Jacob Wright, better known to kids around Nebraska as Pirate Jake of the Mighty Magic Pants, passed away on Monday.
A native of Lincoln, Pirate Jake joined Mike Mennard for his very first kids show nearly 12 years ago and the two forged a friendship that entertained thousands of Nebraska kids with several bands including Mike Mennard and the Nardheads, Mike Mennard and the Prairie Pirates, and most recently, the Mighty Magic Pants.
Wright's booming voice, hilarious wit and lovable silliness made him a favorite with kids and parents wherever he went. "Pirate Jake was so much more than a performer," said Mennard. "He was a charismatic and lovable teddy bear in the guise of a pirate. That’s why kids’ adore him. But beyond that, he was a great and loyal friend."
While he worked another job to support his family just like the rest of the band, he was never too busy to entertain kids. As part of the Mighty Magic Pants, his role grew from wise-cracking drummer to taking the lead on several numbers, including crowd favorites like “Rappin’ at the Door” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
“His energy on stage is infectious,” said Ryan Teller, a.k.a Wrangler Ryan. “We all loved performing with him. He recently described our cowboy-pirate comedy as having an ‘Abbott and Costello vibe.’ I took that as high praise from one of the funniest guys I know.”
“Jacob was the master of the comedic exclamation point, and he was just as witty offstage as he was when he personified Pirate Jake,” said Jeri Lynn Rogge, who managed Mennard’s groups from 2011-2013. “I remember a small concert at a local bookstore. Jake and Mike went into this event as if they were taking the stage at a concert hall filled with thousands of people. At one point in the show, Jake and Mike's banter zipped off the rails and they ad-libbed their way into hysterical laughter. The audience was enamored in this beautiful, spontaneous show of their comedic genius in action.”
Of all of his humor, Pirate Jake’s friends knew he had mastered the art of the pun. “I made the mistake of citing a study to Jake about how punning is the highest form of comedic intelligence,” said Mennard. “That only encouraged him and his amazing genius for puns. He began calling himself "the pirate of pun-zance!"
According to his bandmates, Pirate Jake made every recording session memorable. “One of my favorite memories with Jake was recording the "Alien in my Pie" video and him scatting to the poem,” remembered Tori Hudgins, who sang with the Mighty Magic Pants from 2012-2014. “We wanted to shoot the video in one take, and it took forever because I couldn't stop laughing when he did something new every time. He is one of the most creative people I've ever met.”
“When we started recording the ‘unFATHOMable Thoughts’ videos, I got to the point where I didn’t ever turn off the camera,” agreed Teller. “We never knew what hilarious thing he would say in between takes and I didn’t want to miss any of it.”
As much as his humor, it was his friendly and accepting spirit that drew people to him. “While at a show or on a tour, Jake would always beckon me over,” said Tawnya Teller, the band’s manager since 2013. “Then he would throw his arms all the way out and give me a huge hug while thanking me for all my hard work for the band or tell me I was doing an awesome job. And if there was something in particular he had noticed that day, he would always make sure I knew he was grateful.”
“Jake constantly made me laugh, he made me think deeper and he advocated for those who are misunderstood,” said Jessica Perry, who sang with the Mighty Magic Pants from 2013-2014. “My friendship and experiences with Jake are too vast to put into a couple of sentences, so here are a box of words for Jake:
friend. marissa. drum. hug. costume. work. rides. jokes. laughter. smile. eyes. goals. music. heart. compassionate. advocate. entertainer. husband. loyal. stamina. texting. wrong number. oopsies. dancing. singing. writing. practicing. integrity. dreams. feet. my passenger seat. cookies for me. dr. pepper for me. home. cats. cds. pride. scatting together. did i mention laughter? tears, too. joy. hair. doobie brothers. connectedness. real. no filter. big, big heart.”
Wright graduated from Lincoln Southeast High School in 2000 and worked in Lincoln ever since. He married his sweetheart, Marissa Marcus in June 2013. He leaves behind his wife, Marissa; his mother, Chris Wright; and his brother, Jason.
Please give to this fund to help Marissa cover medical, funeral and family travel expenses.