Steve Vrana said he loves a good laugh.
“I like the comedy,” the Wahoo, Neb., resident said as he waited for the second half of the Comedy Jamboree
at Grand Country in Branson
“The ‘Hee Haw’ part was my favorite,” he said of a segment of the show that paid tribute to the comedy of Cornfield County, U.S.A. “It’s really good, funny comedy.”
“I thought it would be for old fogies, but it’s not,” his wife, Raleen, added.
That’s what emcee and producer Mike Patrick likes to hear.
“I love it. It’s just infectious,” Patrick said, sitting in his backstage office after a performance. “We are in a business that has instant gratification because there are people applauding. I tell all my employees, ‘You’re not a musician, you’re not an entertainer, you are in the people business. First and foremost and not anything else.’”
He said he takes great pride in the creative writing, musical talent, great costumes and technical production value his shows are known for, but sometimes it’s the audience that keeps the crowds coming back.
“Laughter is good medicine,” Patrick contends.
“There is some corny stuff in Comedy Jamboree,” Patrick said, “but, we try to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do some corn now, so play along with us and have a good time.’”
Comedy is only part of the experience.
A cast of musicians, singers, dancers and Branson’s Piano Player of the Year, Tracy Heaston, keep the audience singing along, while the “Hee Haw” montage, a Dr. Phil talk-show parody and some “reptile dysfunction” humor draw consistent laughs, Patrick said.
For his musical variety show, Grand Jubilee, Patrick assembled a talented cast of players.
“I go out and hire very talented people, and I write the shows around them,” he said. “I want people to come and be wowed.”
One of the talented people Patrick relies on is Jamie Haage, aka Jim Dandy. A veteran Branson performer and the 2001 Branson Comedian of the Year, Haage helps Patrick host the Grand Jubilee, interjects a little comedy and even adds his musical talents to the mix.
“He’s so talented,” Patrick said. “I mean, that guy is just one of the most talented people in Branson.”
At one point in the show, Patrick and Haage team up to re-create a classic moment from “The Carol Burnett Show,” featuring Haage in drag as entertainer Charo’s mom, and moments later he wows the crowd by playing six different instruments during a single song.
Add in the four-part harmonies of New South, vocalists Jackie Brown and Todd Bradshaw, and the talents of Grand Country’s house band, The Grand Band, and it’s a show sure to please.
Joan Boutwell, a 75-year-old regular Branson visitor, had nothing but praise for the fast-paced show.
“I love it,” she said after the performance. “We saw the comedy show this afternoon and decided to come back tonight. There is so much going on you really need to see it twice.”
That’s the kind of excitement about his shows that Mike Patrick hopes to generate in his audiences.
“There are always so many things that you want to do,” Patrick said after the show. “The biggest challenge I have putting my show together is getting them to come in at just two hours. I don’t what to cut anything.”
Information courtesy of The Joplin Globe