Flint strikes his iconic Michael Jackson pose during a photo shoot at the
Oklahoma City Unleash the Beast show last February. Photo by Andy Watson

Flint Rasmussen won’t get on a bull. And he may be the hottest thing in professional bull riding.

BY BAILEY J. BELTRAMO

It’s about consistency and attention to detail: White goes around his right eye first, always. His mouth is next, left eye after that. Muscle memory then kicks in, developed from decades of performing. Red fills in between islands of white outlined in blue. Black wrinkles and freckles. With every finger stroke of makeup, his features become more accentuated, the excitement builds and a stage persona rises. The final touch before facing a crowd of thousands is writing a small “F.R.” in red just below his right cheekbone.

The transformation is complete: Flint Rasmussen steps into the arena.

Ask fans of bull riding to name the greats in their sport and a list will form. J.B. Mauney and Jess Lockwood are household names. Chris Shivers, Ty Murray and Justin McBride have secured seats in bull riding history. Even some bulls have risen to stardom such as SweetPro’s Bruiser, Pearl Harbor and Bones. Flint Rasmussen is not a bull nor rider. But he has earned his place in the history books and is beloved by many—newcomers, seasoned fans and cowboys alike.

Flint is the exclusive entertainer for the Professional Bull Riders tour, better known as the PBR. Part stand-up comic, part dancer, 100 percent rodeo expert, his upbringing and natural talents have allowed him to revolutionize the role of rodeo clown and carve out a unique position for himself in the western sports world.

Growing up, his talents ran the gamut from natural athleticism on the field and court to musical inclination to a flair for the performing arts. And he was gifted a consistent behind-the-scenes view of rodeos as he followed his father’s announcing career from arena to arena across Montana, learn- ing through osmosis. “The production, the timing of the announcer, knowing when my dad as the announcer needed to talk about something and needed to sell somebody, when he didn’t—that was just ingrained in us, it wasn’t like we set out to learn,” Flint explains.

Eventually, his talents coalesced into a foundation upon which Flint built a rodeo clown role during college summers. Even then, he stuck to the traditional mold of baggy-overalls and scripted skits with props to carry the bulk of his act. But it didn’t take long for his humor and knack for unscripted comedy to rise to the top.

“He took the rodeo world by storm,” says brother Will Rasmussen, an acclaimed rodeo announcer in his own right. “He was the most sought-after clown and entertainer there was.”

Three years after stepping into the arena full-time—an unplanned career change from his post-college job as a high school math teacher—Flint performed at his first National Finals Rodeo. Eight Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association Clown of the Year awards later, he signed on exclusively with the PBR.

It was then that Flint really began to break away from the old school acts and pioneer his style of “walk and talk” that’s become popular. As long-time friend and PBR photographer Andy Watson explains: “Flint took the job position of rodeo clown and turned it into rodeo entertainer.” It’s safe to say the transition has been well received.

“There’s more signs in the crowd for Flint than there are for J.B. Mauney,” Watson says.

If the grandstand metrics aren’t enough, countless social media comments laud Flint with fandom.

“I’ll be there tonight! Wish my horse Flint (named after you) was coming with!” wrote one Instagram user. “So excited I kicked cancer’s ass so I’m able to take my daughter to the show Saturday night. Can’t wait to see you Flint!” commented another.

An artist prepares. Photo by Andy Watson
Flint Rasmussen during the first round of the Duluth Unleash the Beast PBR. Forgoing the jersey and makeup, Flint took up the commentating role in the PBR’s first closed-to-public broadcast. Photo by Andy Watson

“He took the rodeo world by storm,” says brother Will Rasmussen, an acclaimed rodeo announcer in his own right. “He was the most sought-after clown and entertainer there was.”

The success of Flint’s act can be broken down into three main tenets: timing, dancing and the ability to riff worthy of a cast position on Saturday Night Live. First, Flint keeps a finger locked on the pulse of a PBR show every minute he’s in an arena.

Those years of being raised at rodeos allow him to weave his act in and out of the rippling fabric of bucking bulls, adrenaline- pumping music and pyrotechnics that make up a PBR show. Successful entertainers like Flint realize timing is everything, even to the second they make their entrance.

“They know the ebbs and flows, they know a good time to be there, a good time not to be there,” Will says. The result is a seamless experience that wraps up spectators from their arrival to when the last bull bucks.

Add to this the simple fact that Flint has been able to create this experience for fans consistently, something of a rarity in the sport of bull riding. Cowboys’ careers are often not long lasting due to propensity for injury. So, while their careers might be measured in short arcs, Flint’s has encompassed them all.

Second, Flint brought mainstream dancing to bull riding. It’s no two-step or “Copper Head Road” line dance either. In a cowboy hat, makeup and jersey, he breaks into an Elvis Presley hip-swaying shuffle or gets down to whatever pop song is main-stream at the time.

Incorporating the natural Rasmussen rhythm that both brothers claim happened organically. “The first time I went [to a PBR show] and they were playing music I instinctively started dancing because it’s what I do,” Flint says. “I didn’t do anything different than what I was good at.”

And he’s never taken a dance lesson. He does, however, recall the exact moment that learning to dance came to the fore- front of his mind. After a 1983 Jackson 5 performance broadcast on NBC, Michael took the stage alone. The glove went on, the groove of “Billie Jean” kicked in, and he moonwalked across the stage. “I said, ‘I’ve got to learn what Michael Jackson did,’” Flint remembers. The concrete floor of his school’s music room provided an apropos rehearsal area, and day after day he practiced until he too could moonwalk across a stage.

The last ingredient to Flint’s recipe is his good-natured personality that thrives on unscripted, genuine interactions with an audience.

Don’t need no bull. As the PBR entertainer, Flint tends to avoid the livestock. Photo by Bull Stock Media
Flint Rasmussen (right) and brother Will try their hands at entertaining as rodeo clown and rodeo announcer at an amateur circuit event in their hometown of Choteau, Montana, in the summer of 1993. Photo courtesy of Will Rasmussen

“It’s not just telling jokes and walking around and being funny,” Watson says. “It’s actually interacting with the crowd. It’s finding out what that crowd wants and then giving it to them.”

That personable element comes in the form of paying attention to the tiny details of wherever he is performing. He’ll buy a local paper to stay up on a community’s current events or even don the jersey of a home team. Will puts it simply: “He seems tangible.”

In exchange for his high-energy interaction, audiences have become eager to respond in kind. “That’s the shift I see is how much more fun the crowds are,” Flint says. And he’s proud to feel some responsibility in fostering that atmosphere. For two- and-a-half hours, the goal is to connect.

At day’s end, that’s a job well done in Flint’s book. “People get asked ‘What will your tombstone say?’ I’ve always said mine will say ‘He made our day just a little bit better.’ I would like people to at least think or know when I’m out there performing, my heart is wanting you people to feel better.”

Flint has been making fans feel the love for 25 years now but a looming question remains: How long can the show go on? If fans had their way, forever. But having already suffered a heart attack 11 years ago, Flint acknowledges that his seasons in the arena are numbered.

He made clear his commitment to staying with the Western sports world and already has eyes on what that transition could look like. Increased social media outreach, live-stream inter- views, PBR broadcasting opportunities could all be possibilities for the future. The travel reprieve caused by the Covid-19 virus has opened doors toward that end.

Flint dazzles the crowd with dancing, impersonations and even lasso work. Photo by Andy Watson

A new “Flint From Home” livestream series has popped up on Facebook, and Flint has taken up a spot on the broadcast team for the closed-to-public broadcast format PBR CEO Sean Gleason has laid out at the Lazy-E Ranch in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

But no matter how Flint’s role may change down the road, his good-natured humor and genuine desire to entertain fans in order to grow the Western sports world will continue to shine through—whether it’s from behind his iconic makeup or not.

Bailey J. Beltramo hails from rural New Hampshire and has spent the past three years exploring the West. He’s fascinated with ranching culture and the grandeur of wide-open spaces. As a storyteller, his work is inspired by illuminating hidden experiences in hopes of broadening others’ perspectives.