DUNCAN, Okla. – Even though he’s from the southeastern Oklahoma community of Soper, the area around Stephens County, Okla., will always be a home of sorts for rodeo clown John Harrison.
“That part of the country is where my grandparents are from,” said Harrison, the three-time and reigning PRCA Comedy Act of the Year. “My grandfather is from Lawton, and my grandmother went to Marlow High School.”
He returns to this comfortable neck of the woods for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19-Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan. It marks his second straight appearance at the regional championship for cowboys and rodeos primarily from Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.
“Duncan is one of those happy places, because there’s where I was when I got the call to work the NFR last year,” he said of serving as the barrelman for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand championship that takes place every December in Las Vegas.
“I was getting ready for the first performance when the call came in. I don’t even remember the first performance because I was so excited.”
Harrison has been selected to work the NFR three of the last four years. It’s one of the biggest honors for men who make their living through comedy and working the barrel in bull riding.
“It’s actually the greatest honor that there is,” he said. “It’s very humbling, because you know the amount of talent that’s there. It makes you feel good to know you’re respected by your peers enough to get that call.”
But that’s just one aspect of who Harrison is. Yes, he has been named Coors Man in the Can twice; it’s recognition for his work inside the barrel. But he also has been nominated for PRCA Clown of the Year. Before he got into the business of being funny, Harrison was a talented trick rider and actually performed at the NFR as an opening act three times, 2001, ’02 and ’08.
When the opportunity came for him to expand his showcase, Harrison took it and ran with it. Now he utilizes his athleticism in various ways in order to entertain rodeo fans from coast to coast.
“Everything’s changed since I first started clowning,” said Harrison, 38, the grandson of 1962 world champion bull rider Freckles Brown. “I’m married and have a family and responsibilities. My whole life has changed.”
It’s been pretty good. When possible, his wife, Carla, and their three children travel the rodeo circuit with him. When it’s not possible, Harrison knows his rodeo family will be there.
He has carried his trick-riding abilities over, and it’s a big part of the comedy that Harrison delivers. That’s the key reaching fans with a variety of entertaining items. Whether it’s a trick riding display that will leave fans in awe or his parody of rodeo queens, Harrison has a lot of ammunition.
“I do this for the love of the sport,” Harrison said. “Growing up with it, you enjoy it. Now I can actually make a living at it, so that helps.”