Shane Mauss has had a lively career since winning "Best Standup Comic" at the Comedy Arts Festival in 2007. With five appearances on Conan and a Comedy Central Presents special under his belt, Mauss set about creating thematically sound hours of comedy, first on the Netflix special Mating Season, then on his most recent album, My Big Break. In addition to his busy performing schedule, Mauss also hosts the weekly podcast Here We Are, wherein the comedian consults scientists, psychologists and various other experts for insight on the human condition.
Ever the mind expansionist, Mauss has created a new hour, This Is Your Shane on Drugs, that focuses on his chemical experimentation and misspent youth. He's bringing the show to Denver's Buntport Theater on Friday, December 11. A Sexpot Comedy production, the evening also boasts a fine opener with Allen Strickland Williams of the burgeoning sketch comedy group Women. In advance of Friday's gig, Westword caught up with Mauss to discuss the relationship between hallucinogens and comedy, talking to scientists and life as a road comic.
Westword: Your show is called "This Is Your Shane on Drugs" and it's themed around psychedelics. Do do you dose up before each show?
Shane Mauss: I was really happy when I thought of the name of the show, which is just a pun based on a well-worn cliche, anti-drug commercial. Then everyone started asking if I was going to actually be on drugs. I guess the idea of performing on psychedelics seems so ridiculous to me that it never occurred to me that people would think that. I actually performed a regular show while tripping once because I'm a ridiculous person. The show was fine, but it was a real waste of good LSD. Don't do psychedelics and go to work. Now you're just trapped inside the mind of a person who is stuck at work. Pick a day off and go outside and play.
What was your first experience with hallucinogens? Do you think that they inspire comedy? For instance, I've never written a joke while tripping, but it could be said I did become more attuned to the of absurdity of human behavior.
I actually don't remember my first time eating mushrooms. I was about sixteen. I have a slight memory of LSD; that was many trips ago. Psychedelics alter your perception and make you see things differently than you're used to. Creativity is about forming new connections. I find psychedelics to be very inspiring. That's why I wrote an hour-long show about them. I've written many jokes on psychedelics, but more important, I've learned about myself, sparked personal insights, and have fanned the flames of my passion for science — which you can listen to on my science and comedy podcast, Here We Are.
What's your experience with Denver comedy? Do you expect to find an audience that's receptive to the premise of this show?
Denver is one of my favorite cities to perform in. Usually, I work at your amazing club, the Comedy Works. But because of the nature of the show, I'm only doing this in independent venues where people know what they are getting into, rather than just random people checking out a random club. These shows are fun, because they are like a secret meeting of weirdos. I imagine the Denver audience will be receptive. Many of my fans had been writing, wondering when I'm bringing this show to Denver.
Do you have material specifically related to this hour, or does your regular act work its way in? Do you have plans to record and release any of these shows?
This show is 100 percent different than my regular club act and I'm hoping to record it next year. It's really strong. It will be ready within months.
How long have you been recording your podcast Here We Are? Which episode would you recommend to uninitiated listeners?
Well, the only one that I've done about psychedelics so far is with Michael Garfield and the couple episodes I did about cocaine research was popular. I personally like Andy Puddicombe's episode on meditation, just because it was a lot different than most of the episodes that I do. My favorite subject is evolutionary biology/psychology, so all the episodes about that were fun. Listeners can browse through and pick a subject that they are interested in.
What's been the most surprising thing you've learned from one of your expert guests since starting out?
I'm very interested in cognitive biases and self-deception at the moment. Specifically, how our brains evolved to skew our perception and often hide reality to drive us to spread our genes.
You've been on the road for a bit, driving long hauls between gigs. What's your take on the singularly liberating and alienating life of a road comic?
I love being on the road. Some gigs suck, but overall I like it. I like my alone time on the road. It's when I get the most work done. When I'm home, I'm not terribly productive.
Your album My Big Break came out recently. How did you arrive at the premise of that album?
I broke my feet.
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As someone who's recorded a few different hours in various formats, is it still daunting to begin writing that new hour of material?
The well flows and dries in unpredictable ways. This psychedelic show has come together almost by accident, and it's been so easy and fun and smooth to put together, even though it's some of the most intelligent and challenging material I've done. But my regular club act has been harder to piece together lately. Right now it's just a bunch of jokes that get laughs and don't mean much to me until I flush out more interesting things to talk about in it.