At the Jaycee fairgrounds in Jefferson City Friday night, people laughed and applauded as Tuffy Gessling, the controversial rodeo clown, performed for the first time since his infamous appearance at the Missouri State Fair. Gessling was banned from the Missouri State Fair and the video of the stunt involving an Obama mask was in national media.
“This is the first one since that incident that I’ve gotten to work in the last 34 days,” Gessling said. “We usually do every weekend a month.”
Gessling said the incident didn’t just affect his work, he also received death threats and was criticized by national media, local politicians and the NAACP.
Some fair-goers were wearing shirts they made to support Gessling.
“My shirt is actually gray with Barbed wire on it, has Tuffy Gessling’s face on it, and says ‘I support Tuffy Gessling,’” said Stephanie Harmon, a friend of Gessling. “Then we have another set of shirts that are blue that say ‘We support Tuffy Gessling on them, and on the very back it says ‘We believe in Tuffy Gessling and the first amendment.’”
The shirts referring to the first amendment were designed by Carie Fouch, another friend of Gessling’s, “I talked to Tuffy the Tuesday after the event had happened and it was all over,” she said. “He was a little torn up by it and I asked him if he would mind if I did this to help support any legal fees that he might have. He agreed and within two hours we had the shirts made,” Fouch said. “By the end of the day we had 150 sold, and as of now we have 800.”
At the rodeo Friday, every time a political joke was made, Gessling immediately apologized for it and made sure it was clear that he was kidding.
Gessling’s manager, Isaiah Dunn, said he was surprised by the attention the act received.
“I rode bulls forever, and not just in Missouri, it’s all across the United States, California, Texas, New Mexico, everywhere you go they have masks of presidents out there in the arena usually,” Dunn said. “And it’s the oldest skit in the book, you can pull it up on the internet and you’ll find old videos of guys doing it with Nixon and Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Senior, all of the presidents.”
Although this rodeo season is winding down, Dunn says he already plans to have Gessling in his shows next year.