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How Do I Start Clowning? Balloon twisting, part 1

Clown Tutorial – twisting balloon animals, part 1

The first ‘clown skill’ we’ll look at is twisting balloon animals into different shapes. Why balloon animals first? There are several reasons: it’s virtually expected of a clown for one, it’s inexpensive (roughly 8 cents each, buying them retail), and extremely versatile.

A few caveats first. Be aware that balloons can, do, and will pop. That’s normal. Even though they’re made of latex (not standard balloon rubber), and can, therefore, take a lot more ‘twisting,’ they will still pop. Never give a balloon to a small child (I use a guideline of three years old or less). If the child bites on the balloon (which small children will do — taste is a significant part of how they experience the world), the balloon will pop, a piece can then fly straight down the child’s throat, and the child will suffocate and die — you will not be able to dislodge that piece of latex in time to save the child. Don’t turn something meant to delight a child into something so horrible. Thank you.

If you think it was depressing to read that paragraph, imagine what it must have been to write it. Also, (even though it seems harsh), don’t trust the parent who says that they’ll just keep in on the child’s shelf or dresser; I’ve had parents tell me that, and then hand the balloon to the child as they stroll away! Remember your goal in doing this is to make children smile, not cry. How do you avoid the problem? By telling them that your insurance doesn’t cover giving balloon animals away to children under the age of 3 (no lie, by the way — if you’re a member of the Clowns of America International, and have their performers insurance policy, it doesn’t).

Everybody depressed by now? Okay, let’s look on the happy side for a moment. For every “problem” situation I’ve had like the ones I’ve just described, I’ve had one hundred happy, smiling children who are running off to show (friend, sibling, Mom, Dad, Grandma, etc.) their new treasure. It’s a magical moment.

One last comment about popping balloons. You will do it. You will do it many times. Your spouse will ask you to leave the room if you pop one more of those things, you’re driving her crazy! That’s normal. The more you do it, the less often it happens, and your spouse will tolerate you more and more, eventually letting you back inside the house :o)

As normal, this first installment is the necessary boring preliminary stuff. Even so, please take it to heart. Our goal is to make people laugh and smile—let’s be careful out there.

Next time, we’ll actually begin inflating and twisting simple balloon animals, learn why the dog is so popular, and how to be a “twisted” individual. See you then!

Bibliography for twisting balloon animals

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Balloon Animals, by Aaron Hsu-Flanders

Balloon Animals

Balloon Animals, by Aaron Hsu-FlandersBalloon Animals / Book With Pump and Balloons, by Aaron Hsu-Flanders

Buy from Amazon.com This was actually the first book I ever read about making balloon animals. It has much to recommend it; it comes with some balloons (though you’ll need more; balloon twisting is a  pop  art, after all), and a simple palm pump (fits in the palm of your hand, and takes numerous squeezes to inflate a single 260 balloon), and is illustrated throughout with clear photographs and clear instructions. One of the nicest part of the book are the suggestions for changes to either make more types of balloon animals, or to customize your creations.

However, I can’t recommend it highly, simply due to its’ size. (more…)

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Dewey's Gospel Cartoon Chalk Talks, by Ralph Dewey

Dewey’s Gospel Cartoon Chalk Talks

Dewey’s Gospel Cartoon Chalk  Talks by Ralph G. Dewey

Dewey's Gospel Cartoon Chalk Talks, by Ralph DeweyPaperback (June 1979)

Buy from Amazon.com  A very nice, and very useful, pamphlet, showing the basics of doing chalk talks, as well as several specific examples. Draw one image, add a few strokes, and change the image & drive home your point. I’ve used it successfully at our children’s outreach at our church. Recommended. I rate it 3 clowns  clownclownclown  out of 5. Like all of Ralph Dewey’s manuscripts, it’s a short pamphlet; were it longer, I would likely have rated it 4 clowns. (more…)

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Dewey's Gospel Balloon Routines #3

Dewey’s Gospel Balloon Routines/No 3

Buy from Amazon.com  Dewey’s Gospel Balloon Routines/No 3 by Ralph G. Dewey

Dewey's Gospel Balloon Routines #3Like the rest of the series, this book is a compilation of Ralph Dewey’s “Good News Balloons” columns from Christian Conjurer magazine, edited, updated and supplemented by new material. It’s a very nice resource, which I recommend to balloon workers, caring clowns or clown ministers. Although it’s much longer that the  first book in the series, like all of Ralph Dewey’s books, it’s more of a pamphlet (28 pages) than a book, but a bargain at the price ($4.50 as of 09/02/2001). It makes a very nice sequel to the  second book in the series, in that it’s actually an entire half-hour routine, presented in detail. (more…)

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Dewey's Clown Gags and Giggles

Dewey’s Clown Gags and Giggles

Dewey’s Clown Gags  and Giggles  by Ralph G. Dewey

Editorial Review of Dewey’s Clown Gags & Giggles:

Buy from Amazon.com  Dewey's Clown Gags and GigglesDewey’s Clown Gags and Giggles contains plenty of comedy ideas for clowns and other entertainers. Loaded with ideas and gags for “walk-arounds” or parades. It includes comic stunts, funny one liners, skits, imitations, and “bits of business” for clown shows or stage acts. Lots of clever introductions and laugh provoking jokes and puns. Funny jokes to say when the balloon breaks. Excellent resource book with over 260 ideas. Similar to Dewey’s Klown Komedy. (more…)

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Balloon twisting - twisting a balloon dog by counting to three

How Do I Start Clowning? Balloon twisting, part 3

Clown Tutorial – balloon twisting, part 3

Welcome back! Hopefully, by this time you’ve had an opportunity to purchase some balloons (260Q), purchase a pump, and inflate some balloons, and try twisting a simple dog. Now we’re going to add to your repertoire.

There’s an old joke about a clown who boasts, “I can twist over 100 balloon animals!” only to have his partner deflate his ego with the response, “Yes, and they’re all dogs.” There’s a grain of truth in that old joke. For instance, if you take the basic dog that we did last time, and shorten the ears, and lengthen the neck, and instead of a dog, you have a horse! Make the neck even longer, and use a Sharpie marker to add spots, and you have a giraffe. Instead of a dog, inflate the balloon only half as long, and make very short (1 inch) legs, and a very short (2-3 inch) body, and you have a mouse. Make a mouse with a long (inflated) tail, and it’s a squirrel. Hopefully, you get the picture.

Before moving on, there are a few pieces of advice I’d like to pass on. First, always “burp” your balloons. What’s that? After each twist, squeeze the remaining length of the balloon to push the air further into the “tail”, inflating it (and releasing pressure on the next spot). This makes the balloon less tight, and less liable to pop.

When they do pop, how do you handle that? In a funny, clownish way, of course! For instance, one of my favorite moments from Clown Camp 1998 was when Hooligan was making a balloon hat for Murf the Surf (love that name) as part of a skit.  The balloon pops in the middle of the routine! How did Hooligan handle it? In a calm, matter-of-fact voice, he declares “We’ll just have to make another hat now, won’t we?” and keeps on twisting. I’ve done various things when a balloon popped, such as acting as though I’d been shot, looking around for the source of that strange, loud sound, blaming it on a flock of very fast, low-flying geese with very sharp beaks, looking at the child and explaining that it’s pop art (a joke that the child rarely gets, but that the parent accompanying normally groans at), etc.

Now, there are a lot of other animals to make.  My favorite 1-balloon creation is actually a parrot on a swing (which doesn’t look like a dog at all, and uses different techniques to create it). There are multiple balloon creations. There are other techniques, such as roll-throughs and ear twists, which you can use to make bears, and cats, and birds – oh my!

For us to adequately cover all of these things will take dozens of articles.  Which we’re not going to do right now. Bear in mind that this series is meant as an overview. For more in depth, I strongly recommend the book Captain Visual’s Big Book of Balloon art, and the BalloonHQ.com web sites. Both are worth their weight in gold to balloon twisters (how do you weigh a web site? very carefully). Perhaps in the future we can re-visit this topic in depth.

Next time, we’ll start looking at the basics of sleight of hand (magic!), and see how clown magic differs from “magician” magic. See you then!

Bibliography for twisting balloon animals

 

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sword-belt

Clown tutorial – balloon twisting, part 3

Clown tutorial – balloon twisting, part 3

Welcome back!  Hopefully, by this time you’ve had an opportunity to purchase some balloons (260Q), purchase a pump, and inflate some balloons, and try twisting a simple dog. Now we’re going to add to your repertoire. (more…)

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Balloon twisting - the lock twist

How do I start clowning? Balloon twisting, part 2

Clown Tutorial  – balloon twisting, part 2

Welcome back! We’re now at the point where  the rubber meets the road  (pun intended), and start learning how to actually twist balloons. Actually, it’s the latex meeting the road, not the rubber, since the balloons we’ll be using are made of latex — this is what makes them more malleable, and able to survive being ‘twisted.’ Having gotten that tidbit out of the way,  we’ll need the following  to begin with: (more…)

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The Ultimate Balloon Book - 46 projects

The Ultimate Balloon Book

The Ultimate Balloon Book - 64 projects to blow up, bend and twistThe Ultimate Balloon Book: 46 projects to Blow Up, Bend & Twist, by Shar Levine & Michael Ouchi

Buy from Amazon.com

The Ultimate Balloon Book: 46 Projects
 is a very good book, which lives up to its’ title — it includes 64 projects, made with 1 or more balloon animals. Okay, maybe it’s not the ‘Ultimate’ balloon book, but it is very nice. In a nutshell, it combines the best elements from two other balloon animal books ‘series’ —  Aaron Hsu-Flanders‘ books, which are heavy on step-by-step photographs, but short, and  Captain Visual’s  longer, more detailed books, which rely heavily on line art. The Ultimate Balloon Book falls in the middle of these two quite nicely. At  96 pages, it’s  much longer  than Hsu-Flanders’ books, but doesn’t attempt to be the one-volume encyclopedia of twisting of Captain Visual. It does include dozens of color photographs, typically showing the finished creation, as well as numerous diagrams showing the construction of each creation. It also includes a difficulty rating for each creation, from 1 (easy) to 5 (challenging). (more…)

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Clown Tutorial - twisting balloon animals, part 1

Clown Tutorial – twisting balloon animals, part 1

Clown Tutorial – twisting balloon animals, part 1

The first ‘clown skill’ we’ll look at is twisting balloon animals into different shapes. Why balloon animals first? There are several reasons: it’s virtually expected of a clown for one, it’s inexpensive (roughly 8 cents each, buying them retail), and extremely versatile. (more…)

Continue Reading