Plenty of laughs yet for clown

Rodeo clown Richard Robinson at the Wanaka Rodeo yesterday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Rodeo clown Richard Robinson at the Wanaka Rodeo yesterday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Dodging bucking bulls and broncos is all in a day's work for rodeo clown Richard Robinson, yet speed and agility are not necessities for the job, he says.

''Not for me anymore. I just stay out of the road as much as I can,'' he said yesterday, at the Wanaka Rodeo.

Mr Robinson's clown character ''Festus'' entertains the crowd between events, a role which usually sees him centre stage for the duration of a rodeo, including during the popular bull ride competition.

''I love trying to crank the crowd up for that.''

Now in his 40s ... ''just'', Mr Robinson lives in Dunback and is president of the Waikouaiti Rodeo Club. His association with rodeo is a long one.

''I've been clowning for about 20 years but I've been part of rodeo since I was a wee young fella ... I started because I was no good at riding. I rode for years and years. Then I got bigger and fatter.''

In a 2006 interview with the Otago Daily Times, he said he was trying to retire but clowning was ''just too much fun''.

Eight years on, he still thinks about retirement ''just about every day'', but it seems the face paint and wacky wardrobe could be around a while yet.

''It will just depend on clubs, if they'll have me back, I suppose.''

Enjoying meeting new people and ''making a bit of a fool of yourself'' were important requirements for any good rodeo clown, while audience appreciation made all the difference to the clown's own experience, he said.

''If the crowd's into it, like today's crowd is a really good crowd and they're having fun, it's a lot of fun.''

Although Mr Robinson hams it up for the crowds on the rodeo circuit at up to 12 events a year, cracked ribs and trampled feet are the most serious injuries sustained during his clown career.

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz