Comedy Q&A with Shane Mauss

By Columbus Alive
From the May 24, 2012 edition

Shane Mauss released his first CD, “Jokes to Make My Parents Proud,” in 2010, and it was a hilarious success. After going through some personal changes, embracing his passion for science and realizing monkeys having sex is really funny — especially if you’re stoned — Mauss created an hour-long set that’s as smart and cerebral as it is funny.

How’s being on the road going? Have you been pretty busy lately?

I’ve been very busy. I think I’ve worked every single week this year. I took some time off for my sister’s wedding, and in a few weeks my girlfriend is taking me to Greece for my birthday. Other than that, I’m working every week.

I’m also doing these one-night independent shows on off nights. I’m busier than ever, but I like it. I like being on the road. The travel can be a pain in the ass, but other than that I like being in new towns and meeting new people.

Do you have plans to perform more independent shows like the Woodlands Tavern one?

I’m actually excited to do more of these independent-type shows because usually the audience for them is a lot of fun. They’re a bit more comedy savvy than a regular comedy club, Saturday night, date night audience. I enjoy that as well, but it’s nice having a more savvy audience so you can be a little more experimental and take a few more chances with some more clever material.

So the independent shows are exciting because the audience came to see you, not just comedy in general?

Exactly. That’s a major, major difference. That’s why I like doing these things. I just did a couple in my hometown, which is always a lot of fun. It can be a little awkward as well, performing to relatives and friends of relatives.

What have you been working on lately?

After my first CD came out, I got rid of all that material and built a new act. Last year, I was going to do an hour special, and then I kind of started going in a different direction with my stuff. I’ve pretty much built a new act over the last few months.

It’s a bit of a departure from my older stuff that was more sporadic and all over the place, going from one weird topic to another. My show now has a bit of a theme to it.

I’m doing stuff on the science of sex and exploring the sexual selection theory. I’ve always really enjoyed science, and I spend a lot of my free time reading about it and watching it on TV. But it’s really hard to make comedy about actual scientific concepts.

Then with evolution I realized this is stuff people can relate to, because at the core they’re just kind of sex jokes, which people usually go for. Basically I’ve figured out a way to trick people into laughing at science jokes by turning them into sex jokes.

How did this science theme come about?

I’d gotten out of a five-year relationship and started a new relationship. I started thinking about that and why we pick who we pick; how to make yourself more attractive to your partner and all of that. I just started exploring these ideas and came across all this stuff.

At first I thought, well here’s a fun fact about sex that I could basically write a silly dick joke about. But then when I started exploring it a little more, I found that this is important stuff. It affects everyone and is something people aren’t consciously aware of.

Now I talk a lot about animal mating behavior and relationships. What I like about it is relationship stuff, men and women, has been done to death, but I’ve been able to take a different approach and explore a new angle.

The trick is I have to explain a concept before I can joke about it because this stuff isn’t common knowledge. I have to explain it in a funny way, and then I can joke about it.

That’s been challenging. Over the last month or two, it’s starting to get really consistent. This is a really good time, and I’ve been taping my sets lately to send out to my manager and work on putting together an hour special.

So your girlfriend had an influence?

When I met my new girlfriend, we started watching Animal Planet … and smoking weed. When you start watching a lot of monkeys, especially when you’re high, you start making a lot of connections between animal behavior and human behavior.

I was constantly talking for the monkeys and acting stuff out, and it cracked her up. I’m a big believer that if a comic can be as funny and as comfortable and as genuine as they are when they’re hanging out with their girlfriend and having some laughs, that’s a key to success [on stage].

Mating behavior makes everyone laugh — monkeys having sex and whatnot is always funny. I thought that this was maybe a way to connect some science ideas because no one wants to hear a science lecture, they want to laugh.

And she’s a comedian as well, her name is April Macie, so I run all my new material by her. She’s been incredibly helpful and given me insights into secrets women have that they don’t always like sharing.

Did it take a lot of work to polish this new material?

At first it was really difficult, and I didn’t have it together how I wanted to. I wasn’t totally confident in all of it. I thought just because they were sex jokes they’d be easy enough for anyone to relate to.

But then I got a heckle I’ve never heard before — someone yelled, “Too much thinking!” — which was incredibly frustrating and irritating.

At first it was really difficult and I didn’t have it together how I wanted to say it. It’s the most excited I’ve ever been about any of the material that I’ve worked on. I started to take it very seriously; I quit drinking before and during my act. I’ve been reading more than ever and reaching out to scientists, asking them questions and figuring out easier and quicker ways.

That is the strangest heckle I’ve ever heard.

There’s been some miscommunication, too. It’s a lot about how females’ mate choices tend to drive evolution. It’s really about how women are kind of in charge and have a lot more power than we’re consciously aware of.

I was worried that this stuff would offend the alpha male, jock guy — their egos would be bruised, or whatever — but once and a while during a show, I would say something I guess in the wrong way, and a woman would come up after the show who was offended. It really caught me off guard because I was really praising women a lot.

It was just a lot of trial and error in how to deliver it and make the material connect. The changes have just been slight, in the order or way that I say them, because the concepts are interesting and funny enough themselves.