When you think of a comedian you probably imagine a man or women in trendy dress, standing on a stage with a brick wall as a background, telling jokes about riding in airplanes and making fun of the bald guy in the front row. Well the stage and background might be the same, and it’s still not safe to sit in the front row, but you would probably be surprised if the person behind the microphone was a cowboy. That’s exactly what you would see if you came to a comedy show or other function that featured Risky Betts as the entertainment. Although many cowboys have stood on a stage to perform, few have been comedians, so I thought an interview with the only one I am aware of would be interesting.
Q. Okay Risky, the ﬁrst question that came to my mind is how did you get your name.?
A. Well I already had the name Betts so I decided to keep it.
Q. Ha Ha, come on you know what I mean.
A. Oh you mean my ﬁrst name, I’ve never been asked that before,,, well maybe once,,, by everyone I’ve met. But since my actual name is Jeff Betts and I took a lot of risks in rodeo for several years I guess the rest was just natural progression. It’s not the ﬁrst nickname I’ve had but is deﬁnitely the best because of my last name.
Q. So you are actually a real rodeo cowboy?
A. Yep, and a ranch cowboy for a-lot of my life. I’ve lived on ranches in Utah, Arkansas, Missouri and California. Both sides of my family were either into ranching or farming, my dad was a bull rider, trick roper and rodeo clown, he clowned his last rodeo at 50 years old. My grandfather Glen Betts was a rodeo producer in the Northwest. Grandpa Cotton on my mom’s side was a citrus farmer in California and always had beef cattle and supported me and my older brother in rodeo. Somehow my mom understood my desire to ride roughstock and put up with me riding bulls and saddle broncs since the age of 14. I’ve had some success in the arena, but not in the rough stock events, all my wins came from team roping, I guess the best sounding accolade I have is Arkansas Rodeo Cowboys Association Champion Team Roper.
Q. So how does a rodeo rider become a comedian?
A. It’s been a process that started when my friend Sam Andersen had a cowboy poetry book sitting in his truck. As he was driving I read a poem to him called “Pert Near Perkins” and I guess it sparked something inside of me. Over the next two years I wrote dozens of poems, most of them humorous. Then Gil Gillis, who I was training a horse for, invited me to his ranch in Elko, Nevada during their famous Cowboy Poetry Festival. He talked me into going to an open mic and then into getting on stage. The entire room was packed and I was more nervous than Barak Obama with a broken teleprompter, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest walking up to the microphone. I was surprised though, when I started to talk all the nerves disappeared and I was acting out characters and cracking people up. I still remember one old man in the front row slapping his knee and bending over laughing, that old feller got me hooked. After it (open mic) was over the cowboy that ran it asked me to perform at Casino’s between musical acts and it all got started. After a couple years I wanted to get better on stage so I took a comedy class in Canoga Park California and over time the comedy replaced my poetry. Since then I have been growing as a comedian and a performer and travel all over the country jokin about cowpokin.
Q. Is that what you write your jokes about, cow-poking?
A. When I ﬁrst started stand-up I wrote about things I thought other people would like. I got laughs but other comedian friends kept telling me to write about my rodeo days, I’ve slowly developed my voice on stage and talk a-lot more about cowboys, traveling and rodeo. I also talk about marriage and love to make fun of political correctness. I keep saying I’m going to start including some poetry but haven’t done too much of that yet.
Q. What comedians have inﬂuenced you?
A. Well,,,my answer will be different from most comedians out there today. My rodeo skills were peaking about the same time as the comedy boom of the eighties and nineties. I missed watching a lot of the comedians like Pryor, Kennison and Carlin that most comedians give credit to for their growth. My inﬂuences came as a kid from watching Jackie Gleason, Hee Haw, Jonathan Winters, The Three Stooges and Carol Burnett. I listened to Jerry Clower and Bill Cosby tapes and looked up to certain rodeo clowns like Lecile Harris that had good jokes. I just didn’t have the time then that I do now to watch television.
Q. What about television, do you have any plans for yourself?
A. I’ve been on T.V. several times doing guest spots and have been in some ﬁlms. I love doing it because if I screw up I get a second chance. Most of the time I look better on the screen than in person so that makes me feel good too. I just ﬁnished a pilot for my own show and submitted it to RFD TV and even received a letter of intent from them to air it. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean it will make it on their line up because the next step is for me to ﬁnd sponsors and I have never done that type of marketing before, whew!, talk about a learning curve… most of the time I’ve got this blank stare… I’m like Kim Kardashian trying ﬁgure out how to operate a washing machine.
Q. What is the show about?
A. In each one I will interview a celebrity and surround it with funny parodies and sketches that I have written. In the pilot I interview the great cowboy singer R.W. Hampton, then I play a news anchor in a segment called CNN (Cowboy News Network) that makes fun of the daily news, next is a parody of survival shows called Cowboy Can Survive and ﬁnally “Jist Buckin Around” that shows a clip of me on stage telling a joke. I wrote the entire show and am hopeful I can round up some advertisers. I can give you a link to the one minute sizzle reel that shows a condensed version of the pilot.
Q. In closing, do you have a website and other internet sites?
A. Sure do, I’ve got a website, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail accounts all under riskybetts, so go to Twitter and I’ll show you my tweets!
Website – www.riskybetts.com
Sizzle Ree l- http://youtu.be/mogrZYZH_f8
e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org