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 182021
  • Las Vegas 420 Can­nibis Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val — April 21 — 242021 
  • Good Set at 4th Tap Brew­ing Co-Op, Austin, TX — May 12021 
  • Jok­er’s Ice­house, Killeen, TX — May 12021
  • Dratz’s Brew­ery, Love­land, CO — May 72021 
  • Sweet­wa­ter Bar & Grill, Duluth, GA — May 142021 
  • Who’s on Tap at St. Elmo’s Brew­ery, Austin, TX — May 152021

Fol­low Shannon:

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