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Better living through mushrooms

Comedian Shane Mauss explores the benefits of psychedelic drugs

Comedian Shane Mauss explores the world of psychedelics in his latest show, “A Good Trip,” which comes to Mac’s Bar Saturday.
Courtesy Photo

Shane Mauss wants to talk to you about LCD, mushrooms and ecstasy. Well, that’s not entirely true. He wants to talk about the brain. But he knows drugs will pull an audience.

“It’s really hard to market the concept of telling jokes about the brain,” Mauss said. “But people will come out and talk about psychedelics, and then I’m able to explore bigger ideas of consciousness and psychology in a fun, palatable way.”

Mauss brings his latest comedy show, “A Good Trip,” to Mac’s Bar Saturday. He describes himself as a “psychonaut,” someone who uses psychedelics to explore the subconscious or otherwise inaccessible parts of his mind. Mauss, 36, began experimenting with psychedelics as a teenager. He started out smoking marijuana, but soon moved on to LSD and mushrooms.

“At first, I was just a reckless, rebellious young man who was interested in exploring different experiences,” he said.

But over the years, Mauss’ relationship with the drugs started to change.

“It started morphing into something I would do responsibly by myself,” he said. “I would sit and journal about my experiences and what I was learning from them. It was a way of bringing out my inner world and seeing myself in a different light, using it as a tool to gain a better understanding of myself and the world.”

Over the last few years, Mauss has been experimenting with ways to bring scientific ideas into his act. His first attempt, the 2013 Netflix special “Mating Season,” brings ideas of Darwinism and procreation instincts into jokes about relationships. His latest comedy album, 2015’s “My Big Break,” uses Mauss’ experience of breaking both of his feet to explore headier topics.

“It was really about sharing these interesting ideas I learned about negativity and how emotions have evolved,” Mauss said. “Pain doesn’t feel good, and none of us like it, but pain exists so that we know when our hand is touching an oven, so that our hand doesn’t burn off. I’m explaining the science of that in a fun way.”

Mauss also hosts a podcast, “Here We Are,” where he interviews members of the scientific community on a wide variety of topics. A former factory worker who never attended college, Mauss tries to make complex topics accessible to blue collar types.

“When I’m making the show, I’m thinking of this factory worker who doesn't have a college education, but that doesn’t mean that he’s dumb,” Mauss said. “I think that all of us have natural curiosity, but for some people science seems too intimidating. I’m trying to show that we can all participate in this conversation, and we can all learn this stuff.”

“A Good Trip” is Mauss’ latest attempt to bring scientific ideas into his comedy show. In his own career, Mauss believes he has benefited from the use of psychedelics.

“It doesn’t matter who you’re listening to, whether it’s Jerry Seinfeld or Louis C.K., all they’re doing is ‘Hey, have you noticed this thing,’ pointing out things in that we don’t notice in our day-to-day lives,” Mauss said. “Psychedelics force you to look at things differently, so as far as I’m concerned they are a creative aid.”

But he’s found benefits off stage, as well. “Mushrooms, for me, are the most beneficial,” Mauss said. “I’ve had chronic depression from the age of 10 or so, and they’ve really helped with my depression and helped me figure out directions in life.”

Mauss is an advocate for the clinical use of psychedelics, which is mostly illegal in the U.S. He argues that using the drugs with professional guidance could help users gain insight or explore subconscious feelings.

“I’m not about everyone going out and doing as many drugs as possible,” he said. “We need to have a more informed approach.”

While mushrooms are his psychedelic of choice, Mauss finds each drug has different effects.

“I’m a very messy, disorganized person, and LSD is very functional for me,” he said. “I’ll use LSD, and I’ll clean the house or organize some things. I use it to communicate to my non-conscious world that these are the kind of behaviors I want to be working on.”

Mauss also uses drugs like MDMA — known in club circuits as ecstasy, rolls or molly — or MDA, which is similar to MDMA but with stronger psychedelic effects. These drugs, he said, boost feelings of empathy.

“I like doing MDA with my girlfriend; it opens you up to sharing problems you’re having in a relationship and helps you gain more appreciation for the positive things,” Mauss explained. “MDMA, back when it was legal and used clinically, was often used in relationship counseling.”

Because of the intense emotions that come out with these drugs, Mauss encourages users to be careful where and how they take them.

“Most people think it’s going to be some party drug,” Mauss said. “And then it pulls up some things, you see things in a different light and learn some truths that can be hard to learn in a party setting.”

Mauss believes that responsible use of psychedelics offers new perspectives, which can lead to better understanding of ourselves and better life choices.

“I’m very much about questioning our perspectives and our own versions of reality, because we have a number of cognitive biases, and life is incredibly complex and hard to figure out,” he said. “When we recognize some of these self deceptions, we can have a laugh, but we can also forgive ourselves for a lot of the mistakes we made in life.”

Shane Mauss: “A Good Trip”

7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 $20/$15 adv. 18kknd Mac’s Bar 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing (517) 484-6795, macsbar.com


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