The closest I’ve ever come to taking a psychedelic drug was in high school. During a commercial break for 120 Minutes, my buddy Charlie said he had a tab of acid in his wallet and suggested we split it. Feeling momentarily daring, I agreed, but soon after, Charlie changed his mind and the conversation went elsewhere.
Since then, I’ve always been vaguely curious but mostly a little fearful about doing anything beyond smoking weed. I’m such an alarmist and so full of self-conscious thought, I worry that if I did, it would only amplify those qualities and I would freak out. But I daresay Shane Mauss might have convinced me to give it a whirl.
The Wisconsin-bred comic has been touring the country for the past year doing a longform show called A Good Trip, which explores his love of psychedelics and breaking down some of the myths surrounding them. A curious soul with an interest in psychology and neuroscience, he opened my eyes to the history of the drug, its effects on the brain, and how best to approach dosing for the first time.
I wasn’t really looking for someone to open my eyes to the wonders of psychedelics. I hadn’t thought about doing them ever and only went to Mauss’ show in the hope of hearing some funny stories about weird trips he’s taken. And there was plenty of that. His descriptions of his experiences on his favorite drug, DMT, pretty well convinced me to go nowhere near it: The first trip found him in a computerized world, putting together new buildings by hand and communicating with everything around him through lights. He also told a wonderful cautionary tale about driving his car off a cliff and landing in a field unscathed.
Mauss’ set at times felt more like a TED Talk than a comedy show. It was organized in the style of a lecture that laid out the history of these drugs—from their use in religious ceremonies and for personal enlightenment to being studied by scientists and latched onto by the military—as well as Mauss' own experiences using them. He was brutally funny through it all, using a lot of his drug-based misadventures as platforms to explain best practices and the proven benefits of LSD, mushrooms, MDMA, and DMT.
The show also revealed my own biases and perceptions about the drugs and their users. Listening to Mauss discuss this and preach his drug gospel was much more appealing than the usual meathead egotist horseshit I get from Joe Rogan or the weird space cadet nonsense I’ve heard for years from hippies. Mauss seems like a guy that I would be happy to have a beer with rather than cross the street to avoid.
A Good Trip is, then, an aptly named stand-up show. Even if you don’t wind up like me, sniffing around the notion of a microdose with some curiosity, it’s a fantastic journey into both Mauss’ mind and the knotted-up world of drugs, legal and otherwise. Now, who’s got the hookup on some window pane?