Professional irreverence

LaCrosse native Shane Mauss talks about joke writing, family and getting his grandparents expelled from their church.

Shane Mauss will be headlining four consecutive nights at Acme Comedy

Photo courtesy Shane Mauss

Shane Mauss will be headlining four consecutive nights at Acme Comedy

by Raghav Mehta

ItâÄôs hard to imagine Shane Mauss doing anything besides stand-up comedy. His distinct brand of observational humor is the kind of whacky genius that your eager-to-please co-worker tries during water-cooler conversation but botches with bad timing.

But Mauss doesnâÄôt care all that much whether you like him or not. He just wants to keep telling jokes.

âÄúIâÄôm not for everybody and I donâÄôt want to be for everybody,âÄù Mauss said. âÄúLike I canâÄôt imagine writing a joke and being like, âÄòWell, what will the audience think?âÄôâÄù

Born and raised in La Crosse, Wis., Mauss is a natural talent, an off-kilter alt-com and at once an astute boozehound and a dumbfounded everyman. His debut album, âÄúJokes To Make My Parents Proud,âÄù is brimming with enough back alley wisdom and absurdist one-liners to leave even the most manic of depressives convulsing with laughter.

Despite his perpetually goofy demeanor, Mauss didnâÄôt really grow up around comedy. In La Crosse, he was an out-of-place cut-up and while he became obsessed with stand-up at a young age, he never wore it on his sleeve. Even after he moved to Boston in 2000, he didnâÄôt bother telling anyone he was off to pursue a comedy career.

âÄúI was a reserved person around my family. I never had a whole lot in common with them.âÄù Mauss said. âÄúI was paranoid about people knowing I wanted to do stand up because of the fear of failing and looking like a jackass.âÄù

So when he told his relatives that he was going to be performing on Conan OâÄôBrien in 2008, word spread quickly. His grandparents, being the wholesome Iowans they were, went so as far as to distribute flyers during their Sunday church service to promote his performance. But MaussâÄô family had never seen his stand up, so his late-night dose of drunken debauchery and irreverent musings didnâÄôt sit well with some of the neighborhood conservatives. His grandparents were both expelled from the church in response to MaussâÄô performance.

âÄúTheyâÄôre great people but they think very differently about things,âÄù Mauss said of his parents. âÄúThese are people who are just excited that anyone could be on TV.âÄù

In a comedy world rife with rage and cynicism, MaussâÄô snark is at a level most audiences would be able to handle. HeâÄôs smart but not esoteric, low-brow but not vile. His material would come off preachy if it wasnâÄôt just draped in absurdity.

âÄúI want my act to be all over the place. I want it to be one-liners, long stories, clean stuff, dirty stuff, politics, goofy stuff. I want a little bit of everything in my act,âÄù Mauss said. âÄúBut I do have an embarrassing amount of jokes about butt holes.âÄù