It has been a ‘Tuffy’ week for rodeo clowns.
The fateful decline of the sacred art of rodeo clownage began Aug. 10, when a man later identified by family as Tuffy Gessling dared to don the mask of a U.S. president and taunt a large, horned ruminant.
Like many bad things, this happened in Missouri, a state barely qualified to compete at the highest level of college football.
As Tuffy wore the mask, the rodeo announcer asked the assembled crowd of people who think animals don’t feel pain like humans if they wanted to see “Obama run down by a bull.”
The crowd screamed its approval, maybe because they were there to be entertained and figured the man in the Obama mask was likely not the actual president of the U.S. but a man who had agreed to entertain them with lively and potentially dangerous and politically incorrect antics.
Unfortunately for clowns, this attempt at humor was deemed an affront on taste, decency and perhaps even theology not seen since Ignatius J. Reilly last pushed a hot dog cart across Jackson Square.
The rodeo clown’s behavior was likened to “some kind of Klan rally,” by spectator Perry Beam. “[It] was cruel. It was disturbing. I’m still sick to my stomach over it … I’ve never seen anything so blatantly racist in my life … If an old country boy picks up on something like that, imagine what a person of color would think.”
The state fair commission banned the rodeo clown for life, a move which more than one tormented bull applauded.
The president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, Mark Ficken, resigned because another “rogue clown” at the event was also not expelled.
That wasn’t enough. Now, all rodeo clowns in the state of Missouri must undergo sensitivity training.
Ficken, who moonlights as a superintendent of schools when he’s not working with clowns, is being investigated by the school district and may lose his job.
It seems like a long time ago, but it used to be considered funny when entertainers wore the masks of presidents in ridiculous situations. There was even a popular movie that starred shotgun-toting ex-presidents violently robbing banks.
In 1994, at least one rodeo clown act featured a dummy wearing a George H.W. Bush mask.
And now you know why clowns cry.