It was such a joy to witness firsthand when stand-up comedian Shane Mauss earned his first big break three years ago this month. You can see some of the evidence here when I celebrated with Mauss and friends after his first Conan taping in March 2007, and the subsequent piece I wrote for the Boston Phoenix about his wild ride from low-to-no paying gigs in Boston to Aspen, HBO and NBC.
When he signed with an agent and manager, he started hitting the road. As a headliner. It could have daunting. Perhaps too much, too soon.
Cut to present-day, when his first half-hour Comedy Central Presents special is airing, mere days after his first full-length CD has dropped on the Comedy Central Records label, called "Jokes to Make My Parents Proud." And I'm very happy to say that Mauss still warrants the plaudits and attention. This clip from his special includes the bit that opens his disc, about a freak accident at a Six Flags amusement park. Roll it.
Even when he was a virtual unknown in Boston, though, Mauss took the craft of joke-writing very seriously, if also perversely. The title, after all, is his acknowledgment during the set that his decision to talk about how drunk he gets, how he pushes buttons with the FCC, and tries to talk his girlfriend into having "butt sex" isn't exactly how his Wisconsin family may have hoped their son would make his comedy debut.
As he explains on track #6, in which he has to dictate one of his Conan sets over the phone to an NBC censor: "The FCC lady — little bit of a cunt." Pause for laughs. Beat. "But try calling her that. She has a little buzzer there. It doesn't work." He pokes fun at the idea of debating a censor over made-up words such as "gaytarded" and "faggert." Continuing into the next track, there's an unfortunate — or is it insightful — reference to his planned but never-completed return to Conan for the earlier Tonight Show (Mauss was supposed to be on this month). Mauss shares the info he learned from NBC about what wouldn't even fly in the 11:30/10:30 hour. "That is for CD only!" he concludes.
There are observational jokes about vegans who don't know what chicken taste like, and the difference between getting drunk versus getting wasted. That latter joke, I used to enjoy mimicking his delivery on, but here, years later on the CD, you hear a much more measured tone from him. I'm not complaining. There are multiple funny bits about the nature of time machines, including his wondering what would happen if he were to run into a future, female version of himself. Here's a version of one of the jokes that prompted Mauss into an aside on his Comedy Central special about how some audiences just don't get his Stephen Hawking references.
Oh well. On the CD, you'll also hear Mauss make a thematic shift from observational jokes into 17 minutes of stories based on his life with his actual girlfriend, another Boston-based comedian. Even Mauss concedes several minutes in that he's talking way too much about some of it — "I can see some of you looking at me" — before plowing right back into it. I'm sure Maggie is just as proud as her parents to be included. But if you're not going to be offended by curse words and playfully naughty material that's mostly poking fun at him, you'll be in for a treat.