Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #575
April 4, 2016

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I have reached the point in my career where I have the opportunity to celebrate anniversaries. It turns out that there are many this year.
Forty years ago I joined Circus Kirk for my first tour as a circus clown. My experience traveling with that show under the direction of Charles "Doc" Boas really accelerated my clown education.
Thirty-five years ago I introduced my juggling act on the Carson & Barnes Circus. When I arrived at Winter Quarters, D.R. Miller informed me that he wanted me to do a juggling act, and I had a week to prepare. They assigned me to ring one which was at the end of the tent that filled up last so it didn't matter at first how good I was. I was one of seven juggling acts performing at the same time in the five-ring circus. I knew that when people started watching me instead of the other acts I was finally figuring out how to use juggling entertainingly.
Thirty years ago I was a participant during the traditional week of Clown Camp and on staff the following week for the Laugh-Makers Variety Arts Conference co-sponsored by Clown Camp . Being part of the Clown Camp core staff opened up many opportunities. I made many dear friends among the participants and staff members. I am honored to be part of the staff for the upcoming Clown Camp Reunion.
Twenty-five years ago I lectured and performed at the World Clown Convention in Bognor Regis, England. It was my first time teaching clowning outside of the United States. It was announced at that convention that I had been elected the World Clown Association Education Director. For most of the time since then I have served on WCA committees, was a board member for four years, and the WCA Historian for seven years.
It is fun to look back and remember the friends and opportunities that I have had because of being a clown. I am grateful for the encouragement that I have received along the way and the lessons others have taught me. I am also eagerly looking forward to what the future holds.
I wish that each of you have special memories and wonderful dreams.

 I will see you down the road,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
New Article by Bruce Johnson
ICHOF Fundraiser
World Circus Day
Educational Opportunities

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

"When you fail, never give up. Remember that FAIL is First Attempt In Learning." - sign in high school lobby.
I kept a journal while touring with Circus Kirk in 1976. Charles "Doc" Boas was the founder of the show and our mentor. Here is part of one entry:
June 13 Sunday Wayne, N.J.Performances 2 & 5
"The crowds were small and very unresponsive. They were the worst crowds we have had all season so far. During the first show the elephant went to the bathroom during her act in center ring which brought a laugh. During the finale there is a dramatic moment when the ringmaster says, "Directing your attention to center ring (Pause) the flag of our nation," and a large flag drops from a box hung at the top of the tent. When at the first show he said, "Directing your attention to the center ring," and all the audience saw was a pile of elephant dung they started laughing again. That was the only real laughter we got all day. Non-performing members of our troupe sat in the audience to try to sparkplug applause, but failed. Doc says after playing to this audience we won't ever be afraid to try something and fail."
What Doc meant is that one reason entertainers don't try new material is they are afraid of the lack of audience response if it fails. We had experienced, and survived, an audience that didn't respond.
We had done everything that we could, and we just were not able to connect with this audience for some reason. The fact that it was a small crowd in a tent with a 1,500 capacity may have had something to do with it. Emotions are contagious. If people are seated close together, and one person laughs or applauds, other people will begin to do that. Often when I am in the audience, I will begin applauding trying to cue the rest of the audience. When people are spread out emotions don't spread from one to another as easily. With a crowd that is spread out, people may be reluctant to applaud because if they are the only one clapping it will draw the attention of the rest of the audience.
When we consider something a failure, we are often quick to discard it. However, the failure may actually be a solution. Herb Camburn taught several of the technical theater classes I took at California State University - Long Beach. He frequently referred to happy accidents. What he meant was being able to take advantage of something you didn't expect. For example, I was trying to paint a pillar for a set so it would look like marble. The pillar was lying on the floor of the scene shop. The paint kept running on the curved surface so I couldn't get the desired effect. I got frustrated and asked Herb for his help. He noticed that I had spread some old muslin fabric under the pillar to absorb spilled paint, and the spilled paint was close to the marble appearance I was trying to achieve. So we spread out the fabric, I finished the imitation marble process, and then we glued the fabric to the pillar. We used the same process for the rest of the pillars on the set and finished them in a lot less time than expected.
This past weekend I was drawing the instructional diagrams for my new Entertain with Origami lecture notes. I intended to fold a traditional origami model known as a water bomb. A water bomb forms a cube. I made a mistake and it formed a four sided pyramid. I was tempted to throw it away. However, it was a shape I had not seen in origami before. So the first thing I did was try to fold another pyramid so I could repeat it. Artist and clown Don Weed said, "While happy accidents happen to both amateurs and professionals, the professional figures out how to do it again."
In repeating the pyramid, I realized what I had done differently. That actually helped me understand the cube shape better so I will have an easier time remembering how to do that model as well. So that in itself was a learning experience.
Then I began experimenting with the pyramid shape. I have already discovered some interesting possible uses for it. I am looking forward to exploring its potential further.
How can you gain the courage to risk failure? How can you use failure as a learning experience?
New Article by Bruce Johnson

I wrote an article titled Happy Memories which appears in the March 2016 issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association. It is a tribute to Jimmy "Happy" Williams, who passed away earlier this year. The article describes four things that I learned from Happy over the years. It is part of my World Clown Association Historian column.
The last article in the column is scheduled to appear in the May issue of Clowning Around. I will not be continuing the column because I am focusing my attention on some other writing projects.
For information on joining the WCA, which includes a subscription to Clowning Around, go to

ICHOF Fundraiser

I had the pleasure and privilege of being associated with the International Clown Hall of Fame from almost the beginning, and am currently a member of the ICHOF Board of Directors. The ICHOF is an institution and place that honors the great clowns who have contributed to the history of our art. It also educates the general public about our art. It gains recognition and respect for the art of clowning.
The ICHOF has announced a fundraising drive between now and May 21, which is the sixth anniversary of the opening of the new clown museum in Baraboo, WI. Those who donate to the drive will receive special thank you gifts. You can learn more by going to the International Clown Hall of Fame Facebook page or on the ICHOF web site which is

World Circus Day

The third Saturday of April is internationally recognized and celebrated as World Circus Day. This year it falls on April 16. It is sponsored by the Federation Mondiele du Cirque, an international organization supporting those who perform in the circus arts and celebrating the circus as an important cultural heritage. The theme for the 2016 World Circus Day is "Collaboration & Cooperation for the Future of the Circus." For more information, 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


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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