Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week

Issue #576
April 18, 2016

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

April is volunteer appreciation month. Most of the clown organizations are led by volunteers. Thank you to everyone who donates their time and efforts to promote the art of clowning.
The optional trip to Baraboo the day following the Clown Camp® reunion is almost sold out. The group will be visiting the International Clown Hall of Fame museum and the Circus World Museum. The Circus Model Builders will be holding their 2016 National Convention in Baraboo the same weekend. They will have displays in the CWM wagon pavilion on the day when the clowns visit the museum. There will be opportunities for clowns to perform at the CWM.
This issue includes a brief clown history article related to an anniversary of Shakespeare's life.  I strongly believe in the importance of the history of our art as the foundation for a stronger future.  The International Clown Hall of Fame is doing important work to preserve the history of the art of clowning.  Greg De Santo and Sandy Weber recently completed a trip to Florida to record the memories of some of the more senior members of our art as part of the ICHOF oral history program and to bring some important memorabilia back to the ICHOF museum in Baraboo, Wi.  Earlier this year, representatives from the ICHOF travelled to Los Vegas to pick up items that had previously been displayed at Ron Lee's World of Clowns.  The ICHOF has plans to rescue other important artifacts that would otherwise be allowed to deteriorate until they could no longer be preserved.  This is the second issue with a link for making a donation to the ICHOF.  Any donation will make a big difference in the ICHOF being able to continue their mission.  I encourage you to support this effort to salvage our history.

 I will see you down the road,
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Shakespeare Anniversary
ICHOF Fundraiser
Educational Opportunities

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

"One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, and compassion." - Simone de Beauvoir
One way an entertainer can show they value an audience is by personalizing something in their performance so it relates to that particular audience.
You can have specific things planned to be easily personalized. For example, in many of my shows I tear up a blank sheet of paper. I put the pieces into a small change bag. Then I "add color" by shaking a color changing streamer over the bag. The streamer changes from brightly colored to black. I close the bag and shake up the pieces. I open the bag and turn it inside out. A restored piece of paper falls out and the audience can see that the pieces are gone. I unfold the paper and it has a brightly colored illustration and text relevant to the audience or event. I print out the restored message in advance using my computer. I select the graphic that I use from my clip art collection or sometimes obtain a client's logo from their web site. Last week I performed for the Snohomish Senior Center Volunteer Appreciation Day   I decided to use "Volunteers are a Work of Heart" as my theme. I printed a fancy heart shape in the center of the paper with the text of my theme above and below the graphic. When I revealed the restored piece of paper, I got my first big round of applause during the show. I presented it to one of the audience members. There was a photographer present. They immediately took a photo of the volunteer holding the tribute to volunteers.
I have another routine that is easy to personalize. I push an 18-inch silk scarf into a tube formed by rolling up a piece of paper. Then I pull a matching 36-inch silk scarf out the other end. I have purchased many sets of large and small scarves and select one that is the most appropriate for the event. After the large scarf is revealed, I unroll the paper to prove the small scarf is gone. I always print something relevant to the event on the paper. For the Senior Center performance, I repeated the heart and text that I had used for the torn and restored routine. The growing scarf got nice applause, but seeing the tribute to volunteers again brought even more applause. I gave that paper to one of the men in attendance. (I will be teaching this routine at Clown Camp. ®)
Those two routines are designed to be personalized. The next step in personalizing a show is selecting routines from my standard repertoire that fit into the theme. Don Burda taught me a magical way to produce a heart balloon. So I used that because it would remind audience members of my heart theme.
I have another routine using an Old Maid Deck featuring fairytale characters. I force the choice of a card depicting the Queen of Hearts. I produce a large scarf with the body of the Queen of Hearts painted on it. I hold the scarf in front my volunteer's torso so their head appears on the body of the Queen of Hearts.
I also consider things in my repertoire that might be relevant to that particular audience. I recently learned a trick cartoon where you draw a baby in a onesie. When you turn the drawing over it becomes a drawing of a beaded old man wearing glasses. (The baby's hair becomes his beard. The baby's feet become his glasses.) I decided that was appropriate for this event. It was the only trick cartoon that I included in the half hour show. The audience responded with a great deal of laughter. I presented the cartoon to a woman who had been responding very well throughout the entire show.
The majority of the show was routines I normally include in a half hour performance like this. However, the personalized things were the best received.
What routines do you have that can be easily personalized? How can you select routines that are part of your normal repertoire to make a show fit a specific audience? How else can you show audience members that you value them?
Shakespeare Anniversary

This Saturday is the 400th anniversary of the traditional date for the death of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote the majority of his plays for an acting troupe known as the Chamberlain's Men. The First Folio, a collection of plays performed by the troupe and attributed to Shakespeare, lists three clowns as its members. They were Richard Cowley, William Kempe, and Robert Armin.
William Kempe was an original partner in the Globe Theater, and the resident clown with the Chamberlain's Men. The plays were just part of the entertainment at the Globe Theater. After the plays concluded Kempe interacted with the audience in comedy routines and danced jigs. Kempe was famous for his adlibs. Shakespeare's comment in the Hamlet script about clowns who adlibbed is considered his criticism of Kempe. His clown character was a country bumpkin.
Kempe left the Chamberlain's Men around 1600. He was replaced by Robert Armin as the resident clown. Armin was also a play write who produced at least one comedy script. Armin was interested in court jesters and his book on the history of court jesters is considered one of the first books in English on clown history. Armin was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1998.
Shakespeare tailored his plays to the talents of the members of the Chamberlain's Men. This is particularly evident in the clown roles in his plays. The comedy roles in Shakespeare's early plays, while Kempe was a member of the troupe, were country bumpkins. When Armin replaced Kempe, Shakespeare began writing plays in which the comedy roles were court jesters.
Not only did Shakespeare tailor his roles to his clowns, the clowns contributed to the scripts. Many scholars believe that both Kempe and Armin would adlib when a new play was produced. They began repeating their most successful adlibs, and they were eventually added to the scripts. The scripts that exist were not the originals written by Shakespeare, but are the scripts maintained by the troupe and published later.
Shakespeare is known to have been a fan of Richard Tarlton, an Elizabethan Clown performing during Shakespeare's youth. Tarlton is also considered to have been an influence upon Shakespeare's writing.
Shakespeare's plays are considered to be among the finest literature in the English language. I take great pride in knowing that clowns played an important role in their creation.

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


I would like to congratulate Albert "Clem" Alter and Tom "Tom E. Boy" King on receiving the Clowns of American International Lifetime Achievement Award.
I have known and admired Albert for 22 years. He lives in Portland, OR which is about 190 miles south of my home. He has been a very influential instructor and encourager of clowns in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. It was my pleasure to see him at many educational programs in the region over the years.
I would also like to congratulate Leon McBryde on receiving the World Clown Association Legacy of Laughter Award. I met Leon thirty years ago during my first trip to La Crosse, WI for Clown Camp®. Leon was one of the first people to encourage my interest in clown history. I have many fond memories of Leon telling me stories about the famous clowns he knew and with whom he had performed.

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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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