Science at times is inaccessible to the layman, but comedy isn’t. Comedian and podcast host Shane Mauss combines the communicative nature of stand-up comedy and the intrigue of scientific research to the masses on his Stand Up Science tour. has appeared on shows like Comedy Central, where he detailed an adolescent experience with LSD, to a stand-up routine on Conan. also hosts the podcast “Here We Are” where he speaks to scientific experts about topics such as addiction, personality and paleo-anthropology.
On Oct. 1, the tour will be taking on Athens with a stop at the Georgia Theatre. The Red & Black talked to about his interest in fusing comedy and science, his podcast and what Athens comedy fans can expect with his upcoming performance.
The Red & Black: This is sort of a three-part question: How did you first become interested in science? How did you get into comedy, and when did you realize that you could integrate your love of science into your comedy?
Shane Mauss : I’ve wanted to be a comedian since I was about 10 years old. It was always a dream of mine and I actually didn't go to college or pay attention in school, because I wanted to be a comedian. In my early twenties, I finally started out in comedy and had a really nice, fortunate start to my career. I caught a lot of breaks. I was able to do a bunch of like Late Night [Conan O’Brien] and Comedy Central.
I was able to become a full-time comedian really fast. I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my comedy career, and I wanted to do more meaningful content than just jokes. I had a natural interest in science, I was always reading science books. About eight years ago, I got really obsessed with watching animal documentaries and studying animal behavior, evolutionary biology and psychology. I started reaching out to scientists whose work I really liked, and I had some questions for them.
R&B: In addition to your live performances, you also have a podcast called “Here We Are.” How do these two aspects of your life work together, or maybe don’t? How did you get started with the podcast?
SM: I started my podcast about five years ago. Each week, I talk with different researchers about why we behave the way that we do. When I started doing my podcast, stand up was still how I made my living. But, my science podcast became a dream that I never knew I had, my biggest passion in life. It was really stimulating and I was learning all this amazing stuff, so I started putting more and more science into my comedy. I did a variety of different themed shows.
I had the idea last year to present science in a funny way. I thought it might be really interesting for people to also hear a little bit from the scientists themselves. That's how I came up with the idea for Stand Up Science. I did a little trial run of it last fall and decided that it was one of the most fun shows I've put together. That's now turned into my full-time gig basically. A lot of times, I'm doing about three cities a week with Stand Up Science, all different, two different scientists on each show.
R&B: What can audiences expect at your show?
SM: I host. I open with a bunch of jokes explaining what the show is about and my interest in science in a fun and funny way. Then, I introduce local scientists to give a TED-style talk about their research. [which] I improvise about afterward. After that, there's a second scientist doing another quick talk, and all four of us get on stage. I moderate a panel discussion based on what we've learned and open it up to a Q&A from the audience.
R&B: You have an interesting and unique way of making scientific theories accessible to the masses. Do you keep that goal in mind when you make podcasts and perform?
SM: As someone who didn't have a college background when I got into this, I started seeing how learning about some of these things was positively influencing my life and helping me cope with my relationships. That's the aim of the show: we're targeting interests that really affect people's lives on individual levels, so it makes it a little more appealing and accessible.
R&B: Can you talk a little bit about your creative process? Where do your jokes come from?
SM: Coming up with material is a muscle that I've been building for a long time, so comes kind of naturally to me. It's a lot of just figuring out what topics I have coming up and then educating myself on them. It's a pretty fun process. This show is a lot more improvisation than I'm used to. In my career, I’m used to doing stand up where everything's very well-rehearsed, and all of the jokes have been tweaked through trial and error. Stand Up Science is a lot more improvise and conversational.