Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #570
January 18, 2016

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Happy New Year!
I hope that your year is off to a good start.  I have been pursuing several new projects that I am excited about.  I'll share more about these in future issues of this newsletter.

Like many people, I am also using the start of a new year as motivation to clean and reorganize my office.

 I will see you down the road,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
In Memory: Meadowlark Lemon
In Memory: Gene Lee, Ronnis Cross, and Jimmy Williams
Trick of the Trade
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 
January 18, 2016
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Today is a Federal holiday in the United States in honor of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many people celebrate it by performing a service project today in his memory.
Service should be more than just a one-day special occasion. It should be a way of life. The Boy Scout slogan is "Do a Good Turn Daily."
There are many different perceptions about clowning and other variety arts. Some see it as a profession. Others see it as a craft. Some see it as an art. Others see it as a service.
Those involved in caring clowning or clown ministry are most likely to describe it as a service, especially if they do it voluntarily. (Some caring clowns and clown ministers are paid for their service.) However, any type of clowning can be approached as a service. Many of the best clowns, no matter what venue they work in, say that a clown performance is not about them, but about the audience.
I was reminded of that several years ago. I had been running errands during the afternoon on New Year Eve. When I got home Carole told me a man was desperately seeking a clown for a birthday party that night. He said he had hired somebody who had called that afternoon to cancel. He told me that it was for his wife's birthday party, and requested that I make no reference to the holiday during the party. He hired me for an hour. When I arrived at the house he was the only one there. There were no guests. He explained that his wife had never had a party that was just for her birthday. It had always been celebrated as part of a New Year Eve party. He had hired me as a surprise for his wife. When she arrived home for work a half hour later the two of them sat on the couch holding hands looking into each other's eyes while I did a half-hour show. They hardly paid any attention to me and I didn't get any applause. The fact that I was there was more important than anything I did.  For her, the important thing was the he had paid attention to her feelings and honored her by having a party simply because it was her birthday. For him, the important thing was that I allowed him to give her that gift.
I started my career as a circus clown. Many circus contracts include the phrase, "and be generally useful." It doesn't matter what their official duties are, circus people serve each other and will do anything for the success of the show. For example, when I toured with the Carson & Barnes Circus, Laura Herriot Walker presented a liberty horse act. People hired in the animal department often did not last the entire season. So, when she was short on grooms I would help out by leading a pair of her horses in and out of the ring. When somebody needed help with their act, somebody not busy at the time would assist them.
It seems that some variety club officers are motivated by ego because their title gives them a feeling of importance. However, a title does not make them a leader. I recently read The Leaders Code by Donovan Campbell. He defines leadership as service to those who follow you. A few years ago I heard somebody comment that a leader's effectiveness is not determined by the awards they receive, but by the awards received by those they lead. That is because an effective leader seeks to honor and encourage those who follow them.
When you perform, how do you serve your audience? What are their needs and how can you meet them? When you perform with other entertainers, how can you serve them? What can you do to assist them in doing a better performance? If you are an officer in a club, how can you serve the members? What are their needs? How can you meet those needs?

In Memory: Meadowlark Lemon

When I was a child one of my favorite entertainers was Meadowlark Lemon, "The Clown Prince Of Basketball."  He was the star of the Harlem Globetrotters.  Each year I eagerly waited for their annual American television appearance on ABC's "The Wide World of Sports."
He was the second person to fill that role with the Harlem Globetrotters.  Goose Tatum, the original "Clown Prince of Basketball," had studied circus clowns and adapted what he learned from them to the basketball court.
I had the pleasure of seeing Meadowlark Lemon perform in person once.  I recognized him at once when the team was being introduced.  At first I was disappointed because I could not see Curly Neal, his comedy partner.  Curly was easily identifiable because he shaved his head.  Finally there were just two players left.  As the announcer began listing the many highlights of his career, including performing for the Pope, Meadowlark stood their proudly.  The other player dusted off Meadowlark's shoes and straightened his warm up jacket.  Then Curly Neal's name was announced.  Meadowlark's servant whipped off his wig revealing his bald head.  Meadowlark led the audience in applauding his partner. Meadowlark's name was announced without any elaboration and the show got underway.  I was thrilled to watch Meadowlark direct the performance and control the pace of the comedy.
Not only was Meadowlark a gifted clown he was an extremely talented basketball player.  He was known for making a center court hook shot that looked effortless.
You can read more about Meadowlark in this short article on my web site. 
Meadowlark Lemon

In Memory: Gene Lee, Ronnie Cross, and Jimmy Williams

The world of clowning recently lost three gentlemen who made important contributions to the art.
Gene Lee was the editor of the Three Ring News, published by the Midwest Clown Association, and the original editor of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association.  An article by Gene, printed in Three Ring News, about a continuing education class Richard Snowberg taught at the University of Wisconsin brought Richard's course to the attention of clowns in the American Midwest.  They were interested in studying clowning but could not travel to La Crosse once a week.  To meet their need Richard decided to offer a week of concentrated study.  He asked other instructors from the Midwest to assist in teaching the course which he named Clown Camp.
Ronnie Cross is a World Clown Association Past President.  After serving as the WCA President, he became the organization's Education Director and for many years he planned the educational program for their annual convention.
Jimmy Williams was the resident clown at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI.  In addition to his performances, Jimmy designed and built displays for the museum, including the clown displays.  He was known for his generosity in sharing his ideas and knowledge with other clowns visiting the museum. 

Members of the World Clown Association will be able to read more about these three men in tributes in up coming issues of Clowning Around.

My thoughts and prayers go out to their families.

Trick of the Trade

When you cut magician's rope the ends can quickly began to unravel and fray.  A way to prevent this is to wrap first aid tape around the rope where you want to cut it.  Cutting through the center of the tape will keep both sides of the cut from fraying. 

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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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