Comedian Shane Mauss talks science, comedy and psychedelics ahead of his show at Backbooth


Wisconsin comic Shane Mauss stops into Backbooth this week with an experimental hourlong set about, well, getting fucked up. Mauss is planning an hourlong set centered around jokes having to do with psychedelic experiences.

The 35-year-old – whose Netflix special, Mating Season, is similarly themed around evolutionary psychology – says that he's been working on these jokes for a while. "Over the course of my 11 year career, I would often think of a joke about psychedelics. Sometimes just a quick joke, sometimes a longer story. And if the venue and crowd seemed right I would toss in five to 10 minutes about tripping once in a while," says Mauss via email. But he steered clear of devoting too much time to material about drug experiences because "most people have never done psychedelics because of the many silly stigmas that come along with them. So to do much more material in front of a random crowd at a comedy club, I'd be sure to lose some people."

His interest in doing longer material was piqued, however, during a sparsely attended show during a storm in Houston. "It was only comics in the audience and I didn't think regular material would work very well. So I started talking about psychedelics and doing a bunch of the material that I've amassed over 11 years and it went really well. So I just kept going. Next thing I knew, an hour had gone by and I was able to keep a small, and tough, audience of comedians captivated and laughing about psychedelics." But Mauss isn't just into psychedelics for trippy good times; he's more interested in the science behind them. "Psychedelics are actually a pretty good window into how the mind works and our fickle perceptions," he says. 

Mauss' interest in science extends beyond pharmacology. He hosts a podcast called "Here We Are" where he interviews scientists about topics ranging from evolutionary biology to psychology to ecological sustainability. It's a refreshing change of pace from comics who host podcasts that only deal with obvious comedic fodder like celebrities or current events, though his original plan was a little different. "Very long story short, I originally thought I would turn my interest in science into a comedy/science TV show with a mix of scientists and comedians. In this process I started reaching out to and getting to become friends with some academics. The conversations we would have were different from any conversations I had ever heard before."

Though Mauss sometimes talks about psychedelics and psychology on his podcast, he isn't necessarily an advocate for legalization. "I don't know if psychedelics should ever be a legal recreational drug but there is a whole lot of testing that can be done between the current state of things and recreational use," he says. "Like any drug, they can have adverse effects and be used irresponsibly. And they certainly aren't for everybody. However, I think they can also be used to help see life in different ways and learn things about the world and yourself. In my experience, they are a wonderful therapeutic and meditative aid (not to be confused with a replacement)."

Catch Shane Mauss at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at Backbooth. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Our pick for Best Irish Bartender in a German Bar, Sean Finnerty, and Orlando Vape King Alex Luchun open the show. Here's a clip from Shane Mauss' special Mating Season, currently on Netflix.

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