Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #569
January 4, 2016

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Happy New Year!
Welcome to the first 2016 issue of my newsletter.
I would like to thank Curt and Laura Shriner, the producers and directors, and all the other cast members who made the four performances of the Holiday Vaudeville Show last month at the Historic Everett Theater a wonderful experience. The theater was built in 1901 for Vaudeville shows. Stars who appeared there included Al Jolson, Lon Chaney Sr., Lillian Russell, Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys, Helen Hays, George M. Cohan, and Hellen Keller.  It always means a lot to me to have the opportunity to perform in a historic venue.
There was a great deal of comradery back stage at the Holiday Vaudeville show. Everyone pitched in to help each other. There were even some impromptu lessons before and after the shows, and at intermission, as cast members shared their knowledge and skills.
I hope to be able to announce soon the topics of the sessions that I will be teaching at the Clown Camp Reunion.  You can get the latest information using the link under Educational Opportunites to the right.  I think this is going to be a historic event people will be glad they attended.

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

Thought For The Week 
January 4, 2016
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
My first experience as a circus clown was touring with Circus Kirk, a youth circus owned by Charles "Doc" Boas. One day we had a small audience that did not respond to anything we did during the performance. Afterwards Doc told us, "Now that you have experienced this you will never be afraid to try something new in a performance because you know you can survive failure."
I was worked the Come-In (preshow) for last month's Holiday Vaudeville series of performances. The duties of a Come-In clown include greeting the guests, keeping them from becoming bored while waiting for the show, warming up the audience, getting them to respond as a group instead of individuals, and focusing their attention on the stage. It also gives me a chance to form a relationship with audience members which increases the response to my act during the show.
The Come-In for one of the shows was particularly challenging because a large percentage of the audience members had their attention focused on their smart phones. The things I normally do during the Come-In did not work because people were ignoring me. I remembered that in the circus if a woman was talking to her husband without looking at him, Otto Griebling would get between the couple. When the woman finally turned to look at her husband and saw a tramp clown instead she would scream. I decided to experiment with a variation of that idea. I choose one young woman on the aisle who was concentrating on her screen. I circled around so I came up from behind her and stood right next to her looking at the video game she was playing. I could hear whispers around me as people noticed me and told their friends what was happening. The person sitting next to the girl with the smart phone finally elbowed her and then pointed to me. When the young woman turned and saw me she let out a little yelp. Then she asked if she could take a selfie of the two of us together. I noticed somebody on the other side of the aisle had their smart phone out so I made them take a selfie of us together. I approached an older person and posed for a selfie. She announced that she wasn't sure how to take a selfie. A friend showed her how to do that so I was part of the first selfie in her life. Soon people were signaling me that they wanted me to pose with them as well. I noticed that other people turned off their phones and put them away to avoid being forced to take a photo with me. Now that I had their attention I was able to do some things that got them to react as a group.
On another night I spotted a man who obviously did not want to be there. He was slumped in his seat and scowling. He would occasionally mutter something to his wife seated next to him. However, she ignored him because she was busy on her smart phone. I made it my mission to try to get him to laugh. I knew that I couldn't approach him directly at first. It has been my experience that in similar situations I can sometimes break through the person's barriers by doing some gags with others nearby. I did some comedy handshakes with some kids near him, but when I started in his direction he looked away so I left him alone. A little later I did some of my close up magic with people in his vicinity. He would watch what I was doing, but his expression didn't change. I would leave and then come back a little later with a different comedy magic effect. I made a napkin rose which I handed to him and motioned for him to present to his wife. She looked up in surprise and I think for the first time realized that a clown was there. He almost smiled at that. I had props with me for a Linking Hula Hoop routine which usually gets good response. I dashed backstage to get them. In the beginning the hoops link together unexpectedly, but don't link when I want them to. During the routine I peeked at him and he was smiling. During my act just before intermission a boy from the audience was on stage with me. The way he interacted with me was wonderful. I could hear a lot of audience laughter. I looked at the man and he was laughing. Success!
How often do you experiment with your performances? When something fails, what else can you try? How many experiments does it take to achieve success?

New Articles by Bruce Johnson

I wrote an article on Equestrian Clowns performing in circuses which appeared in the November 2015 issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association. Philip Astley is considered the Father of the Modern Circus because he added a clown act to his equestrian exhibitions. Both the World Clown Association and Clowns of America International are using the circus as the theme for their 2016 conventions.
I also wrote an article which appeared in the Back2Basics section of the November 2015 issue of Clowning Around. The subject was a stool pigeon, a visual pun that I used as when doing strolling entertainment at an amusement park. In the article I discuss using humor that appeals at the same time to various age groups on different levels. I also address the problem of puns not being cross cultural entertainment because they don't translate into other languages, including American Sign Language.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the Back2Basics section should send their submission to Janet Tucker at Be sure to put Back2Basics in the subject line of your email. The next deadline for articles to be published in Clowning Around is March 1.
To learn more about joining the World Clown Association, which includes a subscription to Clowning Around, and about the 2016 WCA Convention, go to

Trick of the Trade

When you perform in a theater, learn the names of the technical crew and address them by name. Professional crew members take pride in doing a good job, but this little sign of respect towards them may encourage them to give you outstanding service.   Be sure to thank them afterwards for their help because they really do contribute greatly to the success of a stage production.

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 2016 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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