Longtime Rockets Mascot Robert Boudwin Balances Clutch and Comedy

Mascot and Man, Robert Boudwin
Mascot and Man, Robert Boudwin Photo by Owen Conflenti

You know his aliases: the Rockets’ Clutch the Bear; the Comets’ Haley; Newton, Houston’s Smartest Dragon; and more. But now the man behind the fur, Robert Boudwin, is shedding his other skins and going for a different kind of laugh in Robert Boudwin, Unmasked and Uncensored. ‘It’s pretty weird, isn’t it?” the showman laughs. “A guy who has made his entire career getting the laugh without talking is now turning around and doing it just by talking.”

After 26 years as a mascot, 21 of them as Clutch, Boudwin has amassed a stockpile of sure-fire, one-of-a-kind anecdotes from his world inside those furry heads. “I’m excited that I can share all my best stories, mishaps, screw-ups and blunders,” he chortles. “Things that weren’t too funny when they happened, but now are pretty funny in the rearview. I do a lot of motivation[al] speaking, and the one part of my hourlong presentation that always resonates the most with out-loud laughter was talking about my screw-up highlights. And I wondered if I could spin those ten minutes closing segments into a whole night of ‘funny only?’ That’s how we got to this: a funny, behind-the-scenes, pulling-back-the-curtain, behind-the-mask, stories-from-beyond-the-fur type shows.”

Beyond the many weird run-ins from his time in the NBA, stories that include: the time the mascot shot a player with his T-shirt cannon, getting chewed out by Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, getting humped on camera by a ready-to-play Jack Nicholson, ruining a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, giving a hickey to an HPD officer, running over a janitor with his four-wheeler, and even throwing up inside his costume. “I’ve got about two dozen stories, and sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction behind the mask.”

Clutch was once humped on camera by a ready-to-play Jack Nicholson.

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Boudwin also teases some exclusive stories from his youth. “A lot of the show is about the struggles of growing up with my brother! We’ve had some battles that were pretty epic and core to my presentation, along with some pretty funny observational stuff that I’ve really only been able to express with blogging over the years. I’ve always wanted to do stand-up, and I did a little back in 1995 and 1996 at the old Laff Stop off of West Gray – just open-mike night, of course! But this is something that now that I’ve moved on from the Rockets, I kinda wanted to do something for the adult [audience] and talk about this wild experience.”

Of course, the obvious transitionary challenge for a mute mascot is getting to speak up. Yet without his trademark physical humor to rely on, Boudwin admits that he is more than happy to be baring his soul (and perhaps quite a bit more) for the thrill of the crowd. “I don’t want to give away too much, but I do have 100 tattoos and you’ll see a couple — but you won’t see me dressed in anything less than you might see at Galveston beach!”

In the end, Boudwin says the reason he got into parading around in costumes is the same reason he’s now trying his hand at the mike – he loves making people laugh. “I got the bug in high school. I was always that kid in class who was a smart aleck, but not a wiseass to the point where I was getting into trouble or detention," he says. "I was simultaneously the wisecracker, but also the teacher’s pet, because most of my humor came from riffing on the material we were learning.

"When I got asked to be the mascot my senior year of high school, I jumped at the opportunity to be the center of attention and entertain people," adds Boudwin. "It was my chance to write my own script and do improv. What I learned quickly was to be funny and the power that came with making people laugh, which was a thrill then, and still is one now.”

Robert Boudwin performs 7 p.m. Thursday, August 3, at Queensbury Theatre, 12777 Queensbury Lane. For information, call 713-467-4497 or visit Tickets are $35.
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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.
Contact: Vic Shuttee