CLAREMORE, Okla. – If laughter is the best medicine, then Mark Swingler needs a prescription pad.
No, Swingler isn’t a doctor by any means. He is, in fact, one of the most sought-after clowns in professional rodeo, and he’s bringing his brand of funny to the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Friday, May 24-Sunday, May 26. It’s his job to be as entertaining as possible. He got started in the rodeo business as a competitor and went from bull rider to bullfighter to entertainer. “I don’t want anybody to think I’m working,” said Swingler of Austin, Texas. “Humor and laughter is contagious. Nobody wants to see anybody work. They want to have fun. That’s why you have spoofs when the act goes south.
“Plus I like the fresh stuff. I kind of use my wit and my humor with my surroundings. You just look up in the stands, and you’ve got enough material for a long time.”
Swingler has been in the business most of his life. He began as a bull rider, then took a shot at protecting fallen cowboys as a bullfighter. In fact, that’s how Swingler got his start in ProRodeo.
“I started in 1987, and I actually fought bulls until 1992,” he said. “It was kind of old school back then, when you fought bulls and did the comedy. I was mainly fighting bulls, but I found myself enjoying the entertaining part. By 1993, I worked one into the other. By 1994, my bullfighting cleats were hung up.”
In the years since, Swingler has been nominated for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year and Comedy Act of the Year. He has a nice load of entertaining acts, but his specialty is the “walk-and-talk,” where he observes the goings-on in and out of the arena and maintains the level of excitement for fans.
“I’m not what we call a canned person,” he said. “I don’t have a routine. I have acts, and even when I work Denver and 23 performances they have there, I was rotating seven acts. With the walking and talking, I just go with the flow. I’m one of those guys that says what everybody’s thinking, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. A lot of that depends on the announcers, but it’s a blast.
“I learned a long time ago that if you have a great performance, you usually forget what you did because it was just spontaneous and you just go with the flow. If you try to repeat it, it’s not going to work.”
Plus he gets to put smiles on thousands of fans each year. That’s a wonderful benefit he shares with Swingler.
“I just enjoy entertaining people, seeing them enjoy themselves,” Swingler said. “If I can get people to forget about their worldly troubles for just two and a half hours, then I feel like I’m successful.”