Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #573
March 14, 2016

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

The annual convention and educational program season has begun.  The World Clown Association held their convention this past week in Orlando, FL.  Clowns of America International will be holding their convention soon in Las Vegas, NV.  The Clown Camp Reunion will be held in La Crosse, WI in June.  Other educational programs will be held soon.  I encourage you to invest in your future and in the enjoyment of your audience by attending some type of educational program this year.

I have been reading Sleights of Mind: What the Neruoscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions, by Stephen L. Macknik and Susan Martinez-Conde.  The authors studied how magicians perform their illusions to gain insights into neurological science.  It is not a quick read.  They use many medical and scientific terms.  Even though I was a premed student in college before I became I clown.  Even using what I remember from my anatomy, physiology, and psychology classes I still have to read some sections over several times to understand what they mean.  However, if you understand and apply the information contained in this book it will make your performances more effective.

 I will see you down the road,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
The Conductor -- Repot
World Clown Association Historian
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 
March 14, 2016
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"Let us listen to our instructors and learn what they have learned, but let us go forth to even greater knowledge. Let us use our own wisdom and intuition." -- Jackie LeClaire
Sometimes there seems to be two exclusive approaches to magic and clowning. One approach is to avoid taking classes from others in order to explore and discover your own path of creativity and uniqueness. The other approach is to take a class and then adhere strictly to what you were taught.
I think the wisest thing is to combine both approaches.
I have heard some clowns brag that they never take classes. Sometimes those people who brag the most about their creative "cutting edge" routines have actually rediscovered old widely known ideas without realizing it. Their misplaced pride actually hurts their credibility. I attended a lecture by a young magician who announced he was going to show us a modern approach that was more relevant to today's audiences. The first routine he demonstrated was a standard thimble routine performed with finger puppets. He said thimbles are irrelevant because nobody used them any longer. He was wrong in that thimbles continue to be used by crafters. He was also wrong in claiming that he was the first to come up with the idea of substituting finger puppets for thimbles. I had done that more than ten years before I heard him lecture. At the intermission I was talking to some of the more experienced magicians in the audience. Every one of them had performed a thimble routine using finger puppets, and many of them had done it before the lecturer had been born. One of the very knowledgeable members then listed every routine the lecturer had claimed to originate and credited a famous magician who was known for performing that routine. Some of the members decided the lecturer had nothing to offer them and left before the second half began.
I have heard that a smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. By studying the life and career of those who came before us we can learn what they did through trial and error without making the same mistakes that they did. Then using that as a foundation we can reach even higher accomplishments. Learning from others is a short cut to true creativity.
I have met some people who resist new ideas that contradict what their teacher told them. When I was demonstrating how I apply my tramp make-up a man challenged me because I use black greasepaint when applying my beard. He said his teacher told him tramp clowns always use brown make-up. I told him that some tramp clowns used brown, some used grey, and others used black.   I said all three colors were acceptable. I explained that I used black because I had performed in circuses and on stage where I wanted the maximum contrast between my white mouth and beard so my expressions were more easily visible from a distance. He went to great lengths trying to prove me wrong. He eventually declared he had proven his teacher was correct, but his argument had nothing to do with make-up design and application.
Sometimes people use the word "traditional" to justify following what they have been taught. They claim that something should be done a certain way because it is traditional. What they are saying is they don't know the advantage of what they do except that somebody taught them that copying how they think other clowns have done it in the past is the proper way. Studying the history of clowning reveals that what is considered traditional constantly changed. When somebody experienced success by breaking with what was thought to be traditional at the time, others began copying them. Their innovation eventually lost its uniqueness and came to be considered traditional. You should always ask why something became traditional. Then you can decide if the reason is still valid. Maybe you want to continue doing it, or maybe you will discover another way to apply the lesson taught by the tradition.
Where can you learn from others? What educational opportunities are available? How can you remain open to new ideas? What can you do to build upon what you have been taught?

The Conductor - Report

In the last issue of this newsletter I shared this idea.
"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."
I heard from several readers that they liked the idea.
I tried it out at this month's Roundtable Meeting, and it worked well.  The Cub Scout leaders who were present liked it.  They said they are going to try it in their Den and Pack meetings.
If you try it. let me know how it works.  If you go beyond this initial idea, please share how you have expanded upon or added to it.

World Clown Association Historian

The World Clown Association Convention was held last week in Orlando, FL.  From the initial reports that I have received it was a great success.  At the end of the convention the new term began for board members and appointed officials.
After more than seven years in the position, I decided not to accept the appointment to continue as the WCA Historian for the new 2016-2017 term.  The effect most people will see is that I will no longer be writing my WCA Historian Column for Clowning Around.  I am redirecting my time and efforts towards several new book projects.  I'll use this newsletter to announce them as they become available.

I will continue to support the World Clown Association and their efforts.  I will still answer individual questions about the history of clowning.  I will continue to research the history of clowning and to share my knowledge.

I wish the new WCA Historian great success.


Although it is almost three months before I will be performing my Tramp Tradition Show at the Clown Camp Reunion, I have already begun practicing for the show.  Why have I started so early?


First, I perform my version of routines associated with famous or significant tramp clowns throughout history.  There are many routines in the show that are not part of my regular repertoire.  It takes extra effort to refresh my memory of those routines.

Second, I customize this show to the venue where I am performing. When I performed at the World Clown Association convention in Reno a year ago, I included information relevant to the history of the WCA.  When I perform it in La Crosse I will include information relevant to the history of Clown Camp.  It takes time to figure out where this new information fits in and learn the new elements.


Third, starting early on the rehearsal process means I will be well prepared in advance.  That way I can make needed adjustments as complications arise.  It seems like there is always some last minute challenge when I present this performance.  Knowing that I am prepared gives me confidence that the audience perceives as stage presence.  Being confident and relaxed on stage means my audience can relax and enjoy the performance.


Fourth, the audience deserves my best effort.  By beginning to prepare this far in advance I will be able to give them the best possible performance.  Starting early to prepare is my way of honoring my audience.

Thank you for being a subscriber.  I am always interested in your questions and comments.

Remember if you have missed an issue, you can read it by using the archive link in the right column.  If you want to change the address where you are receiving this newsletter, use the update profile link below.  If this newsletter no longer meets your needs, you can use the SafeUnsubscribe link to be permanently removed from my mailing list.  If you want to spread the word about this newsletter, you can use the forward email link below to send copies to others that you think might be interested.

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


Silk Magic Part 1, Silk Magic Part 2, Trick Cartoons in Clowning, An Introduction to Comedy Techniques, Audience Interaction, Card Magic for Clowns, The Creative Process, Entertaining with Origami, Character Expression from the Inside Out


Tramp Tradition Show


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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