Bruce Johnson

Charlie The Juggling Clown

Creating Happy Memories that Last a Lifetime


The Clown-Around-The-World Festival

By Bruce “Charlie” Johnson


I had the honor and pleasure of being part of the inaugural Clown-Around-The-World Festival November 24-28, 2004 , in Singapore.  The festival performers were Kenny Ahern (USA), Terry Davolt (USA), Bruce “Charlie” Johnson (USA), Lee Mullally (USA), Arthur Pedlar and Alan Whitely (England), Rone & Gigi (Japan), Richard Snowberg (USA), and Sam Tee (Malaysia).    We performed ten variety shows in a beautiful theater at the NTUC Center .  His Excellency H.R. Nathan, the President of the Republic of Singapore, was in the audience at the tenth show. 

The festival was billed as “entertainment with strong social cause.”  The organizers used our presence to raise $138,000 from sponsors.  The money was divided among five local charities.

The festival was the inspiration of Knick Pang, founder and director of circusOUTREACH.  It was organized by circusOUTREACH and the Write Stuff, organizations based in Singapore .  The festival was produced by Richard Snowberg, director of the University of Wisconsin Clown Camp .

CircusOUTREACH uses circus skills for social causes.  CircusOUTREACH teaches circus skills to disadvantaged youth in the Singapore as a medium for teaching them life skills.  The organization also teaches circus skills in Singapore schools.

Knick teaches a circus skills class in a prison.  During the festival, Lee Mullally and Rone & Gigi performed a show at the prison.  The students in the class had seen a video of a performance by Rone & Gigi so the duo was met by the inmates as if they were stars.  At the end of the festival, Knick announced that permission had been obtained for the inmates to be briefly released from prison to put on their own circus performance.

CircusOUTREACH has a caring clown unit that visits the National University Hospital two days a week.  During the festival, Richard Snowberg and I visited the hospital.  A member of the circusOUTREACH caring clown unit followed us to observe how we worked in that setting.

Members of our performance troupe also entertained at high teas at the Amara Hotel, our host hotel. 

The entire group performed in public outreach shows at Faith Methodist Church .  Two simultaneous shows were performed in their two sanctuaries for a combined audience of over 1600 people.  The troupe was split in half to cover both locations.  A local children’s evangelist, Sam Tee, and I appeared in both shows.  The other performers appeared in one of the performances.

The group of clowns received extensive media coverage with many newspaper articles and TV news reports.  Richard Snowberg and Gigi & Rone appeared on an English language TV talk show on Channel News Asia.  The broadcast is seen by 14 million people in 18 countries.  The next morning, Richard Snowberg, Knick Pang, and I appeared on Singapore Today, a Chinese language talk show.  The host asked us questions in English, and after we answered she translated the question and our answer into Chinese.  After the interview, I performed part of my juggling and magic act done silently to a musical background.

I think an unusual accomplishment by this group of entertainers was that every performance ended exactly on time.  Several of the entertainers use audience interaction in their routines so the exact content of their acts varied from show to show.  However, nobody missed their assigned act length by more than two minutes during the entire trip.

All of the performers invited to participate in the festival have been instructors at the U-W Clown Camp.  Billed as the oldest and largest clown education program in the world, Clown Camp will be celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary in the summer of 2005.  Clown Camp has held week long training programs at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and in Medicine Hat , Canada .  Weekend Clown Camp On The Road sessions have been held throughout the United States .  In connection with the festival, the first Clown Camp On The Road programs were held outside of North America .  In Singapore , the performers taught two two-day Clown Camp programs.  One focused on caring clowning and the other had an emphasis on humor and education. 

Following the festival, a smaller group of performers (Bruce Johnson, Lee Mullally, Rone & Gigi, Richard Snowberg, and Sam Tee) continued on to Malaysia .  The troupe performed a stage show in the auditorium of the Daripada Hospital in Melaka.  Then we taught a two-day Clown Camp On The Road session in Kuala Lumpur with a duo emphasis on caring clowning and clown ministry.  Wang Gee Kiang and Yang Wir Wai, two of the students in the classes in Malaysia , belong to relief organizations.  The Star Metro newspaper quoted Yang as saying, “Sometimes when dealing with troubled people, we often find ourselves in awkward situations when trying to approach them.  That’s why I join the camp.  To learn to use light humor and to look at life from a different angle altogether.”

Wang was quoted as saying, “I hope to be able to use the techniques I learn here when I take part in future relief efforts.” 

None of us realized how quickly our students would need to put their new knowledge to use.  Within a month the earthquake and tsunami hit the region.

The trip to Malaysia was at the invitation of Sam Tee, a resident of Malaysia who is on the Clown Camp instructional staff.

I would like to thank Knick Pang and the circusOUTREACH staff, the Write Stuff staff, and Sam Tee for their hospitality while I visited their countries.

Copyright 2005 by Bruce “Charlie” Johnson.  All rights reserved.