The Oct. 6 to 7 Professional Bull Riders competition in the pasture across the parking lot from Pala Casino will have 35 rider slots in each session. The performers will also include rodeo clown Frankie “Punkintown” Smith, who will distract the bulls when he isn’t entertaining the audience.
“We’re excited about going to PBR,” Smith said. “It’s going to be an exciting time.”
“We” includes Smith’s trick horse Turbo, who has traveled with Smith for the past eight years. “I should have named him American Express because I never leave home without him and he’s the money maker,” Smith said.
Smith’s nickname has nothing to do with being a punk – he was born and raised in Pumpkintown, South Carolina. The town, which is in the northwest corner of the state and is in the same county as Clemson University, is often called Punkintown.
Smith spent eight years in the United States Army. “I found out I was a comedian in the military,” he said. “I got caught making fun of my drill sergeant at boot camp, and he forced me to be his comedian.”
He sought a full-time comedy career after his discharge. “I just kept going. I tell everybody I’m now paid for doing what my mama used to whip me for doing,” he said.
Smith’s mama might not whip him too much for his clean comedy. He is a six-time winner of the Christian Country Music Association comedian of the year award, and he was the International Country Gospel Music Association comedian of the decade for the 1990s. “You can not only bring your mama, you can bring your preacher and we’re not going to offend anybody,” Smith said.
Smith has been a full-time rodeo clown for the past 15 years. He previously participated in rodeo Bareback Riding. “Tried riding bulls, but I had more desire than I did talent,” he said.
Smith noted that he has doctor’s bills to verify his bull riding experience. “I’m trying to get some of that back,” he said of performing as a clown at rodeos.
Smith and his family live in Tennessee. He arrived in California in time to perform at the Sept. 28 to 29 Kern County Fair Rodeo in Bakersfield.
Of the upcoming PBR at Pala, Smith said, “It’s going to be a great venue for us.”
“It’s going to be awesome,” Smith said. “We’ll save the whole seat, but you’re only going to need the edge of it.”