Andy Watson / Bull Stock Media
- Professional Bull Riding’s Exclusive Arena Entertainer Flint Rasmussen is a man of many talents who wears many hats, literally.
- He is an athlete, a showman and a God-forward family man.
- Most importantly, Flint Rasmussen is a giver.
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Flint Rasmussen is one of the funniest people to walk the earth, but he doesn’t think he would be a very good stand-up comedian. His humor, his role, and his persona are inherently different.
Over the past 33 years, Flint has revolutionized the entertainment side of Western sports. As Professional Bull Riding’s Exclusive Arena Entertainer, his name has become synonymous with both rodeo and bull riding. There is nobody else in the world who can do what he does how he does it.
If you are unfamiliar with Flint, he is not a rodeo clown. His roots are in rodeo and barrel clowning, but Professional Bull Riding is not a rodeo. It is only Bull Riding.
In a lot of ways, P.B.R. is like the W.W.E. The difference is that the narrative is real, similar to F1 racing. Each week matters and the story begins with the first event of the season and ends at the World Finals. It never stops.
From an entertainment standpoint, there is a lot of dead air in the sport. That’s where Flint comes in. The 53-year-old has a responsibility to mask that dead air.
“In a sport with slow spots, it is my job to make sure that the people who paid to get in don’t realize that there are slow spots,” he says. “That, and to provide contagious joy and energy.”
To get to this point has taken a lot of practice and hard work. Every performance is different, but the principle remains the same. A day in the life of Flint Rasmussen is unlike any that of any other person in the world.
11:30 a.m. — The day begins.
Growing up in the small town of Choteau, Montana, rodeo was always a big part of Flint’s life. He never aspired to become a “rodeo entertainer,” but performing in front of an audience came naturally.
In the fifth grade, Flint played a starving orphan in Oliver. During his prep days, he starred in the Sound of Music. He has sung on stage with Brad Paisley and was part of a choir group. Flint has even been a public radio sports announcer.
Now, he is engrained in the production of the world’s most dangerous sport.
Just over two hours before taking the ring, Flint stands tall with a smile on his face and a cup of black coffee in his hands. He isn’t the first to arrive to the day’s production meeting, but he isn’t the last. As everyone else starts to filter in and take their place around the edges of the back-of-house set-up, Flint stands in the middle.
It’s not his show, but there would not be a show without him. He knows that.
“I believe that I’m the best at what I do and there is no one else like me,” says Flint. “But in an odd way, that belief keeps me humble. If I don’t approach each event with that mindset of being the best, and performing to that standard, that’s when things start to go wrong. Heavy is the head who wears the crown, you know?”
After a little bit of jibber-jabber about the night and a few jokes about the day ahead, it’s time to get to work. There is a lot to keep track of while running through the day’s rundown, but at this point Flint has it down to a science. He knows when he has to plug a sponsor, he knows when the show (live on CBS Sports) is going to commercial break, and he knows the in-and-outs of when to take over or when to let the riders shine.
What he doesn’t know, however, is what the crowd will look like or how he is going to make them laugh. That will come to him in the moment.
“A lot of people get in front of a crowd and their mind shuts down,” he says. “For me, when I get in front of a crowd, my mind wakes up. It’s almost as if a computer signal starts connecting and it all starts to come together.”
Some of Flint’s routine is prepared ahead of time but he is often at his best when it’s improvised. He grew up watching a lot of stand-up comedians and drew inspiration from his favorites. Howie Mandel was, and is, a big influence on Flint.
Both Flint and Mandel both use a lot of back-and-forth with the crowd. In one of Mandel’s routines, he goes around the audience, asks people about themselves and cracks a few jokes at their expense.
Flint does the same thing.
11:48 a.m. — It’s all about the fans.
Once the day’s schedule has been discussed, it’s time to greet the fans.
The P.B.R. organization was founded in 1992 by 20 professional bull riders on the rodeo circuit. The group of riders were seeking to break away from traditional rodeo and gain better recognition for the sport’s most popular event.
That way, each time the fans tuned in, they were seeing the best of the best every time. Professional Bull Riding, like most things, does not exist without the fans.
Flint wasn’t part of the initial organization, but he has become an integral part of the day-to-day operations. When he shows up to the question and answer session for VIP ticket holders, everybody in the room perks up just a little bit.
“I don’t always want to make their day better, but it’s my job and I’m a giver,” he jokes. “I get up each morning and choose to leave a lasting impression on the people who paid money to come watch the best bull riders in the world ride the best bulls in the world.”
As the VIPs go around and ask questions of the panel in front of them, Flint is always the first to answer with a quick quip or a funny anecdote. He knows the sport better than anyone, and although he has never ridden a bull himself, this is what he has done for more than two decades.
“When I look at a ride, I know what went right or wrong,” Flint says. “I can speak the sport with the best of them, but what I do goes beyond that. I have to communicate with the bull fighting team, the in-stadium announcer and the music guy. I need to have eyes on every single thing that is going on in the present moment.”
Flint has an uncanny ability to catch the little details and holds onto them until the right moment. When that moment comes, he strikes.
Whether that is one of his bullfighters borrowing his shoes, finding a doppelgänger, or slipping on stage, he gets in an idea in his head and capitalizes.
Each moment is calculated and intentional, but he doesn’t always know what is to come of it. And yet, Flint rarely misses.
12:19 p.m. — Focus in.
With just over an hour and a half until showtime, Flint heads back into the locker room. Before doing anything else, the first decision is what to wear.
His locker is packed in tight with jerseys, shorts, and more hats than one man could wear in a week.
After picking a jersey, it’s time to get ready and he heads into the room with the team of bullfighters. That process includes getting dressed, putting on makeup and getting in the right headspace.
“I need that time — we need that time — to just be us,” he says. “There are some days where I am grumpy, but this time is when we turn that around, find our energy and get ready to put on a show.”
Part of tapping into the energy that Flint speaks of is getting loose and stretching. There is a significant physical component to the job.
Fortunately, Flint has always been an athlete so that is no issue. In high school, he was All-State in football and track & field, long jumping more than 22 feet. And then he helped pay his way through college by working as a barrel clown.
It was then that he began to take notice of the clowns and their performances. A few years later, after attending a rodeo with his family, they sat around the kitchen table and Flint had an idea.
He mentioned that many of the clown acts he watched as a kid had not changed much. He wondered what an act could look like if a clown did some newer things with music and got the crowd more involved. His family encouraged him to give it a shot.
“I just thought it needed a new energy, a young guy who could relate and get young people to get back to rodeo,” Flint said.
The rest is history.
So as Flint sits in his locker room, he thinks back to before he got his break and uses it as a driving force.
“We all find something we’re good at,” he says. “We (the bullfighting team) have people who come up to us all the time and tell us how crazy we are. We aren’t crazy. We are just people making a career out of something we love. Sometimes I’ll ask those same people what they do for a living. And when they tell me about their desk job, or whatever it is that they do, I say that’s crazy.”
Flint does admit that he is a little bit crazy but he says that we are all a little bit crazy, which is true. Some of the most genius people in history were innately mad and — by the definition — Flint is one of those geniuses.
1:28 p.m. — Following the lights.
With his makeup on and shoes laced, Flint walks out from his locker room and into the back tunnels of arenas where so many great athletes, musicians and performers have come before him. He heads toward the bright lights and roaring crowd.
As Flint nears the ring, riders, media personalities, and celebrities walk by. They all stop to chat with the funniest man in the arena. He thanks each one of them for being there and hopes that they enjoy the show.
Flint is there to make the show as great as it can be for those around him and has done it countless times before. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get nervous.
“The nerves kick in when I know it’s daunting,” Flint says. “When it’s the World Finals, I get a little bit nervous. When it’s in my hometown, I get a little bit nervous. When I’m unprepared, I get a little bit nervous. For example, if there are three breaks in the show and I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with those breaks, the nerves are there. But most of the time, that’s when I perform best. It has to be organic.”
To help calm the nerves and find his tranquility, Flint turns to a higher power. He is a man of faith and gives thanks to God for his blessings each and every day.
Before every show, he takes the time to step aside and pray. He prays for the health and safety of everyone involved, he prays for clarity and ease in the arena, and he prays that the people who are in the stands enjoy the show as much as he does.
With his thoughts gathered and legs loose, Flint is ready.
1:43pm — Showtime.
Flint takes one final moment to pause, take a deep breath and look around. It’s showtime.
He runs into the stadium and the crowd erupts.
1:45pm — All gas, no breaks.
When Flint gets into the ring, the whole energy changes and things start to click.
“I’m not a writer,” he says. “I’m a reactor. I feed off of the crowd, off of the announcers, off of the music, off of the fighters and off of the riders. But as much as I take from them, I have to give twice as much back. I have to match them and raise the bar.”
There is never anything certain in bull riding. It is not guaranteed that any single rider will hold on for eight seconds.
Even if the action lacks, Flint has to keep things vibrant. He always does.
Part of his material is pre-planned. The rest of it is off of the cuff. And, like Mandel, a big part of Flint’s performance is laughing with the crowd about themselves.
For example, while in Nashville every year, he cracks jokes about the city’s large number of bachelorette parties. While in Nashville this year, he noticed a fan in the front row wearing a “Don’t Mess With Texas” hat and decided to take a moment to crack some jokes about the Lone Star State.
Flint also asked the fan if he was single. He was.
About a half an hour after the initial exchange, Flint circled back to the Texas-native and let him know that he found him a wife. He was playing cupid and it got a laugh out of everyone in the arena— the Texas man included.
In most instances, the fan with whom Flint interacts is a good sport. Even still, a big part of that exchange is what Flint calls a “wink and nudge” moment.
Once the joke has been made and the dialogue has passed, he circles back with the fan and makes sure that the air is cleared and that there are no hard feelings.
“I have to know that we’re good, otherwise I didn’t give that fan the same experience as everyone else,” Flint says. “Everyone who leaves the arena needs to have had a good time. It can’t be everyone else in the arena having fun at one person’s expense. It’s a ‘hey, we good?’ and then I move on to the next thing.”
While he was in Nashville, Flint took it one step further. Near the end of each event, Cooper Tires presents a ‘Fan of the Night.’
After harping on the ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ hat, the fan was a great sport. When Flint made a joke, he played back. After playing such a crucial part in the banter throughout the night, the “wink and nudge” moment was amplified and the Texas man was named the ‘Fan of the Night.’
In addition to his chatter with the crowd, Flint has quite a repertoire.
He is a tremendous dancer and loves to break it down. His Michael Jackson impression is pretty spot on.
If he’s not cutting a rug, he’s either taunting 1,800-pound bulls, doing his best Steve Irwin impression, playing a mean harmonica, or going deep on a fly route for one of the bullfighters to throw him his hat.
But more than likely, he’s cutting a rug.
4:15 p.m. — Snap back to reality.
At the end of the day, it’s just something that the Montana-native was born with— an uncanny ability to know where to be, when to be there, what to say or do, and when to say or do it.
From the second he steps out into the dirt until the minute the last bull has bucked, Flint is full throttle. When the day is done, he winds back down to the kind-hearted man who loves his family and puts his people first.
“I have brothers, but these are my other brothers” Flint says, pointing at the other people in the room around him. “There is no bus taking us to these events. There is no one packing our bags. We have to choose to get up every morning and be here. I am here, in large part, because of them. And when it’s time to turn around and go home, I am blessed to go home to my two daughters and be a part of their lives. Life isn’t about what you do, it’s about who you surround yourself with.”
Flint Rasmussen is one of the funniest people to walk the earth, but he doesn’t think he would be a very good stand-up comedian. His humor, his role, and his persona are inherently different. He is Flint Rasmussen and there is no one else like him.