The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 8, 2013

Grand friendship: Branson co-hosts enjoy an almost 20-year career

By Dave Woods
Digital market development manager

BRANSON, Mo. — Mike Patrick and Jamie Haage have known each other for a long time. Their friendship, mutual respect and on stage partnership go back almost 20 years.

"He's just funny," Patrick said of his friend and comedic partner, who assumes the character of "Jim Dandy" on stage. "Jamie takes people on a journey. When you first meet him you think that all he's going to be is a comic. His comedy is sophisticated and he comes across as a little bit of a victim. People are immediately on his side."

The key to Haage's success, Patrick explained, is his versatility. Haage has received Branson's Comedian of the Year award.

"During Grand Jubilee he really blows you away," Patrick said. "You realize that he can play every instrument on that stage. That's really when people realize how much talent he has."

Featuring Haage's musical prowess has always been a part of the pair's on-stage partnership.

"Ever since I've worked for Mike we've included that in the shows," Haage said. "I've always had the chance to display my musical side."

Haage plays nine instruments and is the comic relief during several shows at Grand County Music Hall. He is known for his signature orange -- and often outrageous -- outfits, his genuine comedic talent and ability to connect with an audience. Patrick, an accomplished musician himself, isn't afraid to don sequined suits and put on a little Porter Wagoner fashion swagger.

Patrick produces the shows at Grand Country and serves as emcee for the water park resort's Grand Jubilee and Branson Country USA radio show. Grand Country Square is an ever-changing destination. It offers lodging, multiple shows, an indoor/outdoor water park, children's attractions, restaurants, laser tag and, opening this spring, a new outdoor miniature golf course.

Mutual respect

Haage said he respects Patrick's talents, too.

"Mike makes sure the audience has a good time," Haage said of the three-time recipient of Branson's Emcee of the Year award. "He's the first person you see. He's like the bus driver. He greets the audience, introduces himself and then he drives the bus through the whole journey. That's two hours of show and he does it quite well."

Patrick and Haage are backed by the Grand Band, the New South quartet, solo and guest singers. The cast entertains Branson audiences six days a week at Grand Country Square on Highway 76.

Grand Jubilee, a country variety showcase, is the venue's anchor attraction. The pair also host a one-hour, musical variety show recorded live each Friday night at 10:30 p.m. following Jubilee for later radio and television broadcasts.

Both shows enjoy a loyal following of area regulars and Branson visitors.

"We are having just as much fun at intermission or shaking hands after the show as we do on stage," Patrick said. "People make long-term friendships with us, and I think that's what keeps them coming back."

Variety, Patrick said, is the key to Grand Country's longtime success.

"We are a family destination with a lot to offer," he said. "The shows are just a part of it, but they are family friendly and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants flexible."

Flexibility, Haage said, is key to Jubilee's and Branson Country's success.

"They change all of the time. Audiences like to see even small changes. If you see the show twice a year, you may not notice as many changes as people who come once a week or twice a month. They notice those little changes and feel like they are a part of it because the watch the show change and evolve."

The Wild Bunch, a loyal -- and loud -- group of Friday night radio show regulars, pack the house each week to press the flesh with Patrick, Haage and their crew. And they love the music and comedy.

Veteran performers, friends

Haage and Patrick are both veteran performers and Silver Dollar City alums.

"I started (at the attraction) when I was 16 robbing trains," Patrick said, laughing. "Then I went to the saloon show and then went to college to study entertainment management. I was producing shows and occasionally I would fill on the nights when Jamie was doing comedy and they would need a straight man down there in the Echo Hollow show"

Haage's Silver Dollar City experience didn't start with comedy. He was hired as a musician.

"At first I was a steel guitar and fiddle player in the Echo Hollow show," he said. "Then I did other jobs. I was a street character and worked in the saloon show and did all kinds of things. When Mike started producing the Echo Hollow shows, that's when I started doing comedy. That's been my main job ever since."

Patrick has performed with the famous Foggy River Boys and Haage spent time with Branson's Plumber Family show, The Collins' Family and Wilkinson Brothers Show before moving on to Silver Dollar City and then on to Grand Country. They have been entertaining together at Grand Country for the better part of a decade.

When Patrick moved to Grand Country and needed a comedian for his shows, he knew who to call.

"I hired Jamie," Patrick said. "Of course, he does as much comedy and he sings and plays at the shows we do here."

Both admit they draw inspiration from the same classic TV comedians and had similar backgrounds growing up in the Ozarks. They count Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway among their inspirations.

"We've grown up in two different towns, but with similar backgrounds," said Patrick. "We are both are huge fans of the old 'Carol Burnett Show,' and I think you see a lot of those type of characters rolled in to what we do."

Sometimes, Patrick said, the real show is backstage.

"What's funny is that the audience gets cheated out of half the show," he said. "We share a dressing room back stage and there's probably as much comedy going on in there between songs and during costume changes."

Patrick said he and Haage's relationship is special.

"I'm like the little brother that he really hates, but in a kidding way," Patrick said. "I know how to get his goat."

Haage just laughed and cautioned Patrick regarding their backstage antics.

"Well, a lot of that we do (backstage) we probably couldn't do in the show," Haage laughed.