As a rule, comedian Shane Mauss tries to avoid his comfort zone. That’s a big reason why he decided to dish out some comedy this summer at The Root Note’s Thursday night open mic sessions. And it’s why he agreed to guest host last weekend’s LIVE! from La Crosse sketch comedy shows at the Cavalier Theater and Lounge.
But when Mauss decided he was ready to do full shows again after spending the summer cooling his heels at his parents’ Onalaska home and healing from a hiking mishap in which he broke both his feet, he picked two venues in which he feels very comfortable. He’ll start with two shows Aug. 30 at Bub’s Brewing Co. in Winona, which has a intimate performance space in the basement of the restaurant that reminds him of his favorite club in Boston, where he broke into standup comedy 10 years ago.
Then he’ll do a set at the Cavalier in downtown La Crosse, a fairly big venue that he can count on being filled with hometown fans. From there, it’s back to the constant touring and performing schedule he’s had since he broke through into the big time in 2007 by winning Best Standup Comic honors in 2007 at HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo.
Then it’s on to 50 shows starting in mid-September in Los Angeles and then to Michigan, South Carolina, Texas, Chicago, Milwaukee and Michigan again before he does a series of seven shows at the end of November in Appleton, Wis., and Rochester, Minn.
In his 10 years in comedy, Mauss said he he’s only had two breaks as long as two weeks, and after those, he said, he felt really rusty when he got back on stage. Performing at The Root Note’s open mic nights was a way to help him get back in the groove, but it wasn’t the easy way. Most of the performers for the open mic nights have been musical, and they tend to bring their own fans. Mixing music and comedy performances in that kind of venue can be problematic, he said, for the comedian at least. People can chat with friends and enjoy the music at the same time, but comedy requires people to grant their full attention.
“It’s like, ‘Hey, everybody, stop your good times and listen to me,’” Mauss said. “My first time back on stage, I couldn’t believe how nervous I was.”
He was a little nervous for the LIVE! from La Crosse performances, too, but it worked out well. “It seemed like it would be a good transition for me to get back on stage in front of a nice crowd, just dip my toe in a little bit before jumping in,” he said. “That was a lot of fun.”
If there was a silver lining to his summer-long long break from touring, it was getting the chance to work on writing new material. He’ll be trying out a lot of fresh jokes at the upcoming local shows, the trickiest of which are ones that address his injuries. He took the stage on a knee scooter for the LIVE! from La Crosse shows, and he hopes to be able to just use a cane by the time he next hits the stage. He almost has to talk about breaking his feet, but he said he needs to make sure he provokes laughs and not pity.
The timing of Mauss’ injury could hardly have been worse. It happened on his birthday, just before his “Mating Season” CD and Netflix special came out. The Netflix viewership of “Mating Season” has been average, but once he gets out on the road he figures that should go up.
The nice thing about promoting “Mating Season” now as opposed to earlier this summer is now Mauss has new material, so when people go to watch the special after seeing him live, they’ll be getting a fresh experience (and vice versa).
Mauss said his best advice to rookie comedians is to stay out of their comfort zones, but getting back in the game on home turf has certain appeal to him.
“I will say I am looking forward to these first full sets being part of my comfort zone,” he said. “It feels good to be getting back on stage.”