While it is the bull fighters’ job to protect the cowboys, the barrelman’s primary job is to entertain the crowd. It’s a job that J.J. Harrison takes very seriously . . . for a clown. His dedication has not gone unnoticed: he has entertained on rodeo’s largest stages, including the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, and the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo for the last 6 years. He has also been nominated nearly every year in the last decade as one of the top 5 clowns in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. J.J. grew up in the Okanogan, Washington, where his love for the rodeo began. It wasn’t until high school when he decided to actually get involved in the events at the rodeo. He took his passion to college with him and joined the rodeo team as a bull and bronc rider at Washington State University. “I gradually realized that I was a wimp and I migrated to team roping.” Harrison said. “I had a lot of fun and success roping over the years, but it wasn’t a career I could have.”
Harrison established himself in Walla Walla,Washington but didn’t expect his move to further his career in rodeo. Pat Beard of the Beard Rodeo Company was the first to recognize Harrison’s talents in Walla Walla, and hired him for a bull riding competition. Harrison taught school for eight years. “I think I enjoyed that middle school humor almost more than the kids.” After a few years of balancing teaching and rodeo, Harrison was forced to choose between the two. “I think I’m the only clown with a Master’s degree.” He uses his abilities as an entertainer to bridge fans to contestants and rodeo in general.
JJ is the father of 5 and totes the whole family along the rodeo trail whenever possible. This is a way of life for the Harrison Family and they enjoy everything this rodeo world has to offer. In JJ’s off time, he is a pilot and spends as much time as possible in the mountains.
Though his love for the rodeo surpassed his passion for teaching, Harrison believes that his time in the classroom has influenced his witty and energetic act as a rodeo clown. “I’m a ball of energy that is quick witted and eager to find humor in every situation. I think it stems from natural ability and my experience in the classroom.”
What makes Harrison a good rodeo clown isn’t that scripted humor or set jokes most clowns use. It’s the off-the-cuff stuff and spur of the moment quick wit that are his best attributes.