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Mastering simplicity since 1981! Galumphing through life with an understanding wife since 1974! Making people laugh since birth (except for a humorless vice-principal in middle school who didn't think I was very funny at all.)

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This one is revised for this edition to make my grammar and syntax look better. I don't know why my grammar has to pay a sin tax but that's her business. Ba‑da‑boom.

 

Jokes And Kids    (Revised)      Laugh‑Makers vol. 10 #5

Kids love jokes.  They love to tell them and they love to hear them.  Don't assume, however, that kids are connoisseurs of jokes.  The ones they love are the ones that are older than all of us and about as corny as a Kansas field.

I make a habit of going through thrift stores to pick up old joke books and have assembled quite a collection ranging from the early 1900s to the latest offerings found in school book fairs.  Honestly, the jokes are the same, with variations on locations, names, occupations, and nationalities.

A good rule of thumb is to go through them and pick the ones that make you laugh or groan.  They're the ones that got a reaction in you, which means you see the humor and will be better able to retell the joke.

When you tell a joke you are searching for a reaction, almost any kind of reaction. A laugh is as good as a groan is as good as a boo is as good as the eyes of the kids rolling around as if to say "what a jerk!"  All are good legitimate reactions to go for in telling jokes to kids.

Jokes can be sprinkled into almost any act with the intro, "That reminds me of a joke..."  Animal jokes are great to have in mind when you are making balloons (tell a dog joke when making a balloon dog, an elephant joke when making an elephant.)

Riddles are a favorite with kids.  Variations of the same riddle are also prime pickings for kids' humor.  As an example, remember this one, "What is black and white and red all over?"  Not only does the joke have multiple answers, it has spawned an almost limitless supply of follow up jokes ("What is black and white and black and white and black and white.... ")

Once you get the ball rolling, you can almost sit back and relax and receive jokes because every child has their own favorite.  If you know the joke already, and most of the time you will, don't stop the child or take the punchline away.  Learning to tell jokes is a step in intellectual progression and in establishing positive self-esteem in children.

When you are listening to the jokes you can react in many different clown ways. Adults will usually give a comforting laugh to reassure the child with positive feedback, but you are a clown!  Don't forget that everything about you is different, so react differently.  Laugh as if your feet were being tickled unmercifully.  Have a thoughtful reaction followed by the hysterical laughter, giving the impression "Oh, now I get it!" Start out laughing hysterically and at the very end, stop abruptly and say, "That's not funny."  If they say "Yes it is," say "It is?" and start laughing hysterically again. You can even interrupt yourself with "I get it... No I don't ....Yes, I do ...No I don't."

Another is the Stadler and Waldorf reaction . Stadler and Waldorf were the two old men in the reserved seat box on The Muppet Show whose opinions about things on stage either escalated or deteriorated steadily. "Bravo... Encore... Marvelous... Fantastic...Pretty Good…Not Bad…OK…Not Great…Pretty Poor…Bad…Terrible…Horrible…It Stinks... Boo!!"

The problem with jokes and getting the momentum started is getting it to stop when you need to get on with the rest of your act or need to move on to another area during a walkaround.  In a party situation, you can have the last riddle serve as a segue into the next part of the act.  "What happens when you cross a clown, a magic wand and a birthday girl?  I don't know either but I'm a clown, Suzie is a birthday girl and I just happen to have a magic wand, so let's see."

In a walkaround, you can gracefully bow out by saying, "Hey that was a great joke and I'm going to tell it to them over there.  When you hear them laugh, you'll know it was for your joke."

 

__________________________________________________________________

Four years later, another joke' article, this time with a whole different audience in mind.

 

Jokes          Laugh‑Makers vol. 14 #5

I was doing my bit at Kids Night at the restaurant I do every week when a gentleman requested that I follow him to his table.  He said that it hadn't been a happy day and they needed some cheering up.  I followed him and started with general chatting. I then pulled out a few balloons and started telling jokes.  I started with "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

When I left the table about 10 minutes later, everyone there was laughing hard and gave me a very warm round of applause.  The gentleman gave me a nice tip and was genuinely thankful for what I had done.

There was not one child at the table.

Many years ago I did an article entitled "Jokes and Kids."  By its title you can see the focus was on children. I neglected at the time to follow up on the effective use of jokes in entertaining adults.  Better late than never.

One of the biggest mistakes entertainers make is in thinking that adult jokes have to be risqué. That isn't the case at all.  They do have to be clever and extremely well presented.

The essence of any joke is the surprise ending.  In teaching magic to kids I emphasize that to create a surprise, you have to think ahead of your audience, figure out what they are expecting and give them something else instead.  For jokes, the surprise ending has to be perceived as humorous.  In telling jokes to adults and older kids, the surprise ending has to be clever enough that they wouldn't have thought of it themselves.

I like to surround my jokes to adults within the framework of "kids" jokes.  This lowers their expectation about what is coming and sets them up for the surprise that the jokes are actually intended for them.  I use "chicken" jokes as my vehicle.

I open with "Why did the chicken cross the road?"  The obvious response is "To get to the other side."  Adults, however, will not normally respond with that answer, fully expecting it to be something else.  They normally say "Why?"

It is not my word response that gets the laugh.  It is my attitude.  I look at the person like they are the biggest dummies in the world and respond "To get to the other side... geez, where have you been!? I thought I was starting you out on an easy one!"

Yes it is a sucker gag but a harmless one pulled on an adult.  The others at the table laugh not because of the joke but because of the "gotcha."  I've also included a member of their party.  Yes I'm picking on them but very lightly and non-threateningly.

Now I've got their attention. I say that I'll start over again. I repeat the question, and when I get the "...other side" response I say " It's a different chicken." Laughs. Gotcha! Now when they respond, "I don't know, why?" I say, "To show the possum it can be done."

That joke will fall completely dead in front of kids but adults love it, and they know it was intended for their level, which gets them more interested in me and what else I might have for them.

If their initial response was "...the other side," I say "No..." and give them the possum ending.  It is still a strong joke.  I know what they missed but they don't . I now move into a large number of "cross the road " jokes I have collected, adapted or made up myself.

Sometimes the jokes have a very tenuous link to the original concept but I try to keep that link.  It may not always begin with "why."  Sometimes it is "when" or "how" or "who."  It is not always a chicken.  Sometimes it is a hog or a frog or a basketball player. It is not always a road that gets crossed.  Sometimes it is a playground or an ocean or a desert.  Sometimes it involves not crossing the road.  Keeping that tenuous link gives the impression of a skit.

Then again, sometimes you can intentionally turn themed jokes into a skit.  I was riding in a car with Gary Zwerin aka Calvin Klown on the way to our first trade show of the season.  Gary, by the way, is the best clown joke teller I know.  He takes a more random approach to joke telling but his volume of groaners is phenomenal.  Anyway, he told me a new joke.  It was pretty good, and I thought of a follow up joke.  For the next hour or so we compiled a list of jokes based upon a theme found in the first joke.  For the next three days at the trade show we worked and expanded the string of jokes into a skit. We used it as a show opener for the rest of the season.

And, oh yes, 95% of the trade show attendees were adults.  Plain old clean uncomplicated jokes to entertain adults.  It worked for Laugh-In and Hee-Haw, and it works for me, too.  Why didn't the broken pencil cross the road? There was no point to it.

 

 

 

 

This article and the article "Hog Day" in the Professionalism section seem to be companion pieces. This articles urges you not to overlook easy magic tricks, and the "Hog Day" article is about using them to entertain all day.

 

Nothing Is Too Easy .                  Laugh•Makers vol. 15 #4

When I teach magic, one of the things I emphasize is that nobody cares how difficult a trick is as long as it has the desired magical result on the audience. As a matter of fact, the difficulty of any trick is normally hidden from the audience, who in turn respond only to the effect.

With that in mind, it makes no sense to go out of your way to make anything more difficult than necessary, unless of course it gives you some sort of personal satisfaction. There is an old axiom in magic that the person who knows 100 different ways to make an object disappear really knows one trick as far as the audience is concerned.

Another thing I teach in a magic class is to fight the temptation to reject tricks because of their ease. There is a natural tendency for the novice magician to learn the secret of a particular trick and, upon finding out how incredibly simple the trick is, think no one would ever be fooled by it. The irony is that the novice probably got interested in the trick in the first place because he was fooled by it.

Pick up any beginning magic book intended for children. Each of those very easy tricks are capable of creating fun and wonderment if done flawlessly and with confidence. Heck, I use a bunch of them to entertain adults!

I cannot tell you how many double takes and looks of astonishment I've gotten from adults using the old jumping rubber band trick. I will never again be without the nearly ageless coil and ring gag as many times as completely exasperated adults and teens have begged me to tell them how I'm doing it. I'll never forget the time I took the ball and vase trick to a three year old party thinking this was the only age that hadn't run across this widely circulated gimmick trick. It was the father and the three teen age boy cousins who went totally bananas as the ball seemingly disappeared and reappeared. I did the old disappearing salt shaker trick once at a trade show and a teenage girl sitting at the table jumped up and screamed! Then she ran across the room to get her mother to come see what happened

No magic trick is too easy! As far as I am concerned, the easier the better. The problem lies in coming up with creative ways to present the trick. The other part of the old magic axiom is that a person who knows only one way to make an object disappear but knows 100 different ways to present it, knows 100 tricks as far as the audience is concerned. To paraphrase the real estate mantra, the three most important things to remember in doing magic is 1) Presentation, 2) Presentation and 3) Presentation.

For example, there is a trick so simple and almost constantly available to the public that only a complete idiot would try to use it. The trick is the Number Cards Mystery trick and I am that idiot.

If you are unfamiliar with the trick you probably do not eat children's breakfast cereals. Twice in the last couple of years I've seen this trick on the back of cereal boxes. It is easy to understand and all the kids have to do is cut up the box to get the cards.

Since the trick is in the public domain, it is in lots of children's magic books and beginner magic kits. It sometimes goes by different names but you will recognize it when you see it.

Six cards have a series of numbers on them ranging from 1 up to 63 (sometimes less in some of the variations such as Magic Computer Age Cards). A person mentally picks a number or uses their age as the number and, when shown one of the cards, tells whether or not the number is on that card. After the sixth card, the magician reveals the number or the age.

The secret has to do with an easy mathematical progression on the cards (32,16,8,4,2, and 1) and some quick addition. For whatever cards have the mystery number on it, add the sequence numbers in the top left corners together. The only way to blow the trick is to add wrong or by staring at the sequence thereby giving away its existence and location.

Even when I use it in its basic form, the result is absolutely fantastic! I feel like the smoothest of con men as I get away with this trick. It is so basic and elementary and yet, with a few subterfuges, perfectly presentable with nearly maximum positive audience reaction.

Of course I do a couple of things to add to the mystery. First, I never look at the front of the cards after the trick starts. I know the order in which I am showing the cards. No one sees me calculating the sum of the key numbers. I keep a running tally in my head.

Next, I ask someone to keep track of the number of cards the chosen number or age is on. Now come on, there are only six cards. Surely I can keep up with that myself can't I? What I've really done when I ask someone to do this is plant in their minds that the number of cards the mystery number is on is important to the trick. It isn't but now they'll try to figure things out based on that false lead.

If your adding skills are embarrassing, use a calculator. Don't let anybody see the front of the calculator, but press enough keys to make it look like you're trying to figure the thrust quotient for a space launch, whatever the heck that is! Near the very end of your mathematical charade hit clear, or multiply by 0. That will get you to 0. Now make your last few calculations the simple additions to get you the answer. To reveal, simply turn the calculator around.

Sometimes, to reinforce the false lead, I have six cards or envelopes numbered 1 through 6 also on the table. At the end of the trick, if for example the mystery number was on 4 cards, I pick up all the cards or envelopes except the one with the number 4 on it. Inside the envelope or on the card is a gag line like " Not bad looking for your age!" All the envelopes and cards have gag lines except envelope 1 and 6. Number 1 says "You are 32!" and number 6 says "You are 63 !" 63 is the sum of all the cards and I never do this trick with teens so if only one card has the age on it has to be 32.

I've found it is funnier if I do not immediately reveal the persons age. Sometimes I simply say thank you and pause. This makes them think that there was no trick and they usually say something like "Aren't you going to tell me how old I am?" Now I can respond "If you don't know you're 37 don't come to me for help!"

If you are daring you can eliminate the 32 card and do the trick with only five cards. For example I did this one time and the only card the age was on was the 1 card. Obviously the woman was not 1 year old so I simply added the missing 32 and figured the woman was 33. If you are really daring you can also eliminate the 16 card. I do that when I'm pretty sure I can figure out a 16 year range. With some people though I don't feel that confident.

Be an idiot! Find this trick and try it! Then try others. Don't overlook some of the worlds easiest tricks simply because they are easy. The magic isn't necessarily in the trick. The magic is what you can bring to the table in the form of an enjoyable presentation. Have fun!

 

Post Script: The magic numbers trick is one I give out in the hospital to kids third grade and above. The hospital teachers love it, and it drives the nurses batty. The kids promise not to tell how its done. I also made a variation that has only S cards and goes up into the 90s. It makes even me look smart but it is embarrassingly easy.

 

 

 

 

 

32    33    34    35    36    37    38    39

40    41    42    43    44    45    46    47

48    49    50    51    52    53     54    55

56   57    58     59   60    61    62    63

 

16    17    18    19   20    21    22    23

24   25    26    27   28    29   30    31

48   49   50    51    52    53    54    55

56   57    58    59   60    61    62    63

 

  8     9     10     11    12    13     14    15

24  25    26    27    28    29    30    31

40   41    42    43    44    45    46    47

56  57    58    59    60    61     62    63

 

  4      5      6      7     12     13    14    15

20    21    22    23    28    29   30    31

36    37    38    39    44    45   46    47

52    53    54    55    60    61    62    63

 

 2       3      6      7     10     11    14     15

18    19    22    23    26     27   30    31

34    35    38    39    42    43   46    47

50    51    54    55     58    59    62    63

 

  1      3      5      7       9      11     13    15

17    19    21    23     25     27    29    31

33   35    37    39    41      43    45    47

49   51    53    55    57      59     61    63   




 

Handouts And Giveaways          .....................................          Laugh‑Makers vol. 14 #4

One of the expectations many lay people have when dealing with clowns is that a clown is going to give them something. Over the years the items distributed have changed but the act of freely giving something away has been a constant.

One request I continually get from older people is to give them some candy. I have never given out candy so I know the request is not a specific expectation related to me. Clowns of a previous generation used to carry around pockets full of candy to hand out. I would be willing to bet it is an American thing. One of the hallmarks of WWII American troops was that they had candy and chocolates for kids in the war ravaged areas of the world.

Today, in a world where one of the important survival skills is not to take candy from strangers (and who is stranger than a clown?), we meet these expectations with balloons, stickers, rings, pictures, pogs and all kinds of other neat stuff. As with all the other exterior traditions of clowning such as the wig, the costume, the shoes, the nose etc. it is easy for the novice clown to mistake the accouterments associated with the clown for the clowning itself.

I would not encourage anybody to break the giveaway tradition. I have lots of handouts myself and I love giving them away. It seems a very modest expenditure to give a kid a nickel item to make them smile. Heck, if you gave them the nickel instead, or even a dime, they wouldn't be as happy. As with any other thing a clown does, consideration needs to be given to the manner in which the item is given away. That is what distinguishes you as a real clown and not just some guy dressed up giving away stuff

A lot has been said and written about entertaining with balloons including the use of jokes, puns, storytelling and other verbal by-play as well as utilizing the physical properties of latex to comic effect. How about the other stuff? How can you infuse an inanimate object like a plastic ring with humor?

One theatrical tenant is to give some sort of special value to any prop used in a play. The same can be done with handouts.

I carry around plastic rings of many kinds and ask a child, let's call her Julie, which one she wants. Julie picks a butterfly. I ask her to put her finger out. She does. I get down on one knee and as I put the ring on her finger say "Do you, Julie, take me, Mr. Rainbow to get MARRIED?" I put heavy comic vocal emphasis on the last word and then pucker up as if I'm expecting a really big kiss.

I sometimes get a "yes," but most of the time get a "no." If "yes," I immediately start making all the wedding, honeymoon and future life arrangements. If "no," laughter usually follows and I go through a series of double and triple takes. As that laughter dies down I spring the topper and say " I bet you're gonna keep the ring too aren't you?" I have always gotten a "yes" response, which in turn gets a good hearty laugh from the adults (multi-level entertaining, one of my pet topics.). As that laughter dies I close it off by looking at the mom and saying "You taught her well!" More laughs. Three big laughs for one nickel plastic ring. Not bad.

If there are more children I make quick proposals to everyone getting a ring. They delight in saying NO! The older ones get into "yes ...NOT!" I even ask the boys who tell me most vehemently they are boys to which I respond "AAARRRGGGHHH!" Occasionally, a small child will feel sorry for the big old clown getting picked on by the others and say "yes."

The point is that I didn't just say "Who wants a ring?" and start giving away stuff. When I give away my color photo postcard I have either a funny story or a sweet story to go with it. The funny story is about how and when they can use the postcards to get two pies. The sweet story involves a kiss I put on the picture.

New clowns continually get the advice to find the things that are right for them. This should extend beyond makeup design and tricks and skits right down to the handouts you choose. Find handouts that are right for you and your character.

Before you buy, imagine what you are going to say as you give the handout away. What particular importance does the handout have to you? If it has some special property or special importance to you, then that makes the present that much more meaningful to the child. Test your storytelling and creative fantasy skills by making up stories to go with your handouts. For example, as Santa or Santa Clown I give out Santa Rings. I also tell the kids that in the ring is a teeny tiny transmitter good for one last request on Christmas Eve. "If there is a present you forgot to tell me you wanted, then wear the ring on Christmas Eve when you go to bed and whisper the forgotten request into the ring just before you go to sleep. On the other end of the transmitter is Freddy the Elf who will write it down and see if we have any of the presents left and if the sleigh with your presents has left yet. We'll do our best but we might not be able to fit it on this year. Those sleighs are packed pretty tight you know!"

It is a cheap 3 cent plastic one piece ring, but quite a number of parents have told me later that their kids bought the whole story hook, line and sinker and took good care of the ring .

Try also to look for handouts appropriate to the venue. This especially becomes true in hospital clowning where increasing care is taken to keep the hospital environment free of potentially harmful things such as balloons. What can you give to a child confined to a bed? Honestly, a sticker is enough if the sticker has some sort of importance attached to it.

Age appropriateness is also an issue you need to think about with handouts. Those of us who truly clown for all ages know the problem with finding handouts appropriate for a clown to give to a teen or young adult. The ring-getting married schtick works for teenage girls but not with the cheaper plastic rings. You need a more acceptable style of ring like the metal rings found in Oriental catalogs. They're just as cheap but acceptable to an older crowd.

There are venues in which it is best not to have any handouts whatsoever. Trust me, if you've ever clowned at a sporting event with lots of roving kids, empty your pockets before you go!

My performance goal while giving handouts (yes, even handing things out should involve performance if you are doing it right) is to have whoever gets the handout to go back to their parents or friends and not only say "Look what the clown gave me," but also tell them the story of how the clown gave it to them.

Post Script: Look for a reference to this article in "Dumb Luck" later on in this

 

I wasn't sure in which section I should this article, here or Creativity. I decided to put it in Performance because it contains two really good performance ideas.

 

 

 

The Well Padded Insult .                     Laugh‑Makers vol. 12 #6

I was visiting another town and came across information about a clown class that was going to be held at the local community center. One of the texts for the course was a book called l000 Insults. I got to thinking about the role of insults in the arsenal of the clown. I use them often, but not the type of raw insults that come out of this kind of book.

It is important to me that the target of my jab knows that absolutely no harm was meant and therefore no offense is taken. I call it the well padded insult. I've had tremendous success with this style and do not come across in any way like a costumed Don Rickles.

The standard insult serves a double function, to put down someone else while implicitly or explicitly raising yourself above the other person. This is where hard feelings come into the picture and the potential for nastiness follows.

The unpadded insult is the primary tool in the arsenal of the carnival bozo sitting over the water tank. He dares the "lame armed pimply pansy" to hit the bulls eye and knock him in the tank.

Of course the motivation is transparent enough, get as much money out of the sucker as possible through anger and revenge.

Whenever I watch these guys work, I cringe. To a certain segment of our society, this is what a clown is. I had a man come up to me once at a rural outdoor fair. Folks, you could look up the word "redneck" in the dictionary and find this guy's picture. He said "I'd sure like to be a clown, I love going around insulting people." (As Henry Kissinger says, this story has the added advantage of being true!)

Padding the insult puts a whole different non-threatening face on the insult. I've found that the normal reaction to padded insults is like Margaret Dumont's reactions to the insults of Groucho Marx, taken lightly and easily dismissed.

Padding the insult can be done in several ways. You can pad the insult by including yourself in on the insult. This way you are not placing yourself above anybody, you are welcoming them to the lower echelon of society.

When someone comments about my costume I may respond "Hey listen, you can save a lot of money with bad taste... but of course you already know that. " I have included myself in the insult and the response is much better than if I had just come out and insulted someone's taste in clothes.

To a lady with extremely curly hair I may walk up, point to my extremely curly fright wig and say "Oh 'mam, I know just how you feel, I went back to the box and found out you're only supposed to leave that stuff in for 10 minutes. Did you fall asleep too?" To someone wearing a colorful outfit I may say "Wow, nice shirt ...I like it ...of course I would."

Occasionally you will find those few who really want to insult you in the worst possible sense. Fine, let them! Then leave them alone! They tend to be young males who start out with a snide and remarkably inarticulate line like "Hey clown, you're stupid." You can simply reply "Thank you, it's a tough dirty job but somebody's got to do it." You have accepted and totally embraced the insult leaving nothing for the bumpkin to come back with. In this situation avoid any type of reciprocal insult. His type won't stop until he has had the last say. I have never run into a female of this type, but I'm sure they exist. For some inexplicable reason this person has invested his pride and self worth in this confrontation of man vs. clown, and they don't intend to lose. You need to be the one to back off, gracefully but quickly.

Most of the time, however, you are playing to a receptive audience that will play along with anything. You will even come across those who are sharper than you. This is great! You can respond with admiration "Hey, have you got a pencil so I can write that one down." You can respond with jealousy "Wait just a minute, I'm working this block buddy, get outta here" or "If you think I'm splitting the check with you, you're crazy."

As always, my words may not sound good coming out of your character's mouth, but the general principle involved in padding insults should help you in developing your own set of custom fitted lines.

 

 

 

  Where's Waldo?      Laugh‑Makers vol. 12 #3

Where's Waldo? He's in my act, right where he belongs.

One of the most trite statements in our business is that we entertain children from one to 91. It is a goal but, in my experience watching many family entertainers, a mostly unsubstantiated claim.

What they really are asking the adult members of the audience to do is to look through the eyes of the current children and be entertained by what today's children are entertained with. The adults basically go along to humor the children. The fact that they go along does not mean that you are entertaining them. They are humoring (suffering) the entertainer for the sake of the kids.

In Laugh-Makers Vol 9 no.3, I wrote a column on multi-level entertaining. It was a highly appropriate column in an issue dedicated to the memory of Jim Hensen. The Muppets have been a perfect example of multi-level entertainment. I won't repeat that column here, but hopefully I'll extend it a little.

Childhood is full of cultural icons that serve as our landmarks through life. They meant so much to us at the time and are held deeply in the heart of our inner child.

Some stand the test of time and continue to be childhood landmarks even today, such as the movie The Wizard of Oz, the book Goodnight Moon, the song "Old McDonald," The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, the book Green Eggs and Ham, Charlie Brown Christmas, etc. Others come and go like Pin, The Smurfs, Pee Wee Herman, He Man, E.T.,. Star Wars, etc.

One way to catch all ages in your audience is to zero in on those childhood landmarks that mean the same thing to all ages and build lines, routines or simply off hand references about them into your act.

Another way, is to do the same thing identifying those new stars that have made it to the national consciousness with catch phrases. For example, for a while all balloon swords were "light sabers," and later every balloon sword was given out with the words "Cowabunga Dude" or "By the power of Greyskull!"

Today's child superstar is Barney. I'm sorry but Barney bores me to the point of tears. I can't think of a thing I can do with a character that would put a diabetic in a coma. There are no dynamic catch phrases either. I don't want to show my disdain for something that might be an icon for someone else so I simply ignore Barney.

I have found another relatively recent character that I think will last quite a while and can involve all ages in humor aimed at their level. He is Waldo.

In thinking about this column I realized that I have built four gags based on the character Waldo and have another one in mind that I just haven't gotten around to yet. As a matter of fact you may get around to it before I do so, enjoy!

What do I like about Waldo? First, Waldo is a simple concept. Find Waldo, that's it! Second, it is as hard for the adult to do as it is for the child to do. To be honest, my children were superior at finding Waldo, and I didn't have to fake it. My kids sensed that we were competing on an equal basis and that Dad was not losing on purpose. Finally because of all this, Waldo is a truly shared experience for adult and child, so jokes can be truly appreciated by both. Mom and Dad don't have to fake the laugh.

The following are the four Waldo Gags I use. I don't use all four of them at the same time for the same group. You can kill the joke that way. Spread them around.

Gag #1‑ Mistake anyone with a red striped shirt for Waldo. "WALDO!!! I FOUND WALDO!!! HEYYYYY, where's your glasses. Wait a minute, where's your walking stick. You're not Waldo, you're one of them fake Waldo's they put in to hide the real Waldo! Do you know where the real Waldo is?" The conversation has begun with me establishing myself as a complete dunce. To me the quicker I can establish that the better.

Gag #2‑ 1 keep a Waldo doll in my magic wand bag, out of which comes almost anything but a magic wand. I pull out the Waldo doll, (about 18" high) and try to continue on with a magic trick. At this point I haven't seen what I have in my hand yet. The kids usually correct me and let me know that it is not a magic wand, "It's Waldo!" My response, "Waldo?! Where have you been, everybody's been looking for you!" I really love this one. The kids laugh at the absurdity of mistaking Waldo for a magic wand. Kids don't laugh at the follow-up line, but the adults almost invariably do in that trying-to-keep-it-in-but-catches-them-off-guard-exploding-out-of-the-mouth-kind-of-laugh.

Gag #3‑1 was watching the Tonight Show one night when a comedian called Carrot Top was on. During his interview section he mentioned a gag of his that doesn't get a laugh, but he thought should. It was a Where's Waldo? book on tape so you can play while you drive. That may not be a great gag for his types of audiences, but it is perfect for mine. I made myself a Where's Waldo? book on tape and say how much I like it cause I can play while I drive and it is really easier because its says "George, Ralph, Ellen, Kathy, Richard, Beth, Becky ...until finally it tries to slip Waldo in there and if I hear it I win!"

Gag #4‑On the back cover of the April 1992 edition of Mad Magazine (number 310), there was "A Best Seller We'd Like To See, Where's Waldo? For Complete Morons." The picture is a big yellow picture with only four other people in it, three cactus plants, one mule and Waldo. In a walk around I try to get kids to help me find Waldo because I just can't. Of course, they find Waldo right away. I have a lot of fun being unable to find Waldo even when they are pointing him out to me. The kids are too young to read or understand the full title, but the parents with them aren't and enjoy the inside joke. The kids come to the same conclusion anyway.

The gag I have yet to complete is to put Waldo's picture on the back of a carton of milk in missing person style. If you try it before I do, let me know how it works.

 

 

 Start limbering up the old vocal chords, the next four articles have to do with a very highly successful, non prop oriented, minimal skill necessary, take with you anywhere clown gag. Comedy singing!

 

As Funny As ABC                 Laugh‑Makers vol. 11 #2

When I tell potential clients what I do, I always tell them about my clown character. He is dumb as dirt and early in my show kids know they're a whole lot smarter than he is. Parents rarely ask how I accomplish this feat. It really isn't their concern as ,long as I can do it. For Laugh-Makers readers, however, it can be a technical, professional point of interest.

I go about accomplishing it simply by being wrong early and often about the simplest of things. The simpler the concept, the funnier it is to be wrong about it. Small, children are especially proud to know what they know, and can be quite vocal and adamant about what is correct. There are millions of things I can be wrong about. One of my favorite is the Alphabet.

David Ginn tells the story about how he announces that he can say the alphabet backwards in 10 seconds, then turns around backwards and does the A to Z recitation. This is a sucker ending with the gotcha on the crowd. Another sucker ending is to say "the alphabet backwards" because that's what you said you'd do.

If your character doesn't do sucker tricks, you can lessen the smart-alecky gotcha feeling by saying something like "Now would you like me to say the Declaration Of Independence in Swahili?" Now you're caught, the kids are on to you.

Ginn also tells of the time a little girl got up and actually recited the alphabet from Z to A. After that, he forced himself to learn it Z to A to expand the possibilities of the joke. This works especially well after the turn around backwards gag. As kids protest that you cheated, you can follow up with "Oh, you thought I was going to say z,y,x...(all ,the way to a)...but I can't do that!" Of course you just did do that and the kids will let you know that you did.

My clown friends would be surprised if I were to just leave the routine at that. I didn't. I figured that if I could learn to say it backwards, I could learn to sing it ,backwards! The tune is mindless enough. It becomes a matter of switching letters and fitting them into the familiar pattern. normal: A‑B‑C‑D‑E‑F‑G backwards: Z‑Y‑X‑W‑V‑U‑T

The only trouble is the W, with 3 syllables, replacing the single syllable D. Pronounce W as "dub‑u" and come in quickly with the V sound. The D‑E sound is replaced by a no pause "dub‑u‑vee."

 

normal: H‑I‑J‑K

backwards: S‑R‑Q‑P

No problem here. The next section is quick and easily translates.

normal: L‑M‑N‑O‑P

backwards: O‑N‑M‑L‑K

 

normal: Q‑R‑S, T‑U‑V

backwards: J‑I‑H, G‑F‑E

 

Next, hold the D sound to cover the space that W normally occupies.

normal: W‑X‑Y and Z

backwards: D‑C‑B and A

 

The rhyme scheme is shot for the ending so I use a new ending: "Now I know my Z‑Y‑X, Tell me what I'll think of next!"

I defend my way by pointing out that it is the "right" way, and prove it by having the kids imagine the alphabet on the wall in their classrooms and then asking them, "Okay, which letter starts way over there on the right side?" The answer of course is Z. Well, that's all the proof I need. I'm doing it the right way and they are doing it the left way.

At the end of my alphabet routine the kids are convinced that I am nuts and that their grasp of reality and truth is far superior to mine. I have established the defining premise of my character in their minds and I'm ready to move on to other things based on the establishment of my character.

There are other ABC songs. There is a Muppet sing that treats the entire alphabet as one long word that sounds like " ab‑ca‑def‑gee jek‑kel‑ma‑nop‑quir‑stu‑vwix‑iz." For you Broadway fans, one of the opening numbers of the show Stop The World I Want To Get Off has a different alphabet tune. Another old tune, whose origin I don't know, goes "A you're adorable, B you're so beautiful..." and so on. You can also have fun by alternating verses of the familiar alphabet song with the two other childhood songs that have the same tune, "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

 

Post Script: I was teaching at a clown camp for kids, and one of the things I taught them was how to sing the ABC's backwards. We did it in the culminating show at the end of the camp and it got laughter and applause. These kids were 8 and 9 years old.

One of the kids went home and taught his 5 year old brother the alphabet backward. The only problem was that it supplanted in his mind the traditional A first way of doing it. When his brother went to kindergarten that fall, he had to take a special class to re-learn it the correct way! No, I didn't get sued.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Song (Clown Style)         Laugh‑Makers vol. 11 #5

 

During a walkaround I am sometimes asked to sing a song for an adult's birthday. For some reason, it is usually a woman. I'll respond, "Sure! But all of you have to help me out." I then go into an exaggerated and semi‑futile attempt to find the right key. When I finally get it, I'll take a deep breath signaling that the show is about to begin. Of course they are expecting me to sing the old traditional "Happy Birthday To You" song. Instead, I break into:

 

The old gray mare she ain't what she used to be,

Ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be.

The old gray mare she ain't what she used to be

Many long years ago

 

How many long years ago? How many long years ago?

(at this point I'm trying to get someone to reveal the age)

 

The old gray mare she ain't what she used to be

Forty long years ago.

 

Another curve you can throw is to the tune "16 Candles." For this one, you need to know the age before hand. It sometimes has the effect of a sucker trick, because the obviously older than 16 birthday girl is at first a bit skeptical about what you're going to sing. Next, she hears the first line and thinks you are being extremely kind to subtract a lot of years. The zing comes in with a switch of words that seem to catch everybody by surprise:

16 Candles make a lovely light,

But darling not as bright, as your light tonight

'Cause 16 candles multiplied by 2

Then add 8 more candles, cause that's how old are you

(once again assuming the age 40)

 

You're only 16 (times 2 plus 8)

And you're a middle age queen

And you're pretty well, pretty well, preserved

At least what I've seen.

 

16 Candles, aren't enough to say,

What I've gotta say,

Have a Happy Birthday.

 

You might end with the old traditional birthday song after this with everybody joining in. Spur everyone on, in good clown style, to sing to the birthday "boy" or "girl."

The important key to success with this is making the presentation funny. Don't count on the words to carry the whole entertainment load. In case you should get a good laugh at any point along the way, pause (or in musical terms, vamp) for a while for the laugh, remembering, of course, where you left off. 50 years is 16 times 3 plus 2. For really odd numbers, sacrifice accuracy for the rhyme scheme, making sure you end up with the number 2 (i.e. multiplied times 2.492) Nobody will ever do the math necessary to see if you are right.

Do you remember the old, over melodramatic song "Feelings"? Try this out for funny reactions:

 

Feelings, nothing more than feelings,

Kinda get the feeling, that you're getting old?

Teardrops, rolling down on your face,

You buy skin creams to erase, the lines and the folds.

 

Feelings, Oh how is your back feeling,

Do mornings leave you reeling, the creaking of old bones.

Feelings, oh oh oh feelings,

Oh oh oh (start groaning) Oh oh oh oh

(spoken) I'm feeling so old I can't finish the song

 

Take some time to make up something that is right for you. Don't let a tremendous opportunity pass. Don't sing the same old tired worn out song the same old tired worn out way. Anybody can do that. Be a clown for goodness sake!

 

I've developed another birthday song hit, involving a balloon and a pair of scissors, that has been responsible for many a good laugh and many a big tip. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate to paper well. You kinda gotta be there. If you see me at a convention or somewhere else, and you've got a 260 balloon and a pair of scissors, I'll show you.


________________________________________________________________________________________
        


     Sing For Your Supper  (Abridged)           Laugh‑Makers vol. 11 #6

Are you one of those people who really loves music but are not musically inclined yourself? If so you might be tempted exclude singing from your clowning around. Think again! There's gold in them there hills!

You say you don't play an instrument? Piffle! There are instruments perfectly suited for you. Have you ever heard of a nose flute? A bongo? How about a tambourine? Do you kazoo?

So, what do you sing? Silly songs are an obvious answer. There are tons of kids albums out there with thousands of songs to sing. That is the obvious answer, so obviously I have something else entirely in mind.

Clowning through singing is as old as Joey Grimaldi and older. One of Grimaldi's bits was to sing a perfectly legitimate love song to a pig. The incongruity of the situation is a legitimate source of comedy. Tim Kazurinsky on Saturday Nigh .Live had a recurring character who would do serious love scenes with a monkey. At times it would be extremely funny.

In a similar vein, try singing a very serious song in a very funny manner. For example, during walkarounds I may stop a family and comment that the daughter is extremely beautiful and ask the Dad if I may sing her a song. The answer is almost always "yes". If I see a young couple I may ask the guy if he ever sings to his girlfriend. Usually the answer is "no" so I say "It works great, let me show you!"

I will then stand in front of the daughter or girlfriend, lightly clear my throat (a little piece of legitimacy that adds to the theatrics) and pull out a concertina (sort of a small accordion usually associated with gypsies). They don't know that I have absolutely no idea how to play it. I can coax random chords out of it but anything more is beyond me. I will hit a chord to get my key, take a deep breath and begin.

Now, what they are expecting is nothing close to what they're going to get. They are expecting a cute little ditty with musical accompaniment. Every clue I have left them leads to this conclusion. It was a set up!

                        What they get is me poorly singing at the top of my lungs "Unchained Melody" (the song featured in the movie Ghost). The look on the girl's face is, as they say, worth the price of admission. Often it is a frozen, caught-in-the‑headlights look. Mom, Dad, and boyfriend are, of course, laughing.

Sometimes the girl stays frozen and I get into a second verse. Sometimes before the second verse I will stop momentarily to display a sign that says I'll Stop Singing For $1, and then continue.

You should see them desperately trying to get Mom or Dad to give me a dollar. Should they come up with the money, I always return it. I have alternative endings to use depending on the situation.

The original idea to do something like this came from me reading about Otto Griebling's bit about picking a female and circling her again and again. That is not my style, so I adapted it to something that fit me a little better.

At a recent trade show, a musician was also there for entertainment. We got together on a couple of numbers that literally stopped the show each time we did them. The promoter particularly enjoyed one and kept making requests for it. The musician played the banjo and we did a rousing version of the old disco hit "Kung Fu Fighting" complete with martial arts grunts and groans at the appropriate places. We also did an Elvis number, and a tribute to the musical genius of Cher, accompanied solely by me on the bongos. For artistic merit it was awful. For comic relief, it worked great.

You can also break out in song at just about any time by setting up the segue. For the best effect don't telegraph the punchline. For example, I may walk up to the Mom or Dad of a young girl and say, "She's so beautiful... no, that's not the right word... she's so gorgeous... no, that's not right either... just what am I trying to say? She's so (start singing), Fine, do lang do lang do lang, wish she were mine, do lang do lang do lang..."

If she starts walking away I may say "Stop" and then continue singing "in the name of love, before you break my heart... "

If you don't know the songs I'm referring to, I'm probably quite a bit older than you. The particular songs don't matter that much. What matters is the set up, the timing and the delivery.

Since the potential for embarrassment is there, you need to be very aware of how it is going and when to stop. There is an inverse relationship in doing these things. The more off-the-wall you are, the more in control you really have to be.

How do you develop this style? Listen carefully for openings your audiences give you, and take advantage of them. Provide your own set up if you have to.

I have written that a conversation with a clown should be as exhilarating as a roller coaster ride. Take them on a conversational ride. Throw in a few songs interspersed with the rest of the general insanity. And finally, lighten up, you're a clown!

 

 

 

Parodies    (Abridged and Revised)      Mr. Rainbows Parodies

When I started doing song parodies, I really had no idea that it was going to turn into a major part of my act. I thought a funny song here or there would expand the routine and add a little spice. I soon discovered some wonderful things about parodies that kept me thinking, creating, and adding more and more all the time.

First, audiences respond very well to parodies. The age at which audiences can start responding to parodies is the age at which they recognize the original song being butchered. Middle age kids will not respond to a parody of The Temptations hit song "My Girl," but (thanks to reruns) they will respond to a parody of the theme from The Addams Family. Small kids will respond to neither, but they will respond to a parody of "Old MacDonald" or "Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea" assuming that the punch line is also appropriately accessible to the age.

Next is an interesting phenomenon that I wasn't originally prepared for. People have a real desire to listen to the same parodies again and again. As I said, this caught me by surprise. It is unlike magic where it is unwise and often unprofessional to repeat a trick. It is unlike a regular joke where once you reveal the punch line, nobody really wants you to tell them the same joke again.

I visit a hospital summer camp for chronically ill pre-teen and teenage children every year. In years prior to my musical evolution, if I were to pull out a magic trick they had seen, I would get razzed with "seen it!" This past year, as soon as I got there, they immediately started peppering me with song requests they had heard the year before or ones they had heard when I visited them in the hospital. As the night continued, I got requests to repeat songs I had already performed that night! I never got around to doing anything else that night, but everybody was laughing and everybody was happy. As the old Fats Waller song says "find out what they like, and how they like it, and let 'em have it just that way!"

Parodies can open up the adult audience to you and make you truly an entertainer for the entire family and not just for the kids. This can be very important in a commercial sense. When I visit work places for adult birthdays, it's a couple of big balloon hats, a couple of parodies, a lot of laughs and I'm out of there in 15 minutes with everybody happy, including me with my largest charge per minute fee. If you get the reputation that you can and do entertain adults, then you can greatly expand your potential market.

One of the best ways to get noticed is to be different! When I started doing parodies, I was the only one I knew of doing it. It made me different, it made me stand out, it made me more desirable. If they wanted finny songs, they had to come to me.

You say you can't sing? That can be good since you are doing it for laughs. Can George Burns sing? Jimmy Durante? Alfalfa? No, but that never stopped them and

thankfully so. They are hilarious. I can sing well but I rarely do when I'm doing parodies. The words are what is important. If somebody comes away thinking "gee, he has a nice voice" instead of "gee, that's funny" then I will have failed.

Sometimes I do parodies with musical accompaniment, sometimes I do it accapella. It is the comedy that matters, not the music. I don't even read music! I play an Omnichord which is not inexpensive but makes music accessible to musical wanna-bes like me. I also do parodies playing the bongos, nose whistles, tambourines, stump fiddles (or boom-ba's depending what area of the country you come from). Keep in mind it's comedy! A very poor musical rendition that gets laughs is a goal, not a fear!

Perform them anytime, anywhere, for anybody who has the possibility of enjoying them. Try stopping in the middle of a magic trick, do a parody and then "back to the trick already in progress." Some hospitals don't allow balloons anymore. What do you do? Sing! It is a perfect walkaround for any occasion. Sing a few while twisting your balloons or painting a face. Let your imagination soar.

Spring some cash for a rhyming dictionary. They are found in just about any bookstore or any library worthy of the name. You can spend a little or a lot. Even Stephen Sondheim admits he'd be lost without his rhyming dictionary.

You also need to become familiar with the concept of the rough rhyme. For example you can rhyme cholesterol with bifocals by twisting the final vowel sound in each word a little. The same principle holds true to rhyme the words unfair and year. I use a lot of rough rhymes. How do I get away with it? ITS ABOUT COMEDY.!!! Sometimes the rough rhyme gets a laugh itself, even when it is not the intended punch line.

The rule of thumb is to do enough of any song to get the laugh and then move on.

The goal is not to finish the song, the goal is to get the laugh! Repeat after me ...get the laugh ...get the laugh ...get the laugh...

Now lets warm up the old voice ... dough ... makes .. me ... fat .. so .. I .. eat .. dough!

 

 

 


Photo Time Gags    (Revised and Abridged)     Laugh‑Makers vol. 10 #4   

A while back, Laugh-Makers ran an excellent article by Bruce Johnson called "Hold That Pose! Getting The Most From Photos." I would like to piggy back with a few routines of my own that help turn a modeling/posing experience into yet another opportunity to clown around.

As someone is getting you and others ready to take your picture, tell everybody

"Watch the birdie, watch the birdie... wail just a dog nabbed minute! There is no birdie! We need a birdie. Where can we get a birdie? Hmmmmm."

Now pick out an adult and have them stand by the picture taker telling them to be the birdie for the day. Go back to your spot and immediately say "Stop!"

Shaking your head, go back and say "No, no, don't just stand there like a frog on a log. Nobody ever says watch the froggie! You gotta be a birdie. Put your hands up here, and go like this."Demonstrate by putting your hands up in your arm pits and flap your arms like wings.

Now go back to your spot for the picture and say, "OK everybody watch the Big Turkey!"

Another bit. Take charge of giving instructions to the group, "Now I want this to be a really good pickleture, so don't put bunny ears on my head like this. And don't anybody stick your tongue out like this. And don't nobody put your thumbs in your ears and wiggle like this. And don't anybody take your fingers and pull down our eyes and push up your nose just like this... " etcetera, etcetera and so forth. Of course you have just planted the seeds in their minds. By demonstrating exactly what you don't want, you can be assured that is exactly what you'll get.

You could take on the attitude of an over efficient but never satisfied arranger. The specifics depend on the make up of the group. "O.K., let's get the boys over here and the girls over here. No, no, no. Let's get the littlies upfront, the middlies in the middle and the biguglies in the back. No, no, no. Let's get the blondes over here, the redheads over here, the brunettes over here and the baldies over here. No, no, no. Let's get those with wiggly teeth over here and those with peanut butter between their toes over here and those with underwear on upside down in the back... "

Of course, people will want an actual picture of you. I find it fascinating that many people will try to get a picture of just me. Get somebody in the picture with you. And don't "pose." Even if the photographer seems to want a posed shot, a moment with an unguarded reaction makes a much better picture. You want there to be a story to go with the picture when it comes back from the photo lab. "Let me tell you what the clown did just before we took the picture."

Don't forget the adults. One absolute favorite is the clown kissing grandma on the cheek. Have it start out as a side by side photo and have the photographer give you a countdown to the picture. At the last second, pucker up and turn toward grandma. You don't even have to make physical contact, but make a big smooching sound. Once again you are getting an unguarded moment instead of a pose.

As for pictures by the media, I have seen some clowns practically push people out of the way to get in front of a newspaper photographer, the thought of free publicity driving them to near acts of desperation. Try to keep in mind what the news photographer really wants. Most often they want to see audience participation and unguarded reaction and not entertainer centered photos.

 

Post Script: Want to get a group of adults to smile in an unposed way? Say "I'm not going to use 'cheese' because I've got a better way to get adults to smile ....Everybody ready, now say '2 Percent 30 year Fixed Mortgage!' " Works like a charm!

 

 

 

Meet and Greet Comedy  (Abridged and Revised)    Laugh‑Makers vol. 10 #2      

The other day, I was on my way into the library (dressed as a normal human being) when a mother with a child in tow asked, "You're Mr. Rainbow, aren't you?" She then said to her daughter, "You remember Mr. Rainbow the Clown don't you? He is the one who makes your arm shake like Jello when you shake your hand." I shook the child's hand making the elbow flop in and out to the delightful laugh-squeal of the child. The mother and child went away happy. The last time the child saw me I probably did some magic and balloons, but the timeless memory was the silly handshake. Actually it had been over a year since I'd used that particular schtick, having moved on to other funny, and hopefully as entertaining, methods of meeting children as a clown.

Remember the old saying, "First impressions are lasting impressions." As a clown you are making an impression as soon as you are seen and usually your first words to a child are some kind of greeting. Greeting a child needs no props or tricks, just character and personality. Here are some meet-and-greets I use. You'll see what I mean about not relying on props to do the work.

It is relatively easy to make a child's arm shake like Jello. In all actuality, what you concentrate on is flipping the child's elbow under the guise of shaking the hand. Young children are particularly susceptible to this because their idea of shaking hands is somewhat passive. They simply put out a hand and wait for you to do whatever it is you are going to do.

As opposed to an adult who grips the hand and muscularly directs the action up and down with tensed muscles, the child's arm is relaxed. The elbow is connected to the forearm, the forearm is connected to the wrist bone, the wrist bone is connected to the hand bone, and the hand is in your hand and under your control. Grip deeply into the child's hand so you can slip a finger or two up the child's wrist. Instead of shaking up and down, concentrate on a slight outside flip of the child's wrist. That will cause the elbow to flop around. Because the child's arm is normally very relaxed, the movement has a very floppy look.

My normal reaction is that I have nothing to do with it and am looking at the flubbery arm with utter amazement. After doing this I have observed kids trying to do this to each other, and other kids requesting that I do that to them too.

One of the first things a child learns today after "mama" and "dada" is "Gimme Five!" I use variations of "Gimme five!" and gleefully fall victim to whatever tricky variations the child may have. I hold out my hand and say "gimme five." The child slaps my hand and I respond "That's one," and keep my hand held out for more. The child usually does a double take at me and my outstretched hand as what I say sinks in. They slap my hand again and I say, "That's two," and so on until I get my five.

My favorite variation is to do the above and as I'm about to get the fifth slap, pull my hand away and say I need just one more (holding up one finger). I put my hand back down and just when I'm just about to get it again, pull it back and say "because four (holding up 4 fingers) arid one (holding up 1 finger) make five (holding up five fingers). "

I keep pulling back my hand from receiving the final slap under the pretext of using that hand to illustrate something about a story I've started. When using this gag, its important not to take the attitude that you are tricking the child in a "gotcha" fashion. It is important for the child not to feel "gotten." If they feel that way they will stop going after your hand. If you can keep it innocently going, it takes on the attitude of trying to catch a grasshopper that keeps jumping. Eventually they will get you, and the child will really enjoy that.

There are countless opening lines and opening greetings. The point is to make that first greeting a memorable one. It pays off in fun and reputation. It also pays off in a more substantial negotiable manner at booking time.

 

 

 

Dumb Luck                                             Clowning Around vol. 17 #2

Mr. Rainbow rule # 7 "If you rely on dumb luck, you must be dumb."

Have you ever done the right thing for the wrong reason? I'm famous for that. When I was in college, I'd call home just to chat and, inevitably, it would also be somebody's birthday or anniversary or something. It happened so often it became a family joke. I haven't grown out of it.

In preparing for a series of trade shows earlier this year, I decided to clear out my pile of unused material (my wife has quite another word for it). In there, among other things, were stacks of large money notepads. You know the type I'm talking about, three times the size of normal bills and not printed on one side. I thought I'd use them in a magic trick but I never did. I decided to give them away to people at the trade show. But how?

A long time ago, I wrote a column for Laugh-Makers about investing some sort of value and importance on any handout and giveaway. With a little story or special circumstance, you can make that cheap ring or sticker or postcard become something far beyond its simple character.

I came up with the idea of having people win the fake money. Hmmmmm...... what would they do? I'd ask questions and the right answer would win the money!

Hmmmmm .what kind of questions? That would depend on who the contestants are, kids or adults. Oh, great, now I need two sets of questions!

One of my problems was serendipitously (big word: means dumb luck) solved one day when a friend from college forwarded me a humorous compilation off the internet called "The True Southerner Test." This would be good fun for the adults (sample questions: How many individual links in a can of Vienna sausage? What were the 2 predominant colors of Richard Petty's car?). I trimmed down the list to about 20 questions that tickled my funny bone. I worked this bit with the gathered crowd before the show opened its doors. Everybody at that point is just waiting around and any diversion is welcome. I didn't pick contestants. The first person who shouted out the correct answer was the winner. It also fed into one of my strengths which is ad-libbing. It got pretty funny at times especially when people really got into it. Ladies who looked like they'd never raised their voices in their lives would shout out an answer and then blush and laugh at their own outburst.

Next was a list of questions for kids. Because the general audience of the trade show was adults, this had to be a one-on-one or small group bit. I wanted there to be a twist for them. I made up a 5 question quiz and you only had to answer one of them correctly to win the ersatz money.

I wanted this to be more clowny. The first three questions were sucker questions or riddle questions. Occasionally somebody would get one right but not often. I'd comfort them with the solace "Don't worry you've still got 4 (or 3,or 2) left" The fourth question was an impossible question "What is the density of molybdenum?" The only correct answer I accepted for this one was "I don't know." Neither do I, so they won! If by chance they blew that one, there was "Only ...one...question...left, you've got to get this one correct ….What…is…your name?" No kid ever left without a bill.

The crowd, adults and kids, really bought into the game. They actually wanted to win the fake money. If I'd just tried to give it to them as they walked into the door most of them wouldn't have taken it. It went great, and will forever be a part of the act.

I started out trying to figure out a way to give away worthless stuff piling up in my room. Now I have a whole new routine and I have to go out and buy more of the not so worthless stuff. Right thing, wrong reason, again. Boy, am I dumb!

 

 

 

  Santa Clown                                    Laugh‑Makers vo1.13 #1

I started out as a Santa Claus in 1969 and have done him every year since then. I've put a lot into it and have been rewarded many times over. I can still remember eavesdropping on a family conversation between two older brothers and a younger brother. After visiting me, the older brothers told the younger brother "You know how we told you there was only one Santa and all the others you see are just his helpers dressed up? Well this one is the real Santa!"

I guess it wouldn't surprise you to know that I am not a very passive Santa, just sitting and listening to requests. I have a whole Santa act! It has gotten so polished that even kids who know Mr. Rainbow inside and out are fooled.

You're probably thinking I am going to describe to you my normal Santa routine. Wrong! It is so uniquely tailored to my strengths it probably would do you little good.

I'm going to describe an alternate Santa routine that you can use even if you have never considered yourself right for the role of Santa for whatever reason. It's called Santa Clown.

Santa Clown is Mr. Rainbow poorly disguised as Santa. I have the red suit and the hat. I also have Mr. Rainbow's shoes and my normal facial design. The beard, sans mustache, comes down completely below my chin so that my normal clown face is fully visible. There is no doubt whatsoever that it is Mr. Rainbow and not Santa. It very loudly begs the question "What the heck is Mr. Rainbow doing in a Santa suit?"

The answer is simple. "Santa has a cold and he has to stay in bed for a couple of days (his sneeze sounds horrible by the way) so he can make his rounds Christmas Eve. He was afraid he would miss getting the kids Christmas lists so he called me. I was sound asleep cause it was really late and at first I was kinda mad because I don't like getting called late at night, but when I found out it was Santa I couldn't stay mad cause he knows if I've been naughty or nice and I don't want to get nothing for Christmas. Anyway he asked me if I would come and get the lists for him, is that OK with you guys?"

You get the picture? I am free to do all the normal Santa stuff and mesh it with my clown character.

I started doing Santa Clown in response to a situation at the hospital I visit. They didn't want yet another standard Santa running around and causing confusion with Santas the kids had already seen. Santa Clown can blame any confusion on miscommunication and/or Santa's cold. "By the way, was there anything you forgot to tell Santa when you saw him?" There usually is.

I take down their requests on paper (how does Santa remember all this?) and pass it along to one of the therapists who passes it along to the retirement home that makes Santa calls to the kid's rooms. They call to check that Mr. Rainbow got it all down correctly! Didn't see that one coming now did you?

Oh! Oh! Oh! ...Sorry I got my cue card upside down. HO! HO! HO!

 

 

 

Conversations With Santa                   The New Calliope vol. 14 #6

 

1997 marks my 29th consecutive year playing Santa. I started in December 1969 as a junior in high school doing Santa for an annual party our Catholic high school gave for inner city kids. You hear a lot as Santa. Without betraying too many confidences, here are a couple of conversations with Santa from my 28th year.

One of my biggest laughs came from a little girl around 11 or 12 years old who simply said, "Santa, just come in and look around and if you don't see it, bring it!"

This conversation I had with a little girl around 7 years old who whispered secretively in my ear the whole time.

Little Girl: Do you know my daddy's name?

Santa: Of course I know your daddy's name.

Little Girl: What is it?

Santa: His name is "Scooter".

Little Girl: That's not his name.

Santa: That's the name people used to call him when he was a little baby and so that's the name I still call him today.

Little Girl: Tell me his real name.

Santa: I'm not supposed to do that. Do you know his real name or does he still go by the name Scooter? Little Girl: His name is ...(gives name)

Santa: You're right, that's my little Scooter.

Little Girl: Santa?

Santa: Yes?

Little Girl: Can you bring my daddy back? I want to live with my daddy.

I don't remember my exact response. I know I didn't say yes or make any promises, nor did I ask where daddy was. As she was leaving an older lady walked up and said softly "She probably asked about her daddy. She's a foster child." Sometimes the kids end up leaving Santa speechless.

Other times Santa has a lot to say. This conversation had Santa with an 11 year old girl and a 9 year old brother, both on my knees at the same time because mom, standing in front, wanted a picture. They were acting like typical brother and sister.

Santa: Is this your brother?

Sister: Yes.

Santa: Is this your sister?

Brother: Yes.

Santa: Now before I ask what you want for Christmas I want you both to tell me something O.K.?

Both: O.K.

Santa: I want you to tell me one really good thing about your brother, and I want you to tell me one really good thing about your sister. (Pause)

Brother: Well ... umnim...

Santa: I'll give you time to think. Now you tell me one really good thing about your brother.

Sister: Well ...he's really smart ...and he does the right things.

Santa: That's good to hear. Now you tell me one really good thing about your sister.

Brother: Well ...she helps me a lot when I get hurt.

Santa: Good, I knew you could think of something. Now I want you both to remember, no matter what happens this year and how many times you might get mad and yell at each other like brothers and sisters do, I want you to remember that deep down your sister really thinks that you are smart and you can be trusted to do the right thing, and I want you to remember that your brother really appreciates you being there to help him when things go wrong.

Mom is up front wiping away a tear. The conversation continues.

Santa: Now what is the one thing you really want for Christmas?

Brother: A bike!

Mom: (sort of rolling her eyes) Oh my!

Santa: And what is the one thing you really want for Christmas?

Sister: I want a bike too.

Mom: (a bit worried) Good Lord!

Santa: Well let me ask Mom a question if that's O.K. with you two. Mom, think back, what was the most memorable present you ever got as a child for Christmas?

Mom: Well ...(face brightening into a radiant smile) it was a bike! It was my pink flyer! It was cold wet and rainy outside but I didn't care, I just had to go out riding right away!

 

I didn't make any promises or draw any obvious connections. I know mom definitely got back in touch with what it feels like to be a kid at Christmas again. They walked away as a family hand-in-hand talking and laughing ...right past the bicycle section of the store.

I'm looking forward to my 29th year as the jolly old elf. I get to have literally hundreds of conversations with kids and adults that go beyond the "what do you want" question, and what I hear is enlightening, funny, and sometimes very moving. Between the long hours, the hot suit, the leg cramps, the itchy beard and the little ones with bad breath, I always seem to come away with a little more than I started.

Merry Christmas!

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