It’s safe to say that rising stand-up comedian Shane Mauss has been on the best trip of his life over the last year.
For the first time in his career, Mauss has sold out cities coast-to-coast, and he’s done it with his innovative new show A Good Trip, which blurs the lines between stand-up, storytelling and TED Talk.
Based on his personal experiences with psychedelics, A Good Trip finds Mauss taking audiences on a comical journey through the stigma, history, laws and science behind misunderstood hallucinogenic drugs like mushrooms, LSD and DMT.
The 90-minute show eschews stand-up’s usual short, set-up and punchline delivery. Instead Mauss aims to destigmatize and demystify psychedelics with his own personal narratives and experiences studying them.
“The difference between doing a show in front of people who know that you’re going to be doing a show about psychedelics and people that are unaware is the difference between a standing ovation and people walking out,” Mauss said. “So, I definitely go out of my way to make sure people know exactly what the show is about.
“It’s just a different kind of comedy show for sure. It’s a little more informative and a little bit more like a one-man show.”
Although he’s been a self-described “psychonaut” for almost 20 years, Mauss, 36, doesn’t suggest that anyone try psychedelics. He knows they’re definitely not for everyone, and his show does not require any experience or familiarity with them. The drug topic is simply a launch pad for him to talk about gaining a deeper understanding of the mind through new experiences.
“I just followed my own natural interests and curiosities,” Mauss said of creating A Good Trip. “What comedians laugh at and what your average audience member laughs at are usually two different things, because we see so much comedy that we get very bored with the same old structure. And so if you’re writing a lot of new material, I think there’s just a natural push for a comedian to do something a little more challenging and unique.”
It’s not just about doing something new though, Mauss said — it’s about standing out.
“It’s really hard to distinguish yourself in comedy,” he said. “There really are just too many straight white male comics out there trying to get some yuks yuks, and there’s not enough diversity, not just in comedians, but in material.”
Originally from Wisconsin, Mauss has been a comedian for 12 years. He broke out nine years ago when he won the award for Best Standup at the HBO US Comedy Festival and began touring the country. He’s since appeared on Conan five times, as well as making appearances on Comedy Central, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Bob and Tom Show.
In 2013, Mauss released his first special, Mating Season, on Netflix. There he began exploring the edges of comedy’s clichés with higher ideas, while framing them in the context of men and women, dating and sex. After breaking both his feet while hiking, he released his second comedy album, My Big Break, in 2014.
Mauss has also since began work on his podcast, He We Are, where he regularly interviews scientists and other academics about consciousness, perception and the meaning of life. It was after a podcast where he happened to do DMT — the world’s most powerful hallucinogen — that other people began calling him to talk more about psychedelics, and A Good Trip was born.
“I didn’t know what the crowd was going to be like,” Mauss said of his adventure. “I didn’t realize how much of a separation there is between the psychedelic community and the stoner community. I mean, there’s certainly overlap, but my shows don’t get nearly as many dreadlocks as you would think. Those are my people as well, but I draw a lot of really highly-educated people out.”
An advocate for psychedelic studies himself, Mauss takes a hard stance against the war on drugs during the show, while calling for more research, not recreational use.
Heading into 2017, Mauss plans to bring A Good Trip to more than 100 cities, into Canada, Australia and beyond. He’d also like to put together a show entirely about science, where he pushes himself and conventional comedy outside of its typical comfort zone.
“Most of what a comedian is doing is just figuring out a new way of looking at life. … And science does that as well,” Mauss said. “So far (this show has) just been about tricking people into listening to me talk about science. (It’s) kind of surprising people went with it, and I want to see if I can push it a little more.”
Shane Mauss’s A Good Trip
Dr. Grins Comedy Club
20 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Jan. 25, 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show
$15, thebob.com, (616) 356-2000
Shakespeare’s Lower Level
241 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo
Jan. 27, 8:30 p.m. doors
$10 advance, $15 at door
shakespearespub.com, (269) 488-7782