Just like many American high schoolers or professional comedians, Shane Mauss did quite a few hallucinogens. Now he has turned it into a thriving and unique career.
"I got into psychedelics as a teenager, the same as any other rebellious teen trying to get into trouble not really knowing at the time the kind of profound experiences that I was going to have and definitely, psychedelics spawned my interest in how the mind works and a lot about more wanting to understand reality and our place in the universe."
Mauss' psychedelic experiences led to something much more profound than jokes about tripping or stories about the first time he tried DMT. Mauss' comedy and other creative endeavors aim to create a high consciousness and awareness of scientific thought and the benefits of these powerful substances.
He hosts the popular science podcast Here We Are, which provides entertaining interviews with interesting and scientific minds. He tours with his live comedy and science series Head Talks, which includes talks with psychedelic researchers and advocates. Head Talks will make a stop Tuesday at Sons of Hermann Hall. Anthropologist and author Sophia Rokhlin, who Mauss called "the single best communicator on the subject of ayahuasca (a natural hallucinogen) that I have ever seen," and Tristan Seikel and Wes Elliott from the Decriminalize Nature Dallas campaign will join him.
Mauss' shows and talks are happening on the cusp of a new understanding of naturally occurring drugs and their clinical benefits. Thirty-three states have legalized the medical use of marijuana and 11 have legalized recreational use, according to the nonpartisan ProCon group. Last June, Oakland, California, became the second city in the U.S. to decriminalize all aspects of psychoactive mushrooms, according to The Associated Press. Dallas was the site of a convention dedicated to talking about the use of psychedelic mushrooms.
"I'm not always as optimistic as a lot of people out there," Mauss says. "I think we are in a bit of a bubble and spending a lot of time around other people in the psychedelic community, which is growing rapidly to be sure, and I think the reason why people are getting on board is because ... of the potential for scientific and medical use."
Mauss says he started refocusing his comedy career about a year ago to raise more awareness of science's contributions and breakthroughs.
"They were a gateway into talking about psychology and consciousness and the kinds of topics I like and in a way that people were a little more interested in," Mauss says. "And so, everyone's concerned about, you know, marijuana or whatever being a gateway drug, but for me, psychedelics have been a gateway for science communication and spreading bigger ideas."
Psychedelics have been part of Mauss and his comedy for a while, but they've morphed into something much more profound for him and his audience. Mauss says his Head Talks tour, which partners with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), allows him to reach comedy audiences who are genuinely interested in these topics.
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"They're using MDMA for PTSD," Mauss says, referring to the MAPS group. "Veterans and victims of sexual assault and that sort of thing that have tried everything else, every form of therapy, every medication on the market and they have had zero success. And these are the worst cases, and the results that they've gotten from this therapy is unlike anything else out there. So the FDA is actually having a breakthrough status, meaning the FDA is helping them speed up the process because it's actually considered unethical to keep it away from people who need it because of the results they have had."
Mauss says he finds satisfaction reaching audiences on such a higher level of understanding and awareness even while he's trying to make them laugh.
"Getting to do what I do is exceptionally stimulating and challenging, and I learn a bunch all of the time," Mauss says. "Most of a comedian's life is working on kind of the same routine and building a new hour of material, say every year or something like that. That's if you're a really prolific comedian, you're doing a new hour of material every year and most people aren't doing anything close to that, but with the shows that I'm doing now, all of my shows are very different. I'm always working on new things all of the time and exploring new ideas, so it's just rewarding and stimulating for me."
Shane Mauss brings his Head Talks tour to Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm St., at 8 p.m. Tuesday.