Clown Ministry Routines

An Object Lesson You Can Use – The Mismade Message Paper Tear

- Dean Cotton, WCA Ministry Director

Mismade Message Paper Tear

In my December article, I explained how using object lessons can help the audience remember a message that you are presenting. This month I want to tell you about a routine I learned from a magazine article written by Bruce Johnson. It is a fun illusion, has a great blow off, can be made with your home computer and printer, and packs small but plays big.

The message you choose to deliver can be any two or three word message. Some examples are: Don’t Do Drugs, Happy B’day, God Loves You, Dios te ama or இயேசு உன்னை யேசிக்கிறார்! If your printer will print it and it fits on the paper, you can use it.

Mismade Message Paper Tear

Here is how I present it. I tell the audience I have a “Special” or “Very Important” message for them and hold a paper with the words out of order and one word printed upside down (the mismade message). I proudly state the message to the audience. Since part of the message is upside down, usually someone in the audience will say “It is upside down”. So I turn it over, but eventually the clown realizes the message is wrong. I blame the error on my computer at home (certainly a clown could not have made the error!). I want to deliver the special message correctly and I try to fix it. I decide to tear it to separate the words so they can be held in the correct order and I do not succeed since there are three pieces and I only have two hands. So the torn pieces are placed on top of each other and folded together. Then I squeeze the folded paper really hard, or sprinkle magic dust or use a magic wand, or sometimes when working with a clown partner they “help” by spitting on it (because their momma told them that spit fixes everything…).

Mismade Message Paper Tear

The paper is unfolded, the paper restored and the message is correct! While unfolding the paper a piece falls on the floor and I make a point of quickly (but obviously) covering the paper with my shoe. The audience (and or your clown partner) wants to know what is that paper that fell on the floor? Here is a chance to play with the audience and lift the other foot and ask, “What paper?” When you do pick up the paper and open it, a decoy message is revealed. For example, I finish a birth-day party show with the message Happy B’day (Spelling out the word Birthday is a bit too long for the bit) and the decoy message is the birthday child’s name. Or if the message is God Loves You the decoy message is John 3:16, the bible verse that tells us how much God loves us. So the decoy message gives a great surprise ending and blow off for the bit.


Mismade Message Paper Tear

Here is how to make it. Several computer programs can produce the graphics you will use. I use Microsoft Word. In Word you can insert “WordArt” into your document. WordArt allows you to create large size lettering. I use WordArt to create these two pages. The pages are cut in half and you are ready for the next step. Fold the correct message in half lengthwise and then accordion fold. Do the same for the decoy message. Then fold each mes-sage in thirds creating a square “package”. With glue or tape (I use double sided scotch tape) stick the folded correct message near one end and on the back side of the mismade message. Fold the ends of the correct message over the decoy message and interlock the folds of the correct message to hold both in place and create a folded package on the back of the mis-made message. The extra correct mes-sage can be placed in your pocket or per-formance case (you need to fold it so that it looks like the corrected message). After you show the restored, corrected message you can ditch it, in pocket or case, and after the decoy message is revealed, you can hand out the decoy message and the correct (second sheet) message to an audience member for examination and for them to keep. If you hand out the “clean” correct (second sheet) message, I guarantee that the first thing they will do is turn it over and look at the back and try to figure out how you did that.

Mismade Message Paper Tear

I have used the mismade message paper tear clowning in Georgia, in Wales, India and Thailand with great success. I urge you to give it a try. I think you will find it quite useful and fun to perform. Practice manipulat-ing the paper and make the patter and routine fit your clown character. Make it your own.

I want to thank Bruce “Charlie” Johnson for sharing this routine in that magazine article some years ago. And if you want to learn more, Bruce discusses this routine in greater detail in his book Creativity for Enter-tainers Volume Three: Creative Routines, which is available from his website.

And I want y’all to remember that I welcome your thoughts and questions on this or any other clown ministry topic. If I can help you with this routine by emailing you a copy of the word file I use, or anything else, you can reach me at -

Keep Smiling,