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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Sports

The other side of sports entertainment: UH athletics marketing director featured on Kevin Hart’s ‘What the Fit’


Robert Boudwin (center) with Keke Palmer and Kevin Hart in a Los Angeles high school gym for the filming of “What The Fit.” | Courtesy of Robert Boudwin

When it comes to game days, the first thing that comes to mind is the sound of whistles, sneakers squeaking and pads crashing against each other. What may not come to mind at first are the mascots.

At the University, there are Sasha and Shasta, and while anyone who goes to any UH game will likely spot at least one of them, not many know of the behind-the-scenes of being a mascot like writing skits, producing scenes, rehearsing and managing social media, just to list a few.

When it comes to sports entertainment, the University has a distinct advantage because of UH athletics marketing director Robert Boudwin, who recently got to showcase some of the behind-the-scenes of being a mascot on a national stage when he was on Kevin Hart’s YouTube show, “What the Fit,” which aired on April 9.

“It was a ride,” Boudwin said on being on the show, which was shot during a six-hour time slot in Los Angeles back in mid-January. “A lot of the stuff that didn’t make the cut, I was glad didn’t. It was (a lot of) Kevin being Kevin.”

Inside “What the Fit”

In the show, Hart pairs up with another celebrity, and they do a unique exercise-related activity. For the April 9 episode, Keke Palmer and Hart learned what being a mascot entails.

The show’s producers reached out to Boudwin, who before joining the University had spent 21 years as Houston Rockets mascot Clutch the Bear, and is currently a half-owner of Mascot U, which focuses on improving the craft of mascots around the world.

When it came to teaching Hart and Palmer, there was little issue getting them to show their personalities, and at times had to get Hart to scale back.

“(Hart) was wild man,” Boudwin said. “He was funny. He jumped right into it … (he was doing everything) in a wild, crazy, goofy, outlandish way.”

The show had a loose script, Boudwin said, which allowed a lot of space for creativity and improvising.

“Some of the funny stuff was when (Hart) went off on his rant about the T-shirt gun and how people (yell) and treat the T-shirts like gold or something,” Boudwin said. “He let a couple of the fake fans that were dummies planted in the stands really have it at point-blank range.”

In the show, Boudwin was joined by other mascots from around the country. They were all in charge of judging how well Hart and Palmer picked up the basics of being a mascot.

“Keke was doing it pretty legit,” Boudwin said. “I gave her the win on most of the competitions.”

The show provided a small window into Boudwin’s working life.

Boudwin’s impact at UH

Since joining in May 2018, Boudwin has already left his imprint on the University, most notably he was heavily involved with the creation of “Trash Can Man” at men’s basketball games, which was influenced heavily from Boudwin’s time as Clutch the Bear.

“We’ve done a lot of new things that we’ve implemented in the last season that I kind of spearheaded (like) the phone lights and cue audio show this season,” Boudwin said.

Despite Boudwin’s experience and involvement, he believes that the main factor in the success of a character or skit has to do with the people buying in as was the case with Hart and Palmer.

Even though the idea for Trash Can Man came from Boudwin, he doesn’t take most of the credit.

“It’s really the students that make it work,” Boudwin said. “If we don’t have diehard Cougar fans that are willing to act wacky … sitting in a can, that gets a little bit hot … and humid for half the game, then it doesn’t happen.”

Although sporting events are sidelined due to the coronavirus pandemic, mascots are always looking for new content and activities to do once games eventually return. Boudwin hosts two Zoom meetings per week so professional, high school and even corporate mascots can share ideas and receive feedback.

Under his current role with UH, Boudwin oversees the entertainment activities at both men’s basketball and football games, and he wants students to be more involved and to be the ones who influence gameday antics.

“I’m open to all ideas,” he said. “The absolute best sports entertainment ideas are not ones that I or other administrators come up with, it’s organic ones that students come up with.

“It’s not my job to say no. It’s my job to figure out a way to say yes.”

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