- Special Sections
GUTHRIE, Okla. â€“ Keith Isley is one of the most decorated clowns in rodeo.
Now Isley will bring his brand of funny to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, scheduled for 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10; 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 11; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12.
â€śI thoroughly enjoy watching people have a good time and enjoy what I do or what I say,â€ť said Isley, 55, now in his 21st year in ProRodeo. â€śJust seeing people enjoy it and have a good time. Sometimes later in the year, youâ€™ll get home and have some letters for you and have some pictures of you that kids have drawn.
â€śItâ€™s the little things that really make me feel like Iâ€™m accomplishing something.â€ť
He has accomplished much. Heâ€™s been named the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year six times, the Coors Man in the Can five times, the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year six times and PRCA Specialty Act of the Year three times. For three straight years, from 2009-11, he won the funnymanâ€™s trifecta: Clown of the Year, Coors Man in the Can and Comedy Act of the Year.
In addition to being one of the best funny men in the business, he also has some of the top acts in rodeo. Heâ€™ll bring it all with him when he arrives at the Lazy E.
â€śI enjoy what I do, and itâ€™s a lot of fun when youâ€™ve got a good crowd and a good announcer,â€ť Isley said. â€śWhen you see people with smiles on their faces, and then people come up to you and appreciate what you do, that makes what we do a lot more worthwhile.â€ť
Isley sees a lot of smiles and has for much of his professional life. Though he was considered a class clown, being a comedian didnâ€™t come easily.
â€śOh, it was natural if I knew you, but if I didnâ€™t know you, it was really hard,â€ť he said. â€śWhen I started the comedy, that was really hard for me to get used to because I didnâ€™t know those people watching me.â€ť
He has since overcome his stage fright to become one of the most sought-after entertainers in the game. Thereâ€™s good reason for it, too. Part of a good clownâ€™s job is to fill any down time that could some during the event. If thereâ€™s a pause in the action, Isley knows itâ€™s his turn to step up to the plate.
â€śI like to play on the crowd,â€ť he said. â€śI like to have fun with people that like to have fun.â€ť
It works, but Isley has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He loves working with animals and allowing them to steal the show. When itâ€™s all put together, itâ€™s an award-winning showcase that reaches so many people.
â€śBack in 1999, I worked a rodeo in Belle Foursche (S.D.); during the trick riding act, I was talking to the announcer and was just looking around,â€ť he said. â€śThatâ€™s when I saw the contestants standing all around the arena just watching.â€ť
When Isley left town, he reflected on that image and still considers it one of his greatest honors. Later that year, he earned was named the Specialty Act of the Year for the first time.
â€śSince then, Iâ€™ve won it a few times,â€ť Isley said. â€śIâ€™ve undoubtedly been the most blessed man whoâ€™s ever bought a PRCA membership.â€ť
The fans are pretty blessed, too.