blue and brown stripes. I also wore my fedora clown hat that has a lot of holes cut into it.
Saturday morning, I returned to the same community to participate in a regional food drive. I was two blocks from where I had performed the evening before. However, I was outside in a parking lot during a cold driving rain. I wore what I figured Charlie would wear in the rain. I substituted a pair of rubber boots for my clown shoes. I wore an old long black overcoat on top of a heavy blue work shirt. I wore a wide brimmed hat without holes. My contact person gave me two hand warmers that I kept in pockets of the coat.
At the food drive several people, who had seen me perform the night before, stopped to comment on how much they had enjoyed my entertainment. Nobody mentioned the changes to my costume. Nobody looked down at my feet so I don't think they noticed that my shoes were different.
The changes I made to my costume kept me reasonably comfortable for two hours so I could concentrate on my interactions with people dropping off donations. I was able to do a better job as a result. The changes allowed my audience to be relaxed. If I had dressed on Saturday like I had on Friday, I would have quickly been soaked which would cause people to be concerned for me instead of being able to enjoy my entertainment. During the years that I worked at the Raging Waters amusement in the summer heat, I experienced guests expressing concern for my well-being if they thought I looked hot.
I have had experiences over the years that convince me audience members, including clowns, are not as observant in terms of costuming as many performers assume. One time I discovered that I had forgotten my clown shoes when I reached the performance venue. There wasn't enough time to return home to get them so I performed wearing tennis shoes. Afterwards I apologized to my contact person, who was himself a clown, for not having the right shoes. He hadn't noticed. There were several clowns in the audience and none of them realized that I was not wearing my oversized shoes during the show.
On another occasion I was booked by a large barber shop chorus to provide a variety act during two performances of a circus themed concert. Because it was a long drive from my home I got into makeup and costume at the theater. The first night I wore my vest over a blue long sleeved shirt. When I arrived the second night I discovered that I had forgotten to pack a long sleeved shirt. I normally wear a coordinated color t-shirt under my long sleeve shirt. So I wore my vest over a blue t-shirt for that show. None of the 150 members of the chorus noticed that I was wearing a different style shirt from the previous night. There were four clowns in the audience. Two of them did not notice that I was wearing short sleeves, while the other two commented that they liked my new appearance and thought it looked comfortable.
I prefer to get into makeup and costume at home. After that concert experience I will often travel on hot days wearing a blue t-shirt instead of my long sleeve shirt. Sometimes I put my vest on over the t-shirt to enter the venue looking for my contact person. Then when it is time for me to perform, I put on my fresh long sleeve shirt and tie.
Sometimes I will make a change to my costume to fit a special occasion. I was hired by a mall to perform at a "pajama party" that was part of a family fun night series. I opened the show with my juggling and magic act, and then a story teller finished the evening's entertainment. The kids were invited to wear their pajamas to the show. So, Charlie wore his pajamas. I performed the show while wearing red and white striped knee socks, a red and white night shirt that came down past my knees, and a floppy pointed night cap. That costume restricted my movements a little so I had to make adjustments to my act, but the reaction when the kids saw the clown in his pajamas was well worth the effort.
Just as normal people wear a variety of clothing, your clown character can wear a variety of costumes. The important thing is the personality making the choice of what to wear. It is okay as long as the changes are appropriate to the occasion and to your character's personality.
How can you adjust your costume to meet special circumstances? What accessories do you have that can be used to meet different themes?

In Memory: Jimmy "Happy" Williams

Jimmy "Happy" Williams recently passed away.  For many years he was the resident clown at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI.  Between seasons Jimmy worked on developing exhibits for the museum. 
I met Jimmy in 1986 when Clown Camp (R) visited the Circus World Museum.  He visited with several of us backstage after the Big Top performance.  He taught me the Four Ace trick that I included in Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three: Creative Routines, and which is the basis for the trick using alphabet cards which I call the Word.  Jimmy did not invent the magic effect which is widely known by magicians, but he was generous in sharing his knowledge.
On another visit to the Circus World Museum with Clown Camp (R), I heard Happy say, "Why do people sweat when they go to the circus?  Because the heat is always in tents."  I have used variations of that joke over the years.
In recognition of his contributions to clowning, Jimmy was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1995.

Trick of the Trade

Rubber bands may break unexpectedly and if they deteriorate they can leave a residue on objects.  A good alternative is the bands used to hold little girl's pony tails.  They are stronger than rubber bands.  I use them to bind together decks of cards.  When I use a gimmick called a poke rolled up in a piece of paper, I always use one of the bands to keep the roll closed.

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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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