Rodeo clowns are skilled performers that take center stage between rodeo events, like bull riding and steer roping. Some also play a role in bullfighting events, distracting a bull that's bucked a cowboy until the cowboy can safely leave the arena. Rodeo clowns are usually paid by performance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Size and Experience Matter
How much a rodeo clown earns depends on the size of the rodeo as well as on his experience. Novice rodeo clowns can earn around $200 per performance, according to the BLS. Skilled and popular clowns can command higher salaries. Some even earn more than $2,000 per performance.
Passion For Performing
You don’t become a rodeo clown for the pay, says Cory Wall, a famous rodeo clown. “We’re a lot like schoolteachers -- they are good at what they do and love what they do, though they don’t get paid much,” he told California Country Magazine. “We make a living, but I could make a living doing something else and not be happy.” Novice rodeo clowns may start out at amateur rodeos earning a small amount of money and then work their way up to larger rodeos and higher salaries.
Back to School
Older rodeo clowns may have learned the tricks of their trade on the job, but most rodeo clowns starting out today go to rodeo schools. These schools teach would-be clowns about different rodeo events, such as bullfighting, and how to work with livestock. Rodeo clowns can also learn how to put together a memorable costume and gauge an audience’s interest, tailoring a performance to fit the crowd’s mood.
Skills for Success
Rodeo clowns must be able to stay calm under pressure, according to Wall. They must also be athletic and able to improvise, he says. Both skills are important, because after attracting a bull’s attention, clowns must be able to escape, such as by climbing out of the arena and into the audience or by hiding behind props inside the arena, such as barrels. Rodeo clowns must also be willing to travel, since rodeos are temporary. Clowns who can stand out, such as in a colorful or memorable costume, or because of their act or performance, also have a better shot at success, getting rehired and earning top salaries, says Wall.
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