By Lara Robertson
After working his way through all the rites of passage for stand-up comedians – performances on Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, a Netflix special, Mating Season (2013), two comedy albums, Jokes to Make My Parents Proud (2010) and My Big Break (2015), and a science podcast Here We Are – US funny man Shane Mauss is bringing his acclaimed comedy show all about psychedelics, A Good Trip, to Australia.
In A Good Trip, Mauss aims to bring the controversial topic of psychedelics to audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with the likes of LSD, magic mushrooms and DMT, but don’t expect just any old drug spiel about tripping balls and speaking to God. Mauss has a keen interest in the scientific prospects of psychedelic use, and in his show attempts to destigmatise and demystify psychedelics by talking about the history, laws and science of psychedelics, as well as a few of his own personal experiences.
We chatted to Mauss about his upcoming Australian shows, and how and why he’s gone about tackling such a tricky topic.
What can we expect from your stand-up show, A Good Trip?
This show is a third stand-up, a third storytelling, and a third science talk focused around psychedelics. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life using psychedelics as a tool to explore the mind. Now I use the topic of psychedelics to explore the mind with this show.
What made you decide to focus your show on psychedelics?
I have a science podcast called “Here We Are,” where I interview scientists about their work. I try to use my stand-up to convey some of what I’ve learned there. In the second half of my career I started doing themed shows and this theme just so happened to take off for me. There are more people curious about psychedelics than I could have ever imagined. This show has become an interesting way for people to come out of the psychedelic closet and get together with others to hear a show for them.
With A Good Trip, how are you attempting to push against the stigmas of drug use?
Drugs are such an important topic. They are powerful tools and we humans have been tinkering with them for longer than we can imagine. We have now reached a point in human history where we are rapidly starting to understand more about them. Unfortunately, all of the drugs that are stimulants, painkillers, and escapes are destroying lives and communities. These addictive substances are ripping us apart. However, psychedelics are a potential tool for freeing ourselves from enhancing therapy and ending this cycle of addiction. I would like to see the laws changed so that psychedelics can be researched. And I’m now sounding like I’m taking myself too seriously. Look, if I wanted to change the world, I’d tell people to be more mindful about diet and exercise. But this is a comedy show. So let’s talk about drugs.
Some people might be turned off from coming to see your show because of their perceptions of drug-use and psychedelics. Do you worry that you might just be preaching to the choir rather than educating those who disagree with you?
I’ve gone out of my way to make the show accessible to all. Psychedelics are an entirely different kind of drug. There will always be people who don’t have any interest in hearing about that, though. However, these shows are always filled with people who have not tried psychedelics. Usually they come with a friend or significant other who has been trying to find a way to articulate this message. This show is for those people and they typically like the show as much (or more) than the experienced.
You focus on science not just in your stand-up, but in your podcast Here We Are. How important is psychedelic research?
I first started doing this show as just another topic. I’ve only done about 7 episodes on psychedelics out of the 140 episodes that I’ve released. I am constantly reading up on the latest science and I interview scientists of all fields. I never expected to become so involved with the psychedelic communities and researchers. Now that I’ve seen what I’ve seen, I believe that psychedelics are at the cutting edge of science. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I think psychedelics might just save us. Maybe not. But we can use all the help that we can get right now.
Do you feel as if your experiences with psychedelics have helped you as a comedian, and/or as a person?
Both. Becoming a better human and/or comedian is often about seeing things differently. There is no surer way to see things differently than to eat some psychedelic mushrooms.
Australia has very strict drug laws – medical marijuana has only just been legalised, though only a handful of patients will be able to access it. Do you have a message for the Australian government?
I would tell anyone interested in helping people that they should explore any potential tool for improving lives. I wouldn’t ask that psychedelics be legalised for recreational use. I would only ask that scientists be allowed to study them. There is so little risk in that. But if there are risks or opportunities, let’s let science be the one to find out.
Shane Mauss will be performing A Good Trip at the Comedy Store in Sydney on October 28. Tickets can be purchased here.