I was enjoying traveling and touring (overseas)…in those places they do a lot more themed shows…one man shows…slower and a bit more cerebral…(on performing).

Shane Mauss

Comedian, Podcast: Mind Under Matter

We chatted with La Crosse native, Shane Mauss. Shane has been a stand-up comedian since 2004 and touring full-time since 2007, he has put out comedy specials, hosted podcasts, and has made a number of late night appearances. We chat growing up in La Crosse, early work, transitioning to podcasts, experimental shows, and more.

Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by Balancing Act: Teach, Coach, Mentor, Inspire, a collection of candid observations on the challenges facing business leaders today. Balancing Act is authored by Dr. Andrew Temte and is available today on Amazon and other fine bookstores. We chatted with La Crosse native Shane Mauss. Shane has been a stand up comedian since 2004 and touring full time since 2007. He has put out comedy specials, hosted podcasts, and has made a number of Late Night appearances. We chat growing up in La Crosse, early work, transitioning to podcasts, experimental shows and more. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website, lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 00:51
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 00:52
And this is La Crosse Local.

Brent Hanifl 00:55
I’ve been kind of aware of your work back and forth over the last couple of decades. And you’re popping up here and there from comedy to these different sort of experimental shows around the area, even coming and playing and Winona and La Crosse. So, you were born in La Crosse, right?

Shane Mauss 01:09
I was actually born in Washington State. But yeah, I was raised here. My parents moved here before I can remember. And my my parents are from Lansing and New Albin, Iowa. So just, you know, 40 minutes away or so. And so yeah, I’m from here.

Brent Hanifl 01:28
Using La Crosse kind of as your backdrop, what got you down the road? Like what started all this? I know you’ve kind of expanded into different realms. But how did the comedy thing kind of kick off?

Shane Mauss 01:38
Yeah, I mean, I guess I just wanted to be a comedian my whole life, and finally kind of made the big jump to trying it back in 2004. And I moved to Boston. It was actually rather silly, I was deathly afraid of anyone I knew seeing me perform at an open mic or something like that, which I’m sure would have never actually come to fruition. You can barely get people you know to come out to watch you, even if you try, but let alone it randomly happening. But yeah, I moved to Boston. And I just kind of I got pretty lucky and picked it up pretty quickly. And moved up the ranks in the Boston comedy scene pretty quickly at the time, and caught some breaks, and did some like contest things, and won an award, and got on Late Night, and that sort of thing. And so then I was a full time road headliner. And then around 2010, or 2011, I was kind of trying to figure out what I wanted to do because I kind of had accomplished the things that I was seeking to accomplish a little earlier than expected. And it felt like I didn’t know where to go next, really. And so I started venturing into the realm of doing themed shows and bigger ideas and like science themed stuff, which eventually led to my my podcast, Here We Are, where I interview different scientists each week, including a number of UWL scientists in the past episodes. I have another one with the UWL Professor Barrett Klein, one of my favorite guests actually coming up really soon. He’s an insect guy. Yeah, that’s my comedy and entertainment history, told really briefly. I have a new comedy and philosophy podcast called Mind Under Matter. That’s my, that’s the new thing I’m really excited about. And then I’m just kind of trying to figure out what I’m doing now that things are kind of opening up with COVID and whatnot.

Brent Hanifl 03:47
Just recently, a friend of mine, actually, your name came up, but then it also came up again on Brett Newski’s Dirt From The Road podcast. You kind of reference La Crosse I think in a way that I think a lot of people do that grew up here in the 90s in some ways, and this could be just a guess. Do you have a kind of a love hate relationship for this area in some in some capacity?

Shane Mauss 04:08
Well, I mean, there was. First of all, I’m pretty sure I would have wanted to leave any city that I grew up in. I think that’s just in me to want to be on the move and everything. And then second, my parents, and especially my mom were quite a bit more like conservative and cautious and things, than I was growing up. And it kind of felt overbearing, and which led to me wanting to be more adventurous. And so I think that early on may have colored my perception of La Crosse in a bit of a negative light. I’ve never… growing up, I thought it was a lot of the people that I was around were a little too kind of machismo, rough around the edges, trying to be tough and sort of thing. And then I also fell into, you know, drinking way too much as well, which I mean, I can’t blame La Crosse for everything. But that’s one thing where had I grown up in a different environment that didn’t have the most bars per capita or whatever. And maybe my alcohol issues wouldn’t have been as bad, or whatever, it is what it is. But I actually, as an adult, I’m back in La Crosse now, at least, probably through the summer, anyway, as I’m sorting out the next city that I want to kind of settle down, and I really like it now. It’s also there’s so many like, nicer restaurants. I’m a little bit of a foodie because I travel so much, usually. And there’s a lot more nice restaurants and things. Before I moved, there was just the Freight House, that was all you went to if it was like prom or like celebrating something or whatever else. And, so this is before all these great restaurants like the Waterfront, and like Three Sisters, and the Charmont and all these other like, cool, more trendy, newer, a little more experimental type of higher end sort of stuff started moving in. And I feel like there’s more of an appreciation for the Mississippi than there was when I was growing up. It was like kind of shocking, like, I didn’t spend that much time on the Mississippi growing up. And it’s shocking, like how many factories or whatever you just, that’s oh, water, okay, let’s stick a factory on that water instead of this perfect, amazing real estate and beautiful vista, and everything. And so I think La Crosse is has really gone in a pretty great direction over the last 41 years of my life. And I can tell you from traveling, there’s a lot of cities out there still stuck in that era a few decades behind. And I would say that La Crosse is has really cleaned itself up quite a bit, especially in the last 10 to 15 years.

Brent Hanifl 07:27
I understand it’s like the angst of youth in some ways, kind of informs your work from being drunk, you know, roofing to being out on the river and running away from the DNR and things like that. So I just kind of find it interesting. And now even this, our own podcast is basically based on finding and interviewing creatives that are actually born here. And there’s hundreds and thousands of them that live in the La Crosse area. So how do you kind of go from this traditional comedy sense to interviewing scientists, delve kind of into the realm of psychedelics and consciousness? How does that just happen? That’s not the traditional route, I think.

Shane Mauss 08:06
No, it’s not. I, well, I mean, how does that happen? I guess what sort of happened was, after I’d kind of accomplished the things that I’d wanted to accomplish in terms of career goals, and I was just kind of enjoying traveling and touring in more places that that was what was then important to me around like 2010 or so. I really enjoyed doing some overseas stuff, doing some international like going to Australia or Europe or whatever. And I want to do more of that. Well, in those places, they do a lot more themed shows. A lot more one man shows a lot more slower, and a bit more cerebral, usually and not. At the time, I was still kind of built like a traditional late night, you got five minutes set up Bing, bang, boom. There’s not, that style doesn’t allow for a lot of the same depth as like a full themed show. And so as I was thinking that I was like, well, what kind of theme would I talk about, what would my show be about? And even though I never, I always hated school, and I never went to college, I was always in my adult life. And then this isn’t that I was ever the biggest bookworm in the world or anything, but I was always reading science books. Not that I was reading all the time. But every time I was reading, it was all science. But I’ve only read a handful of fiction books in my entire life. And I read science books regularly and it was just natural. I never even put it together that I’d put it into my comedy. It was just my hobby was reading science books. And I just started kind of pursuing that and how can I take some of these bigger ideas that I’m interested in and put them into a show. And it seemed to fit the long form narrative of, if it’s going to take me that much longer to set up a premise, I can’t just have one punch line anymore, because there’s not enough payoff. I need more, I need more laughs after that, if it is going to take a few minutes to really build a bigger idea. And that’s how kind of the idea of doing a theme came along. Because once I built something, I kind of had to keep on building that same lens, because I got I’d get a lot more mileage out of it, rather than like, okay, next concept and spend another three minutes building that for a punch line. And so my first attempt, actually, my first that no one ever saw was I tried to put together a show about physics, and I just never got up the courage or I couldn’t, it wasn’t panning out for me. I wasn’t liking the material I was putting together. And then I ended up doing a show that got on Netflix called Mating Season, which was my least favorite thing that I ever put out there. But it was my first whack at like, okay, how can I take some big like evolutionary biology concepts, and then kind of make them highly accessible and talk about like hey animals mate in this particular way, that’s sort of like the way humans do things sometimes. And that can be a little bit surprising when you first see it. But when you understand these evolutionary principles that underlie some of these drivers and mechanisms that drive all life on Earth, it makes a lot more sense. And so that was like a way of, here’s some, some, some smart ideas with a bunch of dick jokes to make it palatable. And then that was too watered down for me, and too accessible and too dumbed down. And then my next show, My Big Break, was on the surface about breaking my feet, but was really about the evolution of negative emotions. That was an album that it didn’t, the record label I ended up using, I don’t think did that great of a job, or maybe the show was just too different for something like that. And it didn’t get that much traction, but it was actually good. And I was like, okay, now I understand how to do this. Now I understand how to put these bigger ideas together in a themed show. It just so happened just through being on because podcasting was taking off, and a conversation about psychedelics happened to come up on as I was a guest on Pete Holmes’ You Made It Weird actually promoting that album, My Big Break. And psychedelics happened to come up, and then I started talking about my experiences, not knowing that I articulate the experiences better, or any better than anyone else. But I guess I just have a bit of a knack for it, I found out. People heard that and I just started getting all these messages from people wanting to know more. And I always had a little bit of psychedelic material. In my act, here and there, I would do like a five minute joke or story or whatever here. and there. Not too much because there was still so much stigma with it. And you’re in a comedy club filled with drunks that have never like, mushrooms, LSD, isn’t that what crazy people do or whatever, you know, it’s like Saturday, date night. There’s judgment and people have their ideas about things. So I realized if I was going to do a show about psychedelics, there’d be benefits which I’d be able to talk about perception and consciousness in a way that people might be a little more interested in, rather than saying, come and see a comedy show about perception and consciousness, you know. And that’s when I started venturing off into the indie market. So, I left comedy clubs. I would still performed my regular act in comedy clubs. And then off nights, I started finding little music venues to try my psychedelic show, not knowing that there is going to be a big market for it. And it kind of took off for me. I mean, it wasn’t it didn’t set the world on fire necessarily. But for where I was at my career, it did better than I would have expected. And you know, even though it was modest sized rooms, I was selling them out everywhere, and it launched into a really big tour and people were just kind of hungry to hear more. This was in 2016 2017, an 111 city tour that led to some people reaching out to me to make a documentary about that and my experiences called Psycho Nautics: A Comics Exploration Of Psychedelics, which is on Amazon. I started getting kind of a little more well known for that which was never really the point. The point was always I want to talk about big ideas. I want to talk about perception and consciousness. So psychedelics was a nifty little trick to hook some people in to talk about those concepts and a welcome audience that likes talking about big ideas. But I often worry about getting pigeonholed into, oh, he’s the psychedelic guy or whatever, which is fine. It is what it is. But yeah, that’s how all that happened. And then I kind of use that sometimes to filter people into the science stuff that I do, which is a lot more important to me. Yeah, science communication, and talking with academics and having people on the show that no one’s ever heard of before. You know, just people with regular old academic jobs. A lot of them don’t even have a social media account, or maybe just have the same, you know, Facebook account with, you know, some of their family and high school friends or whatever, like everyone else in the world does. They aren’t trying to be Bill Nye or Neil DeGrasse Tyson, or whatever. They’re just have regular old jobs in academia that I think are really interesting and underappreciated. And so my podcast, Here We Are, is a little bit like, a bit like the show Dirty Jobs, but for academia, it’s how I how I think about it. So making those that sort of stuff accessible, and hopefully fun.

Brent Hanifl 16:24
Just looking at your different discography. I don’t know if you’d call it that. But your basically, your different albums, you know, it’s it seems like there’s a lot of transitioning through them. So speaking of that, and also I did actually just started listening to Here We Are or the last couple days your podcast.

Shane Mauss 16:39

Brent Hanifl 16:39
How was this year for you? How was COVID? How did that affect it all? Especially speaking of transitions?

Shane Mauss 16:45
Well, in 2019, I was in about three cities a week, and I did about 120 live shows and had a pretty good thing going and it shut all that down. You know, it was pretty financially devastating. But, you know, fortunately, I was, I was lucky that I have a science podcast. And I was lucky that I talked with, you know, virologists and things like that, right from the from the get go. Because I right away after talking with a couple people, I knew, oh, this is going to be a while, whatever we’re hearing from the administration or the different bickering on the news, like, it’s not like every scientist was in agreement at the time of exactly how long it was going to be. But they all knew it was going to be longer than what everyone was being told with like, oh to two or three more weeks, it’ll go away like a miracle or whatever. And so I knew that that I wanted to make the best of the situation. And I’m, you know, I turned 40 during COVID. And I was like, I’m going to use this as this midlife retooling like a lot of people you know, go back to school or whatever else or make a career change around that time. And I’m going to use this opportunity to explore. I’ve been working on a book that’s coming along well, it’s really good and I like it, but I’m still I go back and forth with building a routine for it. But I’ve been, I added video to my podcast Here We Are. I started this new podcast Mind Under Matter with Ramin Nazer that, I don’t know that Here We Are will ever be something that gets like huge numbers or anything like that. It’s not really meant to, it’s not really like I said, I don’t get celebrities or anything. It’s it’s kind of meant to be like a great education for myself and people that are lucky enough to have found it get to tune in and get a bunch of stuff at. My new show Mind Under Matter, if I had to make a prediction, I would say it’s probably going to launch my career, like maybe launched might be overstating things. But it’s going to be a pretty big boost for my career. The numbers that we’re already seeing there and the feedback that we’re getting has been pretty incredible as we predicted. And I I’ve just partnered with with genius artist and comedian Ramin Nazer. So I got lucky there. We’ve been friends for a long time and have collaborated on a number of things. And I mean, we are always working out things and trying to work on some stuff together, and never really settled on any ideas. And if it weren’t for COVID, we probably would have never put this new show together. And I mean, it just launched in April. So I don’t want to get ahead of anything, but we’re pretty excited about it. I think it’s going to be my thing that I’m going to be putting most of my effort on into going forward. And so I think I’m going to, you know COVID is also changed my ouring. I know everyone’s like, okay, everything’s open and fine again, and but it’s also summer. And I think the vaccines are fantastic, but there’s already, you know, there’s variants in the UK that are escaping the one shot protection and stuff like that. And so I’m not totally counting my chickens just because it’s a lot, it takes a lot of energy to put together a tour. And to have to reschedule things. To have to go like, oh, I was going to do this 400 seat venue, but now it’s 100 seat venue, and it’s distance and people are wearing masks and I don’t really care to perform comedy. I haven’t performed during COVID. But I’ve been a comedian for 17 years. So I’ve performed at distanced shows. And I know that that’s not conducive to comedy might be good for jazz or something like that, but not definitely not comedy. So that’s kind of where I’m at right now and just kind of figuring out my next move. Because I was actually full time on the road for a year before COVID and I thought that’s what my dream was at the time, or at least for like five years or something and I was absolutely loving it. And now it just doesn’t seem practical anymore. So I’m going to get a home base where I can really build up kind of a nicer studio and everything for myself and I’m just kind of in between five different cities where I’m moving to.

Brent Hanifl 21:30
You know, it seems like I’ve talked to about 200 different artists around the La Crosse area and it seems like a lot of them have used this time in some ways like yourself. You know be creative to change, kind of adapt, and transition through this process that was devastating but also kind of needed and unique in some ways. You know, you’re kind of like in this transitional period and I think there’s a lot coming up for you, if people want to find out more, what is the best avenue for them to follow along with you?

Shane Mauss 21:55
Um, I would say shane mauss, m-a-u-s-s .com is a good place to start. I would check out, if you really want a good, accessible fun look at the sort of thing that I do my new show Mind Under Matter is the most like who I am, coming to the surface. If you’re into science, check out Here We Are, even if you aren’t into science, you might be more into it than you realize. So check out the Here We Are podcast.

Amy Gabay 22:31
La Crosse Local podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

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About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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