8 Seconds with Matt Merritt

By: Kristian Limas
December 12, 2016

Matt Merritt began working with the PBR in 2004. He is not a model. Photo: Andre Silva

Matt Merritt began working with the PBR in 2004. He is not a model. Photo: Andre Silva

PUEBLO, Colo. – Matt Merritt may not get on any bulls over the course of the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour, but he’s fearless in his own way.

Kind of.

What sets Merritt, the exclusive entertainer of the Velocity Tour, apart is his willingness to try anything to get a laugh. It’s Merritt’s job to keep crowds across the country laughing and it doesn’t matter if the laugh comes at his expense or not, as long as he gets one.

Merritt, much like Flint Rasmussen on the Built Ford Tough Series, relies on a variety of influences in his act and has to work hard to win over crowds from coast to coast. As such, Merritt isn’t afraid to experiment and go the extra mile to add some local flavor in every town the Velocity Tour goes to.

It’s a deceptively tough job, but it’s one that Merritt wouldn’t change at all. Merritt caught up with to talk about how he made his way to the world of the PBR and how he works to keep every crowd happy. How did you get into in the Western sports world and get on the path to be an entertainer?

Matt Merritt: I started when I was in high school. I grew up in north Louisiana, so rodeo was pretty normal. I got on a steer or two when I was a kid and realized this is the stupidest thing a human could decide to do. My mom was dating a guy who was an announcer at the time and he announced rodeos all over the southeast and I was like, ‘Hey I want to try that clown’s job’ and he said, ‘Are you serious?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ so he helped me out and we got rolling. After that it kind of just took off because there’s not a lot of people who do what I do. How far has the PBR taken you since officially coming on board in 2004?

MM: In 2004, I worked my first PBR, it was in Thibodaux, Louisiana. I’ve been to New Zealand, Australia three times, been to Canadian finals and every state in America except for Alaska and Hawaii. Being an entertainer in the PBR is a bit of a unique position, how do you look at it?

MM: I got to say that Flint Rasmussen and his position as the official entertainer at the Built Ford Tough level has created a position for a guy like me. Before him, there was others that have been around, but he created something that the PBR now has to have. A fan that comes to a PBR-branded event expects an entertainer of a certain quality. I’m not saying I’m great or anything like that, but because of him creating and laying the path for everybody there’s a job for me. You make a lot of effort to give your act a local twist wherever you go, why is that important?

MM: I go to Bangor, Maine, and I drink this local drink called Moxie. When I go to Rochester, New York, I eat the Garbage Plate. You do whatever is local and you try and make every person in those stands feel like this show is for them and as a whole you want them to come together and make noise and cheer. It’s an art form, and I don’t have it perfected yet, but I work really hard at it. How often do you make changes to your act and do you test things out before putting them in? Or do you just try it?

MM: It has to change every night and every section of bulls that you buck. There are times where you go to a region where more slapstick or more corny stuff might work better. You may go somewhere where you need to be a little edgy. So every night you have to approach it differently. I’m going to throw some other things in there and just try them. Is it stressful sometimes?

MM: A bull rider has to get on a bull every time and show guts. To me, public speaking is difficult and it’s more difficult when you’re dressed like an idiot. Then to try something when you don’t know if it’s going to work or not. It’s not like a standup comic who has a great routine. It’s little things, and if it works, it works and if it doesn’t, you go down and learn to laugh at yourself so that the joke still goes over in some fashion. If people don’t laugh at what you said, they can at least laugh at the fact that you said something so stupid. You’re not alone out there, how important is chemistry with the announcers and production team?

MM:  (Announcers) Scott Grover, Matt West, Clint Adkins, Brandon Bates and Luke Kaufman and (music directors) Richard Jones and Marc Stephenson as a team come together and learn one another’s personalities and step in when we need to. We want to create this atmosphere that is just contagiously fun for the audience.

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