By Claire Dietz
Best known for his routines revolving around the topic of psychedelic trips, Shane Mauss is not your run-of-the-mill comedian. Now, on his latest tour, Mauss will bring his distinct comedy to Iowa City for a show, 9 p.m. Saturday at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St.
Mauss’ big-time career began when he won the award for Best Standup at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in 2007. Now, he tours as well as hosts the podcast Here We Are, on which he interviews scientists to gain their perspectives on the meaning of life.
His performance here is sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, an organization founded in 1986 with the aim of developing medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the controlled use of psychedelics and marijuana.
The organization describes its mission by saying “We envision a world in which psychedelics and marijuana are safely and legally available for beneficial uses and in which research is governed by rigorous scientific evaluation of their risks and benefits.”
When Mauss began doing comedy about his psychedelic experiences, an ostensibly unlikely — but altogether natural — collaboration was born.
Mauss, in an interview with 303 Magazine, said that the “Good Trip” tour was born after he realized how much of his act he could base on his experiences with psychedelics.
“I just decided to try out all of the psychedelic material that I could remember, and it ended up being like an hour of material,” he said in the interview. “I was like, ‘Oh, I guess I can do a show about this now. … It took me a long time to figure out how to market it exactly to get more people in, but it went really well from the start.”
While he is supported by — and supports — psychedelic-studies group, Mauss said he is an advocate for psychedelic studies first and psychedelic rights second.
“I don’t think psychedelics are for everybody,” he said in the 303 interview. “The unfortunate thing about their being illegal is people can be in the wrong set and setting or ending up doing too much. So I definitely don’t advocate for ‘Hey, let everyone be tripping all of the time.’ If people can have some experiences, the ideal situation would be to start off in a clinical situation.”
Mauss is no stranger to exploring these larger themes in his work, as past standups have been about things such as time travel and mating — a subject of study that seemed to change the entire direction of his comedy.
“I started looking into animal mating more,” Mauss said in an intervwiew with Yasmin Tayag for Inverse. “Once I started reading about evolutionary psychology and biology, that just changed my life. But I wanted to do bigger things that were further-reaching than the science of dicks.”
Despite having been successful at bringing science into his comedy, Mauss noted that isn’t the easiest thing to incorporate in a comedy-club atmosphere.
“It took so much time to set up these ideas,” he said in the interview with Tayag. “It used to be that Bob Newhart could just set up a premise for like five minutes and then do a whole long awesome piece, and people would just sit there quietly, engaged. That is just not the case in a lot of places anymore.”