Shannon Mugrage - Living His Best Chapter

April 18, 2021

Photo Credit

Aaron Suarez

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Valerie Lopez

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When you talk to a storyteller, it's not surprising that they break down their life into a series of chapters. For those of you who like to keep count, Shannon Mugrage counts his current chapter as his 4th. We can't predict how many chapters Mugrage plans to live out, but he makes it very clear from our conversation that this current chapter is his favorite.

Chapter 1 - Life in Odessa, Texas
It is always best to hear a storyteller share his own perspective on his life growing up. We will leave it as "it was a very unusual" and let you enjoy his way of talking about the many interesting characters that were part of his childhood.

Chapter 2 - A Drifter's Life
After leaving Odessa with his brother and eventually landing in Austin, he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the, yes, THE, Willie Nelson. While working on his ranch, Mugrage got a glimpse into Nelson's generous nature. While yours truly was in awe about his interactions with Nelson, Mugrage made an astute observation that ultimately, everyone (famous or not) is a regular person. But what sets apart a famous person like Nelson and others that Mugrage came into contact with during this chapter was their work ethic. This observation has served him well in his later chapters as we have observed first hand his work ethic.

Chapter 3 - Serving his Familial Duty
Mugrage comes from a long line of family that has served in the military. In his own words, as far back as the civil war. While he was OK living the Drifter's Life, the events of September 11, 2001, were ultimately his wake up call that his time to serve had come. Mugrage had always known that serving was his rite of passage, he had just not committed, or had yet to qualify for it (the reasons why are better heard from him in the episode, trust us), in his earlier chapters. He enjoyed his time in the military (as much as anyone can) and admits that were it not for a debilitating injury, he would have served far longer than he had. It was also during this chapter that he met and married his wife Amy.

Chapter 4 - Please Welcome to the Stage
After his military service ended, Mugrage could have returned to a drifter's life, but instead settled on pursuing an engineering degree. He was a year shy of completing his degree when he and Amy took a date-night outing to Cap City Comedy Club's Sunday night open mic. It was at this point that we can publicly thank Colton Dowling for bringing us Mugrage. A chance crowd-work interaction with Dowling got the gears going and although he had never considered performing standup, he recognized that he had always been a great storyteller. Within a month of that fateful night, Mugrage declared to his wife, Amy: "I wanted to try the open mic. And then about a month later, I told her I want to drop out of school and do this full time."

I wanted to try the open mic. And then about a month later, I told her (Amy) I want to drop out of school and do this full time.
Shannon Mugrage

Mugrage wrote jokes to prepare, but what seemed to really deliver on stage were stories about his 3 children. Not wanting to be known as a "dad comic", he learned to write jokes covering a variety of topics, including political jokes. In less capable hands, this can be a dangerous territory to navigate. If not done well, you risk alienating either half--or potentially all--of your audience (recognizing that by and large Austin is well-known as a politically liberal leaning city). He quickly adapted his storytelling style to talk about usually "third-rail" topics, and seemed to have the right set of skills to bring an audience together, signaling his readiness to take on more stage time.

The Austin comedy scene didn't know how to book Mugrage, and out of that was born Turn 2 Entertainment, an entertainment production company with his wife Amy as partner. His wife's skills are about being laser-focused on management and production, and as Mugrage likes to say "he likes to smoke and tell jokes. That's what I bring to this partnership". It wasn't long before it wasn't just Turn 2 Entertainment booking him. He landed more and more shows; then Covid happened.

Mugrage admits he did a few online zoom shows to get "stage time" in the pandemic. In fact, that was Comedy Wham's first introduction to him--for the Isolation Comedy show--where we got a sense for his work ethic. (He and Amy built an actual stage in their home to prepare for the appearance). He didn't love the online show format, but he has enjoyed performing on Virtual Reality (VR) shows and continues to do that even as ample stage time becomes available.

As we speak, Mugrage is attending his first festival (the Las Vegas 420 Cannabis Festival) and doing 14 out-of-state shows in about a month's time. He's calm about the schedule. (Amy being left home with the 3 kids may have answered the question differently.) And he loves performing, now that he's finally hit a stride. "I can't imagine doing anything else now. And I've thought about, man I wish I had started stand up 10 years ago, I'd be so much further along. But then I don't think I was ready. I really don't. I don't think I was ready for stand up. I don't think that I would have done well. I don't think I would have liked it." As a natural storyteller, he likely would have done well, but a storyteller relies on a very important requirement - stories to tell. And maybe Mugrage needed to wait to ensure that he had a full catalog of stories to tell.

I can't imagine doing anything else now. And I've thought about, man I wish I had started stand up 10 years ago, I'd be so much further along. But then I don't think I was ready.
Shannon Mugrage

When asked if he'd ever see himself writing a book (yours truly cannot escape the perceived gifted storyteller's journey into writing books), he allows that maybe he will. He's given it thought and his friends and supporters have encouraged it, but for now, he's happiest performing on stage. Befitting someone who excels at telling stories and who also loves his family and what they contribute to his life, Mugrage chose to close out our conversation talking about his kids. He shared with us that all 3 kids are adopted (something I did not know, given how he and Amy just talk about 'their kids', never 'their adopted kids') and how much they've added to his life. It's exactly what you expect a storyteller to do. Tell you about his life, but close out with something closest to his heart so that you always leave laughing with a warm feeling in your heart. It was a perfect note to end on.

Chapter 5...
To Be Determined

Shannon can be seen and heard:

  • Pub 26, Amarillo, TX - April 18, 2021
  • Las Vegas 420 Cannibis Comedy Festival - April 21 - 24, 2021
  • Good Set at 4th Tap Brewing Co-Op, Austin, TX - May 1, 2021
  • Joker's Icehouse, Killeen, TX - May 1, 2021
  • Dratz's Brewery, Loveland, CO - May 7, 2021
  • Sweetwater Bar & Grill, Duluth, GA - May 14, 2021
  • Who's on Tap at St. Elmo's Brewery, Austin, TX - May 15, 2021

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