The last time I hung out with comedian Shane Mauss he was getting ready to record an episode of his Here We Are podcast at a chimpanzee refuge in Louisiana. While most working comedians today trade in the absurdity of everyday life, Shane has taken a slightly different path, choosing to focus primarily on science and psychedelics. He’s taken his Ted talk-style comedic and educational one man show about drugs, A Good Trip, to over 100 cities already, with more dates still on the itinerary. He’s also currently in the process of filming a documentary about psychedelics with some of the leading experts and modern pioneers in the field of drug research. He self identifies as a psychonaut and he takes his work very seriously, for a comic. I recently talked to Shane about drugs, drugs, and more drugs.
Isaac Kozell: How are things going with A Good Trip? Your tour schedule was pretty insane last year. I know you were building up to filming it as a special. Has that happened yet?
Shane Mauss: No. I’m so frustrated that I haven’t locked down the special. One of the problems is that I’m being very, very picky. I really believe in the show and I think the special is going to be amazing. I just want to make sure that it’s on the right platform. I want it to be high quality and I don’t want to cut corners. I’m really milking this sucker. It’s going so well and it’s so much fun to do. I did 85 cities and was like, “Why not just break 100 cities?” The whole process is taking a lot longer than I thought. I’ve reserved the venue for the end of September to record it, but I’m hoping it gets recorded at the end of May instead.
IK: I’ve seen the show twice and I can tell that you’re continually refining it. The only downside to it taking so long is that you might get restless.
SM: I am restless, definitely. But I have outlets for it. I’ve started doing a DMT talk. It’s a humorous talk about DMT. I wouldn’t call it a comedy show, but there are definitely laughs. I’m really exploring all of my experiences in depth. So I have that and I’ve also started taking a club date every month or two. I hadn’t done my regular act in six months when I did my first club date back in February. It was so weird because I didn’t remember half of the shit. I’m also trying to do my podcast live in some places. It’s so much fun to do live. The audience gets to ask questions and I ham it up a lot more when there’s an audience. I’ve already recorded seven or eight live ones this year. My goal is to do at least one a month.
IK: You recently tweeted, “There’s been far more times that drugs have caused me to freak out because I accidentally did way too little. You don’t hear those stories.”
SM: In making this documentary and talking to all of these researchers there’s all this talk about harm reduction and what happens when someone has too much. Then one day I was thinking, “I’ve almost never done too many psychedelics in a dose, but what has happened is that I’ve done not enough. It occurred to me that the number one problem in the psychedelic world is not having access to them or not taking enough because you’re too nervous. You’re not tripping and you’re just reeling for no reason. You never hear that side of it. For every time that someone takes a ten strip of acid, freaks out, and has to be hospitalized, there are ten thousand stories where someone doesn’t take enough, doesn’t trip, and just feels nauseous for no reason. There’s some interesting research being done with MDMA in treating PTSD. They had a regular dose, a half dose, and a placebo. In some cases the half dose was working worse. The full dose was working well, but the half dose was working worse than the placebo because it was just enough to where people were feeling something, but just getting confused, just accessing little bits of the unconscious world, but not getting enough to really get in there and see it clearly.
Something else that’s interesting is that in the advocacy and research of psychedelics so much of it is focusing on problems: cluster headaches, severe depression, PTSD. In all of that sometimes I lose sight of the fact that sometimes psychedelics can just be a wonderful time. You don’t have to have some sort of it disorder to gain benefits and insights from psychedelics. You can have an amazing time on psychedelics. Why is that a bad thing? Why is it that when something makes you feel good, all of the sudden it’s not legitimate. There are some researchers who are trying to take the euphoric aspect out of MDMA and alter the chemicals so that you’re just getting the other therapeutic effects. After a while it’s like, “Why are we taking the euphoria out? Why is feeling good such a part of the stigma?”
IK: I think there’s a puritanical aspect to it where people think they can’t have something unless there’s an absolute need. If it doesn’t solve a critical problem then we shouldn’t use it for recreation.
SM: What’s the goal in our lives anyway? Are we only living to solve our problems and then once our needs are met we become emotionless robots? If you ask people what is the most important thing in their life a lot of it focuses on social aspects: friendship, relationships, marriage, family. A lot of people work jobs they hate so that they can have a day off to watch football with their friends or whatever. That one day that they get to do that is what really makes life worth living for them. Why can’t we have more?
IK: What do you think the next big psychedelic will be? Right now it seems like mushrooms are having a resurgence in popularity. What is everyone going to be doing next?
SM: I think DMT and Ayahuasca are going to blow some doors open. I was just at my grandma’s funeral and I was thinking about how a lot of DMT researchers think that it is what is released in high volumes right before you die and that’s why people who are lucky enough to be revived have reports of seeing gods and tunnels and all of that. I’ve had enough experiences to lead me to believe that I think they’re on to something with that. DMT was absolutely life changing for me, not in the sense that it cured depression or I learned some tangible thing, but in that it revealed this whole other world. My perspective is that there is a kind of multiverse in our heads and we have many many different kinds of consciousness…it’s a humbling experience to have this kind of forced alternative perspective on the world. I feel that psychedelics in general force perspectives and open new paths.