Ali McGhee is a journalist, creative writer, and academic. Her work has appeared in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Romantic Circles, Symbiosis: A Journal of...
Shane Mauss wants to blow your mind, but not in the way you might think. The comedian and podcast host (of the science-heavy Here We Are) returns to Asheville on his wildly popular "A Good Trip" tour. Past shows in Asheville have sold out, so Saturday evening's show and Sunday's live podcast, both happening at West Asheville's Mothlight, are an opportunity to see Mauss if you missed him before, or to return with family and friends—or just yourself—for some new material.
Mauss has already made two prior stops in Asheville, and this weekend's events will mark the end of his "100 city psychedelic comedy tour." The format—part comedy show, part TED-style talk on DMT—is in constant evolution, and Mauss has added a good bit since December, the last time he was in the 828.
Mauss's material obviously appeals to people who have already had some experience with psychedelics, but he's also reaching out to people who have never had a psychedelic experience, and who may even have some trepidation around psychedelics. This approach makes the show accessible for everyone, from the merely curious to the most experienced of psychonauts. Mauss's own history with psychedelics inform the show (he has used the powerful hallucinogen DMT over 100 times), but there's an equal amount of hard science that goes into performances. In fact, Mauss distinguishes himself through his focus on research and science, which he feels are the most important and accessible areas right now for expanding knowledge around the use of psychedelics in therapy and medicine. “The scientific approach very very important,” notes Mauss, “because more people need to be learning about these things and their potential benefits, and that's not happening fast enough.
“I want people across the county, in the Midwest and in North Carolina, who have never done a psychedelic, to come to the show," he continues. "I want to explain it to them. That's far more important that speaking to the people who want to talk about the spiritual side of their experiences. The scientific approach is so useful for someone who's never done a psychedelic substance. If I approach it spiritually, then people are going to have ideas that I'm some weirdo new-agey person that fried my brain. Or they will see these perspectives as a challenge to own belief systems. It's hard to penetrate through the general public perception with the spiritual angle. Everyone gets to have their own opinion about these experiences. There are lots of different ways of looking at them, and I'm glad for that, but I really enjoy the science side of it."
Mauss makes this scientific emphasis accessible through his own careful research and curation. “I'm always chasing that next 'A-ha' moment,” he notes. “But having those kind of epiphanies takes a lot of suffering though a lot of long, boring, dry stuff to finally make the connections that are necessary. And this research is what's going to be necessary to create changes in the scientific and medical fields. Most people aren't going to read through all of that data, but the people studying it still need to be presenting that info to the government and FDA so that they can show they've really done their work. It's a necessary part of moving the movement forward.”
This point was echoed at April's Psychedelic Science conference, hosted by MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) in Oakland. Mauss was there, too, performing during the conference's comedy banquet and dinner cruise.
While psychedelic experiences are in many ways inexpressible, Mauss approaches the topic practically. “There's a back and forth when people talk about psychedelics,” he notes. “Some people say that you can't describe the experience or put it into words, but I think I can.”
Mauss's sold-out shows are a testament to this fact. “There are painters able to represent some of the stuff,” he points out. “There are amazing artists out there trying to articulate what these experiences are. I think I get it. I smoke enough DMT to know how difficult it is to articulate. When people have a hard time putting it into words, I think it's because they're not attempting to approach the experience in that way.”
Mauss's most rewarding results come when people approach him after shows to tell him he's changed their minds in some way. “One of my favorite reactions is when someone will bring their significant other or a friend who has never done psychedelics, and they've been trying to explain why psychedelics are important to them and why perhaps the person they brought should think about it for whatever issue they're having, but the person has been nervous. And afterwards, the person who has never tried psychedelics says, 'I get it now. I understand what they've been trying to tell me.'”
Saturday's event, which begins at 9 p.m. (doors at 8), will be recorded for a special that will eventually be available to stream. Tickets are $15. Sunday's live podcast, which begins at 2 p.m., will feature Drs. Michael and Annie Mithoefer, the co-therapists for MAPS' groundbreaking MDMA/PTSD study, which is about to enter Phase Three FDA trials. The podcast taping will be approximately one half conversation between Mauss and the guests and one half audience-driven Q&A. Sunday tickets are $10.