Justin Rumford is such a clown.
Proud of it, too. Rumford is the "2014 Rodeo Clown of the Year," an honor he said he has won three of the five years he's been clowning. "Pretty fortunate," he said.
I interviewed Rumford last week when the "World's Toughest Rodeo" made a stop at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.
It's not all greasepaint and jumping into barrels. In fact, Rumford prefers minimal makeup, and he said he's not in the line of work that involves hopping into barrels to distract angry bulls. He's more of a comedian who uses physical and verbal comedy to hold the attention of the arena. If you're a parent checking your cell or social media, Rumford may make you pay for not being in the moment with your kids.
Rumford is in the moment 24/7 with triplets who travel with him and his wife to nearly year-round appearances. Having three babies hadn't much overwhelmed Rumford until the day he painted the faces of his three wiggly ones for a photo you can see in my startribune.com/video.
My special thanks to poet and retired clown Tim Torkildson for helping with the questions I asked Rumford.
Q: You're that rare person who can't be insulted by being called a clown?
A: No! Being a clown is great. I make a lot of money and do what I want. Pretty easy going.
Q: (His phone pings) And you're very popular because your phone keeps ringing?
A: Oh, yeah.
Q: What made you decide to become a clown?
A: Good rodeo clowns make around $150,000 to $200,000 a year. It's a great lifestyle. You pick where you go. You set your own schedule. You're your own boss. You do your own contracts. You do your own e-mails, promos. Setting up different producers. At the end of the day, I've got a degree in business and I couldn't make that much money if I had a 9 to 5. You're pretty much on a paid vacation as a clown. It's a very great lifestyle. I'm very happy to have it. There's a lot of business in clowning. Being in the arena is the easy part.
Q: What do you learn as you become a better clown?
A: You really learn how to adapt to different situations. With everything we have in this society — Facebook and Twitter and Instagram — to keep people's attention is kind of hard. You can't just go in there and tell jokes. I use a lot of physical comedy because I'm a big guy, pretty agile. I'm just trying to adapt to my surroundings. I've got a wireless microphone. I will talk to the people in the stands.
Q: Do you like to mess with them?
A: I love it. I love finding the rowdy fan. If I do catch somebody on their phone, I like to get their phone, bring it into the arena and read their text messages over the microphone. Kind of embarrass them to the point where we're going to make you have fun. I like to mess with the crowd.
Q: Has any clown ever frightened you?
A: Not rodeo clowns. Rodeo clowns are pretty much the same people they are in the back as they are in the arena. They're not weird circus clowns. We're more entertainers. We keep the crowd going and make sure everybody has a great time.
Q: Who would you rather spend time with: Bozo or Ronald McDonald?
A: Who's Bozo?
Q: You've never heard of Bozo the Clown?
A: Uh-uh. Beats me. Ronald McDonald. I like cheeseburgers, I guess. As you can tell.
Q: How is the adjustment to triplets?
A: I don't know. We've never had one, so three seems pretty normal.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9's "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count.