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Barrelman reflects on his first WNFR

by Matt Naber | Feb 08, 2018

With the sound system blasting and the crowd roaring, Cody Sosebee’s barrel began vibrating during the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. That wasn’t something he was expecting in his first trip to the WNFR as the rodeo’s barrel man.

“The crowd is so loud in there on some of those arena-record runs or high-point rides, my barrel will vibrate,” Sosebee said. “It was so loud that you’re past the point of hearing the announcers and it’s so loud that it vibrated my barrel – and that’s some cool stuff.” 

Outside the arena, it wasn’t all clowning around for the 43-year-old Arkansas cowboy, as he prepared for his WNFR debut.

“Out of the arena, I’m not what I am in the arena,” Sosebee said. “People think I’ll be jumping up and dancing at the steakhouse, but that’s what I do in the arena. Out of the arena, I’m a common person. They think you’ll step out of the truck, telling jokes and doing tricks, and they’re surprised that I want to get the soundcheck done first. There’s show time and then ‘me time’ – I can flip the switch. I can dial it back down and be focused and do my studies and research and get ready for the next show the next night. That’s my best quality, I can turn it on and turn it off.

Not long after each round ended, Sosebee was flipping his switch for the daily 8 a.m. meetings at the Thomas & Mack Center to dissect the acts and time slots with everyone involved in the rodeo’s production. 

“People don’t understand how there’s a lot of stuff going on in two hours in that NFR,” Sosebee said. “Whatever they decide will fit, you try to come up with that, and it’s fun and exciting.”

Studying and research may sound dull, but not when it involves drawing inspiration from comedians such as Will Ferrell, Jerry Clower, Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy.

“Some people have to act funny and put on a show and pretend; but when you see the realism of a comedian, they are really laughing and joking, and that’s what I try to parlay into my performance,” Sosebee said. “They can tell it’s a real laugh and it’s reality. So, the same comedians that I like to watch are real people. You can tell they’re not putting on a show and that’s what people relate to the most. 

“My secret weapon when coming up with jokes or acts is everyday life,” Sosebee said. “I’m a glass half-full guy and try to see the positive in everything, but the daily mess-ups are what’s funny to me and is what helps me so much – just being a big fat guy trying to dance and trying to be a real guy struggling to make it through the daily grind because that’s what people do. The car won’t start or the dog barked all night, get into life comedy and they will laugh.”

Sosebee’s career as a barrelman/clown began when he was competing in bareback riding and bull riding. When the Arkansas cowboy was about 30 years old, he started filling in for clowns who hadn’t shown up for rodeos he competing at – and then the word got out. 

“It started out as playing around and then it turned into a serious occupation and one of the best jobs in the world,” Sosebee said. 


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