Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #574
March 28, 2016

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I left a link out of the issue of this newsletter that I sent out two weeks ago. There was a short article on practice. I meant to include a link to a longer article on my web site about the value of practice. You can find that article by going to

I am getting excited about the Clown Camp ® Reunion that is rapidly approaching.
In keeping with the celebration of the history of Clown Camp ®, I will be doing my Introduction to Comedy Techniques Class as part of the reunion. I taught a class on comedy techniques for the first time in 1986 when I was on staff for the first Laugh-Makers Variety Arts Conference which was cosponsored by Clown Camp® and Laugh-Makers magazine. That first Laugh-Makers Conference was held on the U-W La Crosse campus. (I had attended Clown Camp® as a participant the previous week.) I introduced my Introduction to Comedy Techniques Class when I joined the Clown Camp® staff in 1990. Over the years it was one of my most popular classes. I had decided to retire the class. It has been at least three years since I have taught it. Lee Mullally asked if I would teach it again as part of the reunion.
The Clown Camp® directors constantly looked for new and interesting topics. I was fortunate to be included in the core group of staff members. We repeated some of our most popular classes, but each year we also added new classes. As part of the Clown Camp® Reunion I will be introducing a new class on a topic requested by Kenny Ahern, Richard Snowberg, and Lee Mullally. In the past I have taught classes on how to do origami which were very well received. Origami is latex free and can comply with infection control regulations so it is ideally suited for use by caring clowns. As more facilities are banning balloons in recognition of the increasing incidence of latex allergies, which can be life threatening, origami offers a great alternative to clowns looking for a substitute to balloon sculpture. RONE and Gigi will be teaching classes on how to do origami at the Clown Camp® Reunion. My new class is titled Entertain with Origami. It will not be a class in how to fold paper, but a class in how to use paper folding as an entertainment tool. I will be sharing ideas in how to combine origami with magic and storytelling. We will look at turning origami into toys.
It has been a while since I have written a lecture note pamphlet. Some people had been encouraging me to write one on origami, but there are many wonderful books on origami available. I didn't want to duplicate what had already been published. However, this new slant on origami as an entertainment tool is different from what is available elsewhere. I have been working on this pamphlet and am excited about how it is turning out. I will be selling it for the first time on my dealer table at the Clown Camp® Reunion. After that I will make it available to readers of this newsletter.
I will also be performing my Tramp Tradition Show one evening at the Clown Camp® Reunion. It will be similar to the show I performed at the 2015 WCA Convention in Reno, NV. However, it will be customized to focus on how the history of tramp clowns intersected with the history of Clown Camp®. I originally created the show for Clown Camp ® and it debuted in 1990 at the U-W La Crosse campus.
I am also pleased to announce the subjects that I will be teaching at the Midwest Clown Association Convention this fall. The organizing committee wanted to emphasize clown history.
You can see the list of my Clown Camp® Reunion classes and my Midwest Clown Association Classes under the Educational Opportunities column to the right.  You will see that there is only one class that I am presenting at both locations.

 I will see you down the road,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Article Correction
What Is A Clown
Bright Week and Holy Humor Sunday
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 
March 28, 2016
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"I read on two levels - one to absorb the content of the book (what the author is trying to say) and the other to absorb the author's creativity, which helps me to feel my own creativity." - Dolly Parton, Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You

I like reading books rich in metaphors and similes. I recently read a mystery by Diane Mott Davidson where she wrote, "the clouds on the horizon looked like mutant cauliflowers."

I am working on a book about my experience touring with Circus Kirk, a youth circus, in 1976 and 1977. Diane's example inspired me to search for my own similes. As a result, I wrote this description of a trick performed on the Spanish Web. "With her left ankle secure in the foot loop she braced her right foot against the taut rope and pushed out until her body extended out like the felt pennants sold at the novelty stand." I feel that simile is particularly applicable because her body formed a triangle mirroring the triangular shape of the pennants.

As I read, I appreciate the authors creativity. In Gilt Trip, Laura Childs wrote, "Isn't it funny that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but a dog is a man's best friend." I had heard those two phrases many times, but had never thought of comparing them to each other. My reaction to reading something like that is to think, "That's good. I wish I had thought of that. I wonder what inspired them." Enjoying her creativity is why I continue to read more books in the three mystery series written by Childs.

Here is a joke that I enjoy telling.
Knock -Knock!
Who's There?
Cows Go!
Cows Go Who?
No silly, Cows Go Moo! Owls Go Who!

That joke forces you to be mentally flexible. It suddenly switches from the standard form of a knock-knock joke, which we follow without thinking about it, to a statement about the sounds made by animals. Studies have shown that the flexibility resulting from enjoying jokes works as an effective mental warm up preparing you to be more creative. So, reading books with metaphors, similes, and humor flexes your mental muscles so you will begin to feel more creative.

I recently read The Ordinary Acrobat; A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present by Duncan Wall. The book describes his experience as a Fulbright scholar at France's Ecole National des Arts du Cirque de Rosny-sous-Bois (National Circus School). I had heard Wall lecture at a Circus Historical Society convention and we had a short private conversation. While reading his book, I could see how his writing reflected his personal philosophy. Wall is definitely interested in "modern circus" opposed to "traditional circus." A section of his book that I found particularly interesting was on the development of juggling acts. In the beginning, juggling acts were a demonstration of skill. Wall credits Francis Brunn with transforming juggling acts into an expression of the entertainer's personality. It made me consider how I express my personality through my juggling, magic, and other routines.

I was also inspired by how Duncan Wall incorporated information on the history of the circus into his account of his own personal experiences. I like that approach and will use it in my Circus Kirk book.

Do you read on two levels? How can you apply what the author is saying to your life and career? How has the author been creative? How can you use that to inspire your own creativity?
Article Correction

I wrote an article on the topic of clown postage stamps that appeared in the January issue of Clowning Around. One of the stamps from Gambia had a photo of a Whiteface clown. The name of the clown was printed on the stamp. The producer of the stamp had identified the clown as Francesco Cairoli. I accepted that identification, but I should have inspected the photo more closely. Arthur Pedlar sent me a very nice email correcting me. The clown was misidentified on the stamp. The clown pictured is actually Arthur Pedlar as his character known as Arturo. I appreciate Arthur letting me know the accurate information on the stamp.

What Is A Clown?

One of the first articles that I wrote appeared in White Tops, published by the Circus Fans Association of America. I wrote it in 1982. In the article I tried to define clowning. It was very popular and became my most frequently reprinted article. It was illegally reprinted many times without my permission. You can read the original article on my web site by clicking the link below.

Happy Bright Week and Holy Humor Sunday

The Greek Orthodox church celebrating the week after Easter as Bright Week is an important part of clown ministry history. Bright Week was a joyous celebration of Christ's resurrection. Humor, including practical jokes, was part of the celebration because they were considered an acceptable expression of joy. The Sunday following Easter was known as Bright Sunday.

Over 25 years ago the Fellowship of Merry Christians resurrected the idea of Bright Sunday and renamed it Holy Humor Sunday. Churches incorporated humor into their services on that day. Some churches reversed the normal order of worship. Many churches scheduled periods for telling jokes during their service. For a significant number of churches, clowns were invited to be a part of the service. About twenty years ago, a church that I attended resisted the idea of clown ministry, but they decided to let me lead a group of four clowns to do a short segment before the sermon Holy Humor Sunday. We were well received, and eventually the church hired me to present the sermon as a clown one Sunday when the pastor was on leave. I know that an initial involvement by clowns on Holy Humor Sunday led to the acceptance of year round clown ministry at several other churches. Most churches have their highest attendance on Easter Sunday, and then experience one of their lowest attendance the following week. Churches that regularly celebrated Holy Humor Sunday report that there is little drop off on Bright Sunday.

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 Development and Expression from the Inside Out


Tramp Tradition Show


Clown Camp Reunion


Midwest Clown Association Convention
Sept. 27 - Oct 2, 2016
Merrillville, IN
Open Juggling Lab, Character Development and Expression  from the Inside Out, Controlling Focus, History of the American Clown, Class of '89, Trick Cartoons
For information on additional services that I can provide for an educational event 

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