Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #572
February 22, 2016

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

In the last issue I brought up teaching children cursive so they will be able to read and study historical documents.  Last week on the John Tesh radio program he reported on a study that compared people who took notes in long hand during a meeting to people who took notes on their iPad.  Those who wrote their notes in cursive remembered the results of the meeting longer than those who used their iPad to take notes.  The spring convention season is jut beginning.  If you attend a lecture at a convention or elsewhere, try taking notes in longhand and see how it affects your retention of the material.

Many copies of this newsletter are archived.  My archive is not up to date.  You can read back issues using the Newsletter Archive quick link below the Educational Opportunities column.

The Clown Camp (R) Reunion is rapidly approaching.  I think it is going to be a great event with lots of surprises and special opportunities. One of the opportunities is an optional trip to Baraboo to visit the Circus World Museum and the International Clown Hall of Fame.  Guided tours of both locations will be available.  I will be leading at least one of the ICHOF tours.

 I will see you down the road,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
The Conductor
New Article by Bruce Johnson
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 
February 22, 2016
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"There is no kind of ultimate goal to do something twice as good as anyone else can. It's just to do the job as best you can. If it turns out good, fine. If it doesn't, that's the way it goes." -- Chuck Yeager
When you compete against somebody else you are letting what they can do limit what you will do.
First, if you are motivated by doing better than somebody else you are satisfied when you have achieved that. You lose your motivation to do more. You will never know if you might have been able to do three or four times better than they have done. Herb Camburn, a theater teacher at California State University - Long Beach, was a tremendous influence upon me. He taught us to never compete against others, but to constantly compete against ourselves. He didn't grade us by the quality of our project compared to the work done by others, but by how much we had improved by working on the project.
Herb taught us to critique our own work by evaluating what worked well and what we would do differently the next time. He didn't want us to try to impress him. He said if we worked to impress him, our progress would stop when we left school. He said as long as our standard of quality was based on somebody else our potential would be limited. He wanted us to impress ourselves. If our standard of quality was based on improving upon our own past efforts our potential was unlimited because we would never reach it.
He constantly stressed the need to challenge ourselves. He pressured us to take risks. He would not accept us doing good work by relying on what we already knew. He wanted us to attempt things that would increase our knowledge and skill.  More than once I heard him say an interesting failure was better than a boring success.
Often you can learn more from your failures then you can from your success. I kept a journal during my first season with a circus. We were doing a beauty contest act where the audience voted for their favorite clown. Early in the season I won consistently and I wrote that I didn't understand what I was doing that was so good. In a later entry I referred to a day in which I lost the beauty contest. I was able to figure out why. I wrote that I had been upset by something that had happened while we were setting up tents earlier that day, and I was thinking about myself during the act instead of focusing on audience members. The importance of forgetting what had happened before the act by concentrating on what was happening during the act was something I could learn only by failure.
On a recent episode of the television series "Last Man Standing", Eve, the youngest daughter, sings a solo song at an open mike session and receives a standing ovation. She decides after that success to leave music. She asks her father, "What if I continue and I fail?'
Her father says, "Honey believe me, you will fail because that is part of life."
I have been doing a lot of volunteer work with the Boy Scouts of America. One of their concepts is providing conditions with limited risk where it is safe for boys to fail. An important life lesson is that failure is usually temporary. You can be proud of what you have done if it was your best effort. Then you take what you learned from the failure and use it to succeed in the future.
Another reason for not competing with others is that if you are motivated to do something better than anybody else you limit your focus. For example, if you admire an entertainer who does great balloon sculpture and you want to do better balloon sculptures than they do, that focuses your attention on balloon sculpture. That causes you to ignore other options. You might excel at something else like origami.
How can you compete with yourself? Do you always do your best? How can you continually improve your efforts? How can you challenge yourself? How can you limit risk so it is safe to fail? How can you learn from your failures? How can you widen your focus beyond what others are doing?

The Conductor

Many clowns recruit audience volunteers to play in a bell choir. Each bell is a different color. The clown directs the choir in playing a song by holding up colored cards one at a time. If a volunteer has a bell matching the color on the card, they ring their bell.
While clowns have copied each other in performing this routine, bells are not the only option for performing it. I saw a video of an episode of the "Howdy Doody" television program, starring Buffalo Bob, that used a different instrument. Buffalo Bob had a group of Ukuleles. Each Ukulele was tuned to a different note. He handed the instruments out to a line of children. When he pointed to them, they strummed their Ukulele.
Another possible instrument would be a xylophone made from glass bottles filled with water. The amount of water in the bottle determines the note that is played when that bottle is tapped. Food coloring could be used to tint the water in each bottle a different color. Then colored cards could be used to direct a song similar to how they are used with a bell choir.
What instruments could you use? How would you direct your choir or band? What other activities could you use?
Here is one I am going to try at a Boy Scout meeting next month. Seven people will line up. Each will have a card containing a word. (The last person will have two versions of their word.) They will read their card whenever I point to them. The numbers and words are:
1 - Algie
2 - Saw
3 - A
4 - Bear
5 - The
6 - Was
7 - Bulgy/Bulge
The line of people will recite a poem when I point to them in this order:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 2, 1, 5, 4, 6, 7, 5, 7, 6, 1.

New Article by Bruce Johnson

I wrote an article on collecting postage stamps depicting clowns that appeared in the January 2016 issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association. I included a brief biography about the clowns who appeared on the stamps. However, I was not able to write something about every clown because I didn't know enough about some of them. I invited readers to either send me information on those clowns or to write an article on those clowns and submit it to Clowning Around.

For information on joining the World Clown Association, which includes a subscription to Clowning Around, go to

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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

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