Answering Business Questions With Shane Mauss

INJ 99 | Business Questions


Welcome to the second special dual taping of I’m Not Joking, and Here We Are, Shane Mauss’s science podcast. This episode coincides with the launch of Peter’s new book, Shtick To Business, which you can find out about at PeterMcGraw.org or buy directly from Amazon. Shane is a special contributor to the book, and Peter answers Shane’s and the audience’s questions about their business.

Listen to Episode #99 here:


Answering Business Questions With Shane Mauss

Welcome to I’m Not Joking, the show that looks at the lives of funny people.

The Here We Are Podcast, the science podcast hosted by me, comedian, Shane Mauss.

These shows coincide with the launch of my book, Shtick to Business, which launched on Amazon. You can find out about it on my website, PeterMcGraw.org and buy it as a softback, eBook or audiobook.

This book has set the world on fire, New York Times bestseller. Thanks for all the reviews. Thanks for telling all of your friends demanding a sequel to it. We’re working on it now. The results have been incredible that it worked.

It did. One day I’ve had agents, publishers calling me. For those of you who are I’m Not Joking audience who don’t know who Shane is, first of all, you should go back and read the blog. He is a stand-up comedian and he specializes in science. We’ve been friends for several years. He has two touring shows. One is called Stand Up Science, which is a half-comedy and half-science show. The second one is called Head Talks, which is a special psychedelic version of Stand Up Science. Speaking of psychedelics, you can see him in the documentary film, Psychonautics. He’s the host of Here We Are. Most importantly, Shane is a special contributor to Shtick to Business. He is essentially the comic relief and the person who goes, “Pete is about 90% right.”

I have a lot of anecdotes because so much of your book is like, “These are business lessons from the world of comedy.” Many of my anecdotes are also almost the reverse of it too, of like, “Now that you’ve presented this business lesson, here’s how I’ve used it.” There are even sections where I learned something new about a business that I wasn’t as a comedian using. I’m like, “I could use that with comedy.” It’s a little bit of I’m adding that extra element of having to go back the other way too, here and there.

They’re fun. They’re these littles 500 to 700-word sections called, Shtick by Shane.

I imagine there’s someone out there that’s going to be counting the words like, “You said 500 to 700 words. Some of them are 350, some of them are 1,000,” it’s all over the place.

I would say this, “At least you’re using numbers.”

For Here We Are audience, Peter McGraw is a good friend of mine who’s now been on the show for the fourth time with this being a second part. He’s my probably second-oldest scientist friend. In terms of length of time and also age, you’re the oldest. Peter is a business professor who got into studying humor research. That’s how we ended up meeting at the exact same time almost that I was getting into putting science into my comedy. It would have been an unjust world if we never met.

It’s interesting thinking of the counterfactual so we met at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival several years ago. When we might have crossed paths otherwise. A few years later, we’re both a little more established. Maybe we would have hated each other.

This guy thinks he’s some scientist. This guy thinks he’s some humor researcher. We’ve been great friends. Peter gives me lots of one, he’s an easy laugh. I love that as a comedian, he’s a great audience member. Two, he is everything that I’m not all of the business, all of the professional stuff. I used to be ridiculously bad at and have started to move getting into, “I know how to do some of this business and marketing stuff.” Much of that is the influence of doing my show, but also much of this is directly related to a lot of great conversations and personal advice that Pete has given me. He also knows a lot of my career and my path. When I’m thinking about doing something and asking him for advice, he always breaks it down into these business terms that help me. I don’t know why that’s helpful. It’s one thing when a friend gives you advice, but for me it’s another thing when there’s like, “There’s this study that shows.” It’s like it validates the same information that anyone else might possibly give you, but it makes it resonate a little bit more like, “This is a well-studied thing. This is a common problem that’s out there.”

There are common solutions oftentimes.

[bctt tweet=”When you have problems, oftentimes, there are common solutions out there.” via=”no”]

I put some posts out on social media asking for business questions that maybe we would answer. What we ended up deciding on doing as I got a sense of what some people are looking for and some of the feedback. Pete has some specific ones. I was like, “Why not break down? I have a zillion business questions. I also thought maybe talking about my path for the audience that doesn’t know how I got where I am now, which is most of you, I don’t share this stuff much. You’ll get to hear some of the advice that Pete’s given me along the way, some of which is relevant to the book, Shtick to Business. Maybe some of the modern things. My career is always in flux as you know, I always have a zillion new projects that I’m picking between which one and one thing’s working.

One thing’s not working. Why is that? Should I put more energy into this? More money into that. You’re one of my favorite people to go through these things with. The reason why that’ll grab people more and be a bit more accessible, even though I’m sure almost no one out there is a comedian themselves is it will be a good example of what the book is. It will go through my life as a comedian. People will hear things that will resonate with their small businesses. They’re trying to get promotions. They’re being unhappy with certain aspects of their career, looking to expand, looking to get into something else, looking to turn their hobby into a serious business. These are all the sorts of things that I’ve been through in my own life.

In the acknowledgments of the book, I say I like to give advice and I like to take advice. The book gives a lot of advice, but to get there, I needed to take a lot of advice. Maybe at some point we’ll turn this around and you can give me some. The thing about Shane is I’m rooting for him. There are times where I feel that way. I was like, “I think he can do it. I think he can pull this off.” For those of you who are contemplating in making a change to your professional life, I hope that this conversation and I hope if you read the book thinking about comedians is inspirational to you. One of the cool things about comedians is they’re pursuing their dreams. At least the ones who are hustling, these are dreamers to think like, “I can do that.”

In reading the book, there were also lessons that aren’t mentioned outright in this way, but many of these same things could be applied to dating, to exercise, to wellness, to being a more resilient person, to managing stress, to managing pandemics that all of a sudden happen and throw everything out of whack. These black swans that happen in life. I hope as people are reading and hopefully getting the book as well, they’re also thinking like, “How can I use some of these things to improve relationships and everything else.

One thing I want to say before we start is in the same way that Shane and I had been friends for several years. Making a profound change in your life takes time. In the movies, it needs to get done in two hours, but in life, five years is fast. I would say keep that in mind in terms of, as a reader, if you’re thinking about making a profound change in your life that it’s likely to be the culmination of a lot of works and risk-taking. You won’t have an answer right away.

Even knowing that I feel like helps you move forward a lot easier. It’s not to bounce around because I want to go back to the origin story a little bit, but one of the big things that changed my work ethic early on when I was getting into science and I was like, “This is this never-ending amount of stuff. How do I pick what to articulate? What’s impostor syndrome? I didn’t go to college and so-and-so.” What I would tell myself when I was reading a book and thinking like, “I’d rather watch TV or something instead.” I would often tell myself, “Keep doing this and five years from now, you’re going to be a much smarter person.” Because of that, you’ll think of all of these solutions that you don’t have a sense of right now.

My personal story about this was and it’s in the book so I have a chapter about writing and about the value of writing. I realized as an assistant professor that my writing was bad and academic papers are the currency of academia. I did a bunch of research to figure out how to become a better writer. I studied the habits of the world’s greatest writers, and I started doing that. At first, it was horrible. It was a terrible awful experience. It probably took a few years before I even started to like to write. Now, I love to write. That’s several years later.

It’s ironic because when I started reading science publications, I was like, “This is awful. This is a nightmare. If I keep going, I’ll get better at it. I’ll realize what’s important to read, know how to scan a little bit and how to interpret and when to let some of this stuff go.”

I’ll give you a quick example of this. When I showed up at my PhD program, this is August of 1997. My adviser, Barb Mellers, gave me a paper that she had. It was forthcoming, it had already been accepted for publication, but it hadn’t been published yet. She said, “Read this and we’ll discuss it tomorrow.” I went back to where I was staying and I read the paper. It took me four hours to read the paper. I took five pages of notes reading this paper. I went in the next day and told her how much I liked it. What I liked and what I didn’t, all that stuff. Nowadays, if someone had given me that exact paper, it would have taken me twenty minutes to read. I would’ve had a much better understanding of it all. I feel your pain.

The goal of this show is to have a clearly free-flowing conversation. We’re going to try to apply some of the ideas, some of the lessons from Shtick to Business. If you don’t know what this is, basically it’s not about being funny. This is a book about thinking funny, thinking differently, taking a creative, innovative approach to building a business or developing a career. All the ideas in the book are from the world’s funniest people like Shane Mauss, that they have these practices and perspectives that underlie this incredibly difficult task of creating laughs on command.

To start out with my origin story, this is the stuff that you’ve got to answer in every newspaper article, “When did you decide you wanted to be a comedian?” or whatever. I might as well do a quick version of that. There might be some interesting lessons from it. When I was 9 or 10 years old, everyone was trying to decide what they wanted to do for a career. It’s like, “Should I be a doctor? Should I be a fireman? Should I be a construction worker like my dad?” Nothing sounded appealing to me. I was playing video games one day with a friend and he was like, “You should be a stand-up comedian.” I was like, “What’s that?” He’s like, “It’s someone that stands on stage and makes them laugh.” I was like, “That’s what I’m good at.” I decided I was going to be a stand-up comedian before I’d ever even seen stand-up comedy.

Do you remember this friend’s name?

Yeah. It’s Eric Schmuck. He’s now a scientist. He studies DNA and stuff. I didn’t tell anyone a small Midwestern town practical person would have been dismissed as this ridiculous dream. Plus, the nightmare of everyone wanting to tell you a joke and like, “Do you think you’re funny? Prove it,” crap that every comedian has to deal with. I started consuming as much stand-up as I possibly could. I recorded every David Letterman show. If there’s a stand-up comedian on, I will fast forward to that. I watched the sets multiple times. I didn’t care if it was good or bad or whatever. I was like 13, 14 at the time when Comedy Central came out and that’s when there was regular stand-up comedy, half-hour specials, hour specials on.

INJ 99 | Business Questions

I watched every single stand-up that I could all of the time. It was almost all that I did when I wasn’t being yelled at for not doing homework and stuff like that. It’s part of why I didn’t pay any attention in school because I was like, “What does that have to do with the career that I’m going to have?” I like to tell people I was diagnosed with ADD or whatever. There’s a difference between focusing on your internal world and I’m running all these mental stimulations, mental rehearsals for later on in life and planning out my life. I was focused on that. I had that school distract me from time to time. Focus can mean different things, especially when it comes to the world of creativity.

First of all, I’ve never heard of this story before. As much time that we spent together, I’d never known this video games. You should be a stand-up story. I’ve heard other stories but not this one. I’m enjoying it. One of the things that are great about comics is inspiration is they are outsiders almost from the beginning. Not all of them, but a typical origin story is the class clown, the kid in the back of the room, the one who doesn’t exactly play by the rules, doesn’t excel in an organized school or factory, whatever environment. We lament these people or these teachers do and parents do and so on. Yet it’s those kinds of behaviors, thoughts and approaches to the world that are highly valued in business, especially starting a business. Starting a business is typically about breaking the rules and about seeing the world differently. When you look at some of the world’s greatest initial startups, they came almost from a comedic standpoint.

You don’t have that much choice. When you’re Coca-Cola or whatever, you don’t have to take that many chances because you’re Coca-Cola. When you’re starting from nothing and you don’t have the resources to have a Super Bowl ad, like whatever else, you’re going to have to be creative in one way or another. I also think an important part of what I did was I watched all the stand-up. I liked watching the stuff that I didn’t find funny as well. I found that to be as valuable because I thought of myself as a student. I would watch specials that I didn’t think was funny at all multiple times. Figure out what I didn’t like about them, what I didn’t want to be as a comedian.

It was around this time that I started writing some jokes. I’d say something funny in a conversation. I’d sneak off and make a note of it. I started amassing notebooks filled with joke ideas. There’s definitely a lesson here. The plan was like, “As soon as I’m free, as soon as I’m out of high school, I’m going to move to a big city or whatever, New York or LA, I’m going to start the stand-up comedy dream.” As it approached, I got anxious. I realized, “That’s scary.” There are stories that I could tell myself of like, “I should save up some money first. New York City has got to be expensive. I should make sure I’ve saved money.”

I ended up working in a factory and not saving money, drinking most of it away and miserable. Telling myself some story like, “Next year is the year.” Five years went by and I remember my 23rd birthday, I was like, “I haven’t done any of the things that my whole life.” Twenty-three is young, but when you’re 23, five years is a big chunk of your life. I remember being like, “I’m miserable. I’m in this horrible factory job to get by. I am not doing any of these things that I thought I was going to.” Something clicked in my head and I was like, “I don’t care if I have money saved or whatever. I’ll scramble together whatever I can. I’m going.” I moved with a friend who happened to be going to Boston. That was also less intimidating to have someone to split rent with and everything.

I went to Boston. It turns out I had no idea how to become a stand-up comedian. I didn’t know what the process was. I started looking in the Yellow Pages, which were still a thing at the time, under comedy club and calling comedy clubs and being like, “I want to be a stand-up comedian. How do I do that?” Rick Jenkins with the Comedy Studio was kind enough to be like, “I have this whole packet that I’ve made for people that are looking to give it a try,” because he had more of a showcase like, “I like giving new people a shot, but you should still know some basics before you start.” He had this information all set and ready for people. Here are some things you can do. Here are things you need to know like what the process is, finding an open mic and maybe taking a comedy class, using a microphone, all this stuff.

Finally, I went through all that. There are a couple of free tickets to some shows included in that information. He’s like, “Why don’t you come and watch a couple of shows first and see how it goes?” I went. I started. First set, it wasn’t good. I know I got laughs. I don’t recall what my material was. I don’t remember if the stuff was getting a laugh. People were being nice because they knew it was my first time on stage. The only thing that I remember is I had this bit that I dreamed up. The night before, I needed to read something about medical side effects or something. I printed it out off the internet. I went to grab it out of my pocket and it wasn’t there. I set this whole thing up and then I didn’t have the thing to say. I’m like scrambling to improvise. I took a comedy class after that. Rick Jenkins was like, “This isn’t an open mic. There are paying customers here. You’re to need to do something.” I took a comedy class, figured out how open mic went. That’s when I started doing the open mic scene. The open mic scene was the testing ground for everything.

This is in the book. You talk about the famous or infamous open mic.

The Emerald Isle is a bar that no longer exists. It’s in Dorchester, Massachusetts, which is the worst city. This is the worst part of the worst city in all of Massachusetts with high crime and everything else. I got mugged at gunpoint once there. It was a true open mic, meaning like most open mics, you sign up and then there’s a lottery and you might get picked that night and it might not. It’s a 1.5-hour, 2-hour-long show. This is like whoever signs up gets on, that means it’s a six-hour show. There’s no actual audience there. The audience are all comedians that are also catching up with themselves or this is where they meet up each week to hang out.

It’s more of a social club than anything. You get called up and you’d do your five minutes to a room full of comedians who aren’t laughing. That’s when I learned how to get the attention of comedians first. Comedians are saying all these taboo things. How do I make comedians uncomfortable? How do I say something that comedians would be like, “I’d be nervous saying that.” That’s when I started. I eventually went back and did a showcase. There’s graduation eight weeks later for the show. The other different thing that I did I knew people weren’t going to be listening anyway, so I did five new minutes every single week to experiment and throw as much spaghetti against the wall as possible.

Most people are doing the same five minutes, maybe rotating one joke in once every few months or whatever. I picked apart the 20, 30 seconds that worked. The graduation show is back at the Comedy Studio. Two months later, I cobbled together the five minutes that I thought were the strongest out of those eight times that I went to an open mic and I killed it. Not just the other people graduating, but there were also regular comics. The regular comics there then were like, “This guy is good. We should get them spots at all of the local clubs and stuff.” I was off and running from there.

That’s reminiscent of a little exchange that we have in the book where I talk about the importance of the N-word, networking, and how people hate to network. What I make a case and this is built off of something I picked up from one of my guest speakers in my class, this woman, Sarah Zaslow, about don’t think of it as networking. Think of it as making business friends. The value of needing others in order to develop a career. Sometimes they may be close ties like you and me helping each other out, but they can also be weak ties.

That is someone that you know, that you have a little bit of affection for. You’re able to ask them a question, ask them for information, invite them to do something and the value of that. Having to stretch yourself a little bit to do that. You say when it comes to the business of comedy, comics need other comics. They need them to vouch for you to book you on their shows. I’m hosting an open mic. You hosted an open mic and have me come to it. Maybe someone starts a writer’s room and says, “Shane would be great for this and so on and so forth.”

Intuitively in say something like comedy, there are a lot of parallels in a lot of businesses. The clear trajectory is first I get in this open mic, hopefully then I get a showcase spot in a club. I need that book or that club owner to like me, the gatekeeper. After that I want to get a hosting spot at this other club so then I moved from the C to the B to the A club. After hosting, I get into featuring. What I need is these good relationships with these bookers and finding a weight in there. After that I need an agent and a manager, those things that I did get were almost all from comedians, comedians going to the bookers that they’re already in with like, “You should give this guy a shot.” Comedians being like, “I know your showcase is usually a ten-person bring your show or whatever before you’ll audition someone,” that slimy way to make money.

For someone who doesn’t know that, it means if you’re going to be performing, you need to bring ten of your friends. That’s a classic comedy club model. I don’t know anything quite like that in the world. You bring the customers too.

[bctt tweet=”Focus can mean different things, especially when it comes to the world of creativity.” via=”no”]

It shows you how much competition there is. They can do that. People being like, “This guy is funny so much. He’s new here. He moved here. He doesn’t have ten people to bring. I vouch for him,” stuff like that. I started in 2004, 2006 I got accepted into the Boston Comedy Festival. That’s another thing like, “Maybe if I get a chance to like meet the booker of the Boston Comedy Festival.” They’re out and about. What comedians are saying is like the new hot people in town or whatever, they’re paying attention to that more than they are paying attention to the videos, which can be misleading. Everyone can have a good set once in a while and have a good submission video. I got into that and then from there I did well. I made it to the finals in this festival, but it was, again, a comic who I didn’t know at the time, but he happened to be in the festival as well, Shelby Oregon in Minneapolis who had been in this Aspen US Comedy Arts Festival, at the time, the biggest comedy festival.

If you’re a new person, this is your big break to get into this. There are twenty new comics a year. He had been in the year before, recommended me to the person that booked him. That was like, “If you’re at this festival and you see anyone good, let us know.” That got me into this HBO Aspen Comedy Arts Festival. An interesting thing happened, which we can talk a little bit about. I was in there with TJ Miller, Kyle Kinane, John Mulaney, all of these people that are now way more successful than I am. This was in 2007. Eric Andre was there. There are these twenty people, at least ten of them went on to big things. Aziz Ansari was the year before won the award that I did. I ended up winning this award there for best stand-up comic and the reason, there are a couple of things going on.

One was that I did different sets through the festival. If any of the people evaluating this saw multiple sets, I was the only one doing a completely different set each time. The other thing is the John Mulaneys and those guys, they had already been seen because I was in Boston. I was in a smaller market. Everyone had already seen John Mulaney. Everyone already knew John Mulaney was going to be a huge success and do well. He was predicted to win this award at this festival. This festival is about discovering a new person. The agents and representation there are about discovering. He already had representation at the time. In your book, you talk about going to the big city, going to where the market is for your business. I’m an exception to that. Do you remember that section about giving advice to people?

We had a few audience questions too. I finish up the book with some career development type of advice. One of the chapters is called Take a Bigger Stage. In it, what I do is map how comedians do what you described. They’re working on their craft, but what they’re doing is they’re looking for first, the bigger place that is you’re not going to get good off the ground in La Crosse, Wisconsin. There are no other people who think like you. There are not opportunities to practice and so on. You need to go to a bigger city, a comedy city, of which there’s only a handful of them, Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, maybe Atlanta. There are a few places. New York and LA are the eventual goals because that’s where the epicenter of comedy is. One of the questions that’s important for regular people to ask is, given my career aspirations, am I living in the right place?

Might I have to pick up and move and go somewhere else? If I want to work in fashion, there’s a handful of places in the world that you can work in fashion and make it. That tends to be a big city. The reason is that the big city provides the people, for those collisions, the people who become your future business partners, the people who become your business friends. The inspiration that comes from interacting with people who are at the leading edge of whatever it is that they’re doing. If you’re living in Wichita, no offense to Wichita, by the time that stuff gets to you, it’s too late. This goes so far if you think back like French impressionist painters. These people all ended up being not only in the same city but would go to the same cafes. These people would paint in the morning and then go to the cafes and hang out with their frenemies. The people that they admired and liked, but also, they were competing with to see who can make this new form of art better and better.

I invite people to consider, it’s a big decision. It’s difficult to do, but if you want opportunity, inspiration, you may need to pick up and move. I’m glad you finally made it to Boston. It would have benefited you to have left sooner. I live in a world of academia. It’s a little bit different, but some of this is like going to a bigger university. The second one is to seek a bigger platform. This is essentially a scaling problem. As a touring comedian, there are only so many people you can reach standing on a stage with a microphone. For example, it’s part of the reason I got so serious about my writing was while I was good at giving academic talks, I can only talk to twenty people at once, but when I wrote a paper, I could reach thousands of people across the globe. I wanted to be able to do that as well through the written word as I could communicating verbally.

You think about a Steve Martin career. Steve Martin got good at stand-up comedy that he was selling out arenas. That’s extraordinary. The arenas were so big he took to wearing a white suit so the people in the nosebleeds could see him on the stage. What did he do? He didn’t keep doing that for the next twenty years. First of all, that’s difficult to do in comedy because people are always seeking novelty. Now he’s going into television. He ends up on Saturday Night Live. He’s in film starring, writing, directing movies. It’s trying to get reach so now you go from 20,000 people in an arena to millions of people around the world.

Steve Martin is still a recognized comedy brand that’s out there. The last one is, and this one is probably the most important, maybe it’s sad that it’s one of the last lessons in the book. That’s to take a bigger perspective. I always encourage people to think bigger. One of the neat things about comics is that they ask why a lot. To create their comedy, they’re constantly asking, “Why?” Even about things that the average person takes for granted. When it comes to their behavior, especially when it comes to their career, they ask, “Why not?” Shane says, “Why not me? Why not? Why can’t I be a comedian? Why can’t I get on Conan? Why can’t I do these things?”

I have a special place in my heart for people who are making the most of their life. They’re taking a shot. I know that it won’t work out for many of them. I know that most business ventures fail, but the only ones that succeed are ones that get started. Even when you fail the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd time, there’s stuff to be learned for the 4th, 5th and 6th attempts in that way. The saying is it takes ten years to be an overnight success. That’s certainly the case in comedy. That’s the case in many things. The Mark Zuckerbergs of the world is the exception, not the rule. Understanding the path of a comedian in some ways can give people permission to try to approach their own careers and think about their own life. We need middle managers. I’m not disparaging them, but for someone to go, “Why not me? Why do I have to do this?” It’s a good question to ask yourself.

This is loosely related to a few of those things, but I was thinking through Austin again where I lived for a couple of years. Austin was like the origins of food trucks, which are now everywhere. Everyone’s heard of food trucks even in La Crosse, Wisconsin town, there are food trucks popping up and stuff. What happened was in Austin, there were all these great culinary chefs there. What’s success? Success is the amount of money you can make. How do you make the most money as a chef? You work at the fanciest steakhouse in town.

These chefs would get this job and then they’d be like, “I’m flipping steaks.” This is not the use of my skills. Austin is an expensive city. I don’t have enough money to start my own brick and mortar place. Innovation usually seems obvious after the fact. When you’re looking at like, “Here’s what food on the street looks like, hotdogs or a funnel cake. That’s it.” To someone to look at that and be like, “What if I made a gourmet trailer thing and it allowed me to innovate, be experimental and get the freshest ingredients each day. There’s this place, Odd Duck. This is a brick and mortar place now.

He would get in all of the freshest, basically reach out to the local farms, be like, “Dump off whatever the freshest stuff is. I’ll take whatever it is and cobble together a brand-new menu every single day of stuff you’d never heard of, or I’ve never seen on any menu before. Things that you wouldn’t think. He knew what he was doing. Not only is he doing that with cheaper ingredients, but they’re better ingredients because there’s the stuff that other restaurants aren’t using. They’re not a part of their standard menu. Standing out and now it is a successful brick and mortar place. They eventually were able to get the money and scaled up and everything else.

What they did was once they had established themselves, they looked for a bigger platform. One of the cool things about that idea, I love that example of food trucks because the best business ideas and the best approach to business are limiting your downside risks. What you want to do is create a series of asymmetric bets. No one bet will ever ruin you and the culmination of your bets will never ruin you. The upside is infinite. The simplest version of an asymmetric bet is a comic testing a joke on stage. You tell a joke for the first time on stage and it doesn’t get any laughs, no problem. What you’re doing is you’re paying attention. Did it get a little laugh? Did it get no laugh? What you get to do is you get to tweak it and you try it again, tweak it, try it again. Is it improving? It’s not improving. You get rid of it onto the next joke. There’s a chance though that you write the joke that makes your career.

INJ 99 | Business Questions


There’s a chance you fail in a way that you think of a correction for it that’s applied to all of your material. Something that you needed to do to get the attention of a super drunk and not paying attention crowd. You went on stage. Screw this. I’m going to do this ridiculous thing for attention that I would never normally do. I went to Brendon Walsh‘s new show, Brendon Walsh is like the mid-40s. He’s a celebration of immaturity. He does a podcast where he’s making prank calls and stuff like that. He’s a ridiculous human being. He’s quite funny. He has this new little show where it’s incorporating prank calls in stand-up.

He has to host a show. I get on, do a 5-minute, 10-minute thing, the audience gets to know me and I make a prank call with him. He has this thing. There was this party in there before the show that was running late so he couldn’t set up his stuff. He’s in a bad mood. The party’s not leaving. It’s a bunch of people that aren’t there for the show. The show is starting late. He’s in the worst mood. Rather than doing the regular intro thing of like, “Ladies and gentlemen, here’s this.” Explaining what the show is. He instead sat down and he makes a call. The audience starts hearing a ringing through the speaker and people start paying a little bit of attention.

The person answers and then he starts in with this prank. It immediately grabs people’s attention. I didn’t realize that. I was talking to him afterward. I was like, “What a great way to start this show.” It’s a fun way to start the show. He’s like, “I’ve never tried that before. I did that because I was in this bad mood.” Because the room was a disaster, because all of these things were going wrong and he was like, “Screw it. I’m going to do this thing to grab people’s attention.” He came up with what the show should be. That’s how it should start every single time. There are little examples like that constantly where you’re putting yourself in a low-cost risk situation.

To finish up this idea about these food trucks, if it’s not obvious to the reader, I hope it will be in a moment, which is starting a food truck that doesn’t take that much capital. The worst case is you sell it to someone else who wants to start a food truck.

Not only that, but you have a food truck you set up in this neighborhood and you go like, “We got frog-leg food truck.” Here’s a crazy idea. What if we only did frog legs and did them the best? I was like, “It doesn’t work that well.” Try to paint on that food truck. Move it to a different neighborhood and now you’re selling goat armpits and seeing how that goes.

I always encourage people when they’re thinking about starting a business, first of all, I don’t think you have to go all in. This doesn’t have to be, “I’m going to quit my job. I’m going to put all this on my credit cards.” You shouldn’t do that. You should avoid ruin. You should avoid an orange jumpsuit by cheating and breaking the law. You should avoid losing your house and being homeless. What a lot of comedians do is they have a job and they’re hustling. Is it hard? Yes, but anything worth doing is difficult.

Not to mention that oftentimes in my case of doing construction, I would often think of much more material doing labor. I’m picking up garbage on a construction site and stuff like that in my brain, as a defense strategy would focus itself rather than this mundane task that crushes most people’s souls at their jobs. I had the free space to then think about my comedy. I had something to occupy my mind and to look forward to while I was doing the job that I hated. It was certainly better at doing the job that I hated with no prospects, even if it’s a hobby, even if this is something that I go out on Wednesday nights and crack up some friends. It’s a social life or whatever during my actual workday at the job that I didn’t like, it even made that better. It also made my comedy better because I was so determined to get out of that job. I had a little more of the resources to do it. There were even things like collecting unemployment for a while, but I got laid off of stuff like that, which allowed for me to have some income, while I set up shop and started doing some road gigs and stuff like that.

You have set your unemployment jokes. This came up in our last conversation is when the market talks. When as a comic should you quit your day job? One of the signals is you’re getting so many requests for work that your day job is getting in the way of your night job. That’s a good way to think about it. Do you want to ask some questions? How do you want to do this?

I’d rather transition into how I’m doing what I do now because there are a lot of bigger lessons in that potentially. I have a zillion practical business questions I’m still thinking about because I’ve transitioned from being a comedian to now I’m a show producer. I’m thinking, “Do I start my own agency now that I’ve figured all this stuff out?” A million comics could benefit from the things that I’m doing now that no one’s serving them for. I catch the breaks. I get on late night. All I ever wanted was a Comedy Central Presents. When I was a teenager, seeing someone have a half-hour special, I knew it was the biggest people get an hour. I’m not going to say necessarily have an hour-long special, but I love these half-hour specials. If I had one of those, what a dream?

I ended up getting that much faster. It was probably even good for me. Dreams aren’t what you’re told when you’re a kid. Dreams aren’t the never-ending windfall of happiness and fulfillment. The reason why that persists is that most people simply don’t follow their dreams so they never find this out. The reason why they tell you to follow your dreams is one, they don’t think you’re going to. Two, it takes a lot off of them rather than telling you practical steps and being successful. There are people who haven’t followed their dreams. “After you complete your dream, here’s what you do.” No one ever says that. There’s no instruction manual for after you’ve accomplished your dreams.

My version of this is, “You’re the dog who catches the car. Now, what do I do with this thing?”

I remember specifically that night I had my Comedy Central Presents. It went as well as I could have ever dreamed. It was fit for the style of comedy that I did at the time. I couldn’t have done it any better for the restrictions that TV puts on you. It was a good recording. It was still the age when people didn’t have kids and stuff still so they could travel. All these high school friends and family, they all came up, reserved an area, had a big after-party afterward, celebrated and everything. I’m hanging out. It was one of the most bittersweet moments in my entire life because it dawned on me. People are like, “What’s it like?” “What’s the view like up on here at the peak of the mountain nowhere? It looks like there’s a whole lot of other peaks that look a little nicer from my vantage point. It looks like maybe I got to climb some more because I need to occupy myself.”

There is a little bit of a lesson in that. I talk about this in the book. I talk about Scott Adams has this saying, which is, “Don’t have goals, have systems.”

[bctt tweet=”Have something to occupy your mind and look forward to when you’re doing a job you don’t like.” via=”no”]

One of the things I learned from you, it’s not like this is your idea. It’s the idea of small incremental gains. As I have learned about how the reward system works in the brain and the hedonic treadmill and everything else of like, you don’t want to win the lottery, you’re going to have 1, 2 good years. You’re never going to top that again. It’s nothing but downhill. Whereas these small incremental gains of doing a little better this year than you were last year getting a little more, developing your skill a little bit more, making these advances, making these choices, advancing a little bit, maybe taking a few chances. You can withstand a couple of dips or whatever, but you knocked it out of the park and your dream comes through at 29.

You’ve reached the top of that mountain because then there’s nothing like, “What do I do? Get on another one. Do it again, get an hour special? What’s the difference between that and a half-hour? I could perform theaters. I’m already performing.” I was lost. That’s why I went into reassessing everything that I do. At the same time, I had been doing international stuff. I saw a new medium or a new way of doing comedy, which was like they’re doing at all these festivals and these people do these one-man shows, these solo shows. They dig into a topic and do these themes. I was like, “I’ve never done anything like that.” I make these short absurdist jokes. I was always pushing myself to like, “I’m uncomfortable telling stories on stage, make myself tell stories on stage. I’m uncomfortable doing an act out or doing a character on stage, so I’ll make myself do that. I’m uncomfortable singing, I have a terrible singing voice. I should be uncomfortable.”

Getting out of that comfort zone and wanting to travel internationally more. What would my theme be? I was always reading science books and stuff. It never even occurred to me to write jokes about science. It was my hobby what I did in my free time. I wasn’t the biggest reader in the world, but when I was reading, I was only reading science books. I was always watching when documentaries were then coming. I’m dating myself. Documentaries are a relatively new thing in terms of being as popular as they are. The number of them coming out. I’m getting into Animal Planet stuff and whatnot. All this coincides with my psychedelic use too, which makes it a little more introspective, makes you appreciate nature a little bit more.

I also didn’t know how to present any of that in a way. Science is a way of talking about consciousness and perception and what is this life all about? What is the meaning of this existence? How did we get here? All these questions that I always wanted to address on stage, I had no idea how. In a long-form, solo thematic show, now I could maybe dig into something and say something, even if I thought it was like a little hokey that a lot of these one-man shows end up with the dumbest, the endless, and that’s why I don’t eat Graham crackers anymore. It’s funny and there’s not a dry eye on the house. I didn’t want to be overly sentimental about it or whatever. That was a good special and some people would make the most out of that. I knew it was a possibility. That’s when I started exploring science. In a very fortunate situation to be lost in because I’m also now a well-respected comedian who’s proven himself, who has credits under his belt, who’s getting regular full-time work and the opportunity to take some chances. It also made me lose a lot of work along the way and made people think differently about me. I don’t know about this. What’s this science that he’s doing all of a sudden. I built on what I had already built to take chances then and go in a different direction.

I have a couple of reactions to this. One is that what you had done was you had built these habits that allowed you to get good at what you do, but also to come to enjoy what you do. When you think about it, most of a comic’s day is not spent performing and making people laugh. Most of a comic’s day is the craft of making jokes and writing and so on. It’s challenging creative work, but as you get better and better at that, it can be a pleasing experience. It can become something that you’re compelled to do.

It’s like you love data. For most people, that sounds like a nightmare. If I told the average person I need you to sit down and write a bunch of funny jokes, that would sound like a nightmare. These are things that we’ve grown to like through developing this skill.

The first day that you tried to do it, it’s hard to do and then eventually it gets easier until you hit this sweet spot where your ability in the challenge match up. You have the opportunity to enter what’s called a flow state where time seems to evaporate and you have this pleasing feeling to it. In the book, I talk about having a craftsperson approach to your work. The craftsperson is not turning a piece of metal into a sword and they feel good about having a sword, that the actual process of transforming that is enjoyable in and of itself.

The thing that I want to point out though is in the epilogue of the book, I make the case against comedians. We can learn from these peculiar creatures, but we can’t learn everything from them. I present three ways that you shouldn’t be like comics. One of them is being undifferentiated. I’ll be honest, you guys all look alike. You all sound alike. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have said someone says you go to a show and someone says, “That joke, that was funny.” You don’t even remember who told it. All comics, all their names seem the same. They all wear ironic t-shirts and cargo pants. Even the jokes start to sound the same.

Comedians often know this too. At least the good ones are like hyper-aware of like, “That’s hacky, that’s tried.” A lot of times we’re texting our friends is that the good ones are usually like, “Have you heard something like this before because I don’t want to be redundant.”

The world of business rewards differentiated solutions that is, “I’m solving a problem in a unique way. This seems completely different.” When you are offering a solution that’s completely different, you’re not competing on price, for example. I’m complimenting you by saying this because when everybody’s going, “I don’t know about this science stuff. No one’s doing it.” To me, there should be a red flashing light that says opportunity because if no one’s doing it, there’s a chance that that is going to be fresh and totally different.

I do breakthrough with it or someone else breaks through doing like some science stuff gets a TV show or special that stands out or whatever. Within a week, every agent and manager in town is going to be sitting down with our clients like, “Do you have any science jokes?” Fucking morons that are trying to follow the trends. They’re usually like ages behind where they are anyway, trying to read into it based on what they’re doing.

I had my own version of this. Your version was, “I’m reading all these science things. Maybe I could do something with it.” You were inspired by this Scottish approach, Edinburgh approach to doing a comedy festival there. Comics have an opportunity because first of all, they’re seeking novelty in a way that almost no one else is. Even if you told a joke that’s vaguely similar, you could get in trouble for that. Moreover, you can’t keep telling the same jokes over and over again. Coca-Cola has been selling the same bottle of Coca-Cola more or less for years. You have to tell new jokes every few years.

The only thing out there that’s anywhere close to Freebird is Jim Gaffigan’s Hot Pocket Joe or something like that where it’s like, “Who’s on third?” or something like that. There are a handful of jokes ever that people are like, “I want to hear that again,” done in this way.

INJ 99 | Business Questions


To be paying attention to that novelty and then saying why not is an important skill to have. My moment was I was studying moral psychology. I was giving an academic talk. I used an example of an entertaining example of a moral violation. My academic audience laughed and someone pointed out the incongruity between what I was saying, which is moral violations upset people, and what was happening, which was this moral violation was delighting people. They’re like, “Why are we laughing?” I said, “I have no idea. I had never considered what made things funny. Even though I claim to be an expert in emotions.” It would have been easy for me to dismiss that. Instead what I did was I came home and I go, “No one in my field is studying this. Not even that I had never read a paper about this. I had never considered it. It was completely outside of the mainstream.” At first, people were like, “You’re going to study humor?”

All I had to do was I have to work a little harder to write a paper about humor because I have to write a section about why humor is important. It’s easy to make a case for why it’s important. Once people read it, it becomes self-evident. I had all this what we call blue ocean to swim where no one else is doing the work. I’m able to make a case for why it’s important. It’s under studied. It’s a puzzling question. I have a good answer to it. To be honest, speaking of catching the car, I’m in an interesting place academically because I’m not sure I can ever do anything that’s going to be as big as that. I’ve done my legacy inducing research in my mid-career. The question is do I try to top it? How do I top it or do I go? Do I move on to something else? I haven’t worked out that puzzle yet.

It’s going to be never-ending. It certainly is for me. We’ve talked about this before, but I also at the exact same time, part of why people might be reading and being like, “Why not then do an hour and do theaters.” I also noticed that at the time I was getting away with doing it. I developed early on by being able to get comics’ attention and by performing to the back of the room. Doing these edgy things in a different way that was absurd and, “Aw shucks,” Midwestern-y like a Sarah Silverman approach or something like that. At the time, there were only people like Sarah Silverman who was nowhere near the name that she has now.

When I started, Daniel Tosh had put out his first album, which was great. No one knew who he was. He didn’t have touchpoint or anything. Bill Burr was completely unknown. I’d never even heard of Bill Burr and I was a comedy nerd. Louis CK was some unknown creep that a couple of comics knew about. People knew about to say, Carlin, and comics knew about Bill Hicks or something in terms of pushing the boundaries and whatnot. Anthony Jeselnik got his breaks after me. He was also unknown at the time. Doug Stanhope had burned every bridge. Every comic liked him but too bad that’s never going to work out for him. By the time I had caught my breaks, all of these people are getting known also for their boundary-pushing at the same time where I’m like, “They’re doing it better than me. They have more experience than me doing it. They care more about doing it. Now, those spaces are filled. It’s no longer the wide-open ocean that it was. People are already doing this.” At the exact same time, I was like, “Do I care about trying to make an edgier abortion joke,” or as I was like, “There’s no end to it.” It started to feel lame. It’s like, “I’ve got to say all the naughty words I always wanted to say when I was a kid. Now it’s feeling a little juvenile.” Those guys are fantastic.

The point is they’re fantastic. It’s hard to end out Anthony Jeselnik, Anthony Jeselnik.

That was another thing, how do I differentiate myself in this market, which wasn’t the terms that I was using at the time, but a sense of picking up on that I needed to be a little different. At the same time, sharing these bigger ideas and talking about life. I started writing jokes with Animal Planet stuff and seeing these relationship parallels and stuff. I started venturing into this. At the same time that I was like, “Maybe I’ll do science stuff.” I had to think about like, “What is my science stuff going to look like?” At first, I was doing some silly thing about time travel. I thought more broadly it’d be a show about physics. I’m glad that that didn’t work out for me mostly because I didn’t know how to write a one-man show at the time and I had to try out a few iterations of it. One of the things that I landed on with the Here We Are Podcast is the subjects that I stay away from.

I stay away from physics and I stay away from global warming because those are the two things that get the most press. If you are going to hear about science in public, it’s either the Big Bang and space is crazy and big. Neil deGrasse Tyson stuff or global warming, everyone’s concerned about this global warming stuff. Both subjects are fantastic and interesting. Everyone should learn more about them, but it doesn’t differentiate what I’m doing as much. Also, my interests changed a little bit too. That was by design that I planned out exactly what I was going to do too. Evolutionary psychology being a brand-new field that most anyone hadn’t heard of. I knew it was blowing my mind when I was reading about it. I couldn’t believe that I was now hearing about this stuff in my 30s and seeing an opportunity to make this funny, share it with the masses in an interesting way that will hopefully change the way that they look at life the same as it’s done for me.

The nice thing about that approach. I love it for multiple reasons, but one of the neat things about what you do, and I’ve always liked this about your comedy. I would say this off the air also is, you learn something like if you go to a Shane Mauss comedy show, you get laughs, but you also learn something. What I hope to be a special soon, A Good Trip, a couple of times now live and it’s an incredible show. One is this super funny, but the other one is a crash course in psychedelics. You give history lessons. You basically bring people up to speed.

It’s a great show. That has the one-two punch of what I call ha-ha and a-ha that comedians are trying to get right. They want comedy that ideally changes the world, at the least changes people’s minds. They want to do it while getting lots and lots of laughs. I want to get in particular, have any puzzles that you’re working on that we might be able to chat about, but I want to give you my own version of the stuff you’re talking about. I’m going to relate it to some ideas in the book. I want to get your response about this.

I kick off the book with a lesson called reverse it. The idea essentially is that comics are good at producing and opposing perspective, creating misdirection, the switcheroo. We talked about Anthony Jeselnik, he does this all the time with his work. He takes people one way and then brings them back completely in the opposite direction. My argument is that the thinking in reverse is useful for comedy, but it’s useful for a whole variety of things, especially when it comes to business, whether it be small questions like how do we lower costs. I invite you to think about how you might raise costs and what may be the benefits of that idea.

One of the ideas in the book that follows this, reversal is a step out of the stream approach. It’s a different way to think about the world is the value of authenticity, being honest and being yourself in the world versus trying to be what you think people want you to be. You’re my role model for authenticity, which is you like to say when you find yourself scared or concerned about talking about something, you force yourself to talk about it on stage as you were saying. That’s a great way to create comedy, but it’s also a great way to be differentiated in the world. Most people are carefully trying to cultivate their brand that it’s refreshing to see someone being themselves, owning it and being unapologetic about it.

I was raised in an environment where people care deeply about what everyone else thinks all the time. It’s like, “How are they coming up with their own?” They’re all doing the same thing. They’re nervously worrying about what you think about them. No one even knows what we’re evaluating here. It’s like a bunch of hard work for nothing.

The last idea is that a lot of jokes come from something that you think is funny. Most comic jokes don’t come from, “The audience is going to love this.” It’s something that they’re snickering about. They find peculiar so they put it out there like the joke that they find funny. What they do is they say, “Do other people find it funny? How much can I make it funnier? Can I pivot, adjust it and so on? I have these three ideas of the reversal authenticity and what I call an audience of one. If you create something that solves a problem for you, good news, you’ve solved the problem for you. Better news, in a world of nearly eight billion people, there might be a lot of people like you who you can solve a problem in a novel way. To that end and influenced in part by these ideas, I’ve launched this other show called Solo: The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life.

[bctt tweet=”Find something that not many people are talking about that you can share in an interesting way through your comedy.” via=”no”]

You are nervous about, which you had concerns about and which also made you think more critically about how you wanted to present it and do a little more trial and error before you launched it in the first place.

I pivoted it a little bit. Solos are a reversal in a world where everybody seemingly is getting married and all the pressure is to get married.

I love this ski slope example when it comes to this. It’s relevant to what we’re talking.

I digress here for a moment. Snowbird is a Utah ski area. It’s known for being a challenging ski area, 11,000-foot peaks, steep downhills and so on. The people who run Snowbird are competent individuals. They pay attention to what their customers are saying. One of the things that they started to notice was they were getting a bunch of one-star reviews often from people like California or New York saying things like, “There’s too much powder. There are too many trees and these tree wells and it’s not fun.” It’s too hard. If you think about it, “This might be a problem. We could do more grooming and in the off-season, we cut down some of these trees. We can have more green runs. Let’s open this new run called Baby’s Bottom. The customer is always right.”

You could say, “We don’t want to do that because we have these hardcore skiers who seek us out because we have some of the best powder in the world and because these tree wells are challenging and so on. We could ignore Greg from Los Angeles and his one-star review or you could go even further. This is the thing a comic would do. They ran what ended up becoming an award-winning ad campaign where they showed people the one-star reviews as a way to say, “If you want something easy, take your weak shit elsewhere. If you want something hard, we are the place for you.” What they did was they were clear about who their customer was and not trying to create a mountain for everyone. They created a mountain for hardcore skiers and now you have a reason to choose them and you have a reason not to choose them. They create a chasm. Solo has a little bit of that chasm creating like it’s not a show for everyone. It’s a show for the unapologetically unattached, for that person who was single for an hour forever thinks of it as a positive thing.

When you make that decision, you don’t have anyone to talk to about it. The Thanksgiving conversations with the family are annoying asking you when you’re going to settle down and when you’re going to make your life the same nightmare theirs is. I will be in this torture together. It can be isolating. This will transition into some of my psychedelics stuff quite well too. It’s a similar thing. Every dating tip out there is about how to find the one childbearing stuff and all of that.

Why not have dating tips about how to have a good date? Solo is a reversal. It’s about in a world where everybody’s getting pushed to marriage, it’s an alternative to that, not being married has its own set of benefits and opportunities. Two is it’s revealing my most authentic self because my bachelorhood was never in public. It was always in private. It was never the front stage. It was always backstage. I’ve had to reveal parts about my life that I would never have before. That’s the stuff that people are enjoying and appreciating because think about it, if there’s always one solo person at Thanksgiving across 100 different Thanksgivings, there are 100 people, but there’s no place for them to talk or to find out about each other.

This is exactly what I found out with my psychedelic stuff, which I’ve had many psychedelic jokes for a long time. When the idea of doing themed shows, I did a couple of theme shows before my psychedelic show. Psychedelics would have been the first show probably that I would have put together had it been like up to me in the sense that had I thought there was a market for it. As far as I knew, I wasn’t at the time involved in any psychedelic communities. I didn’t know about the psychedelic research going on as far as I knew mushrooms were a thing that I usually did by myself or with a small group of friends. Rather a taboo thing. I couldn’t imagine myself doing it in a club. Fortunately, one of the few bits of good advice representations ever given me as an agent, it was like, “That might be interesting. Let’s find a small little indie venue or something and see if 50 people will show up.” They did, the most enthusiastic crowd I’ve ever seen.

I want to keep relating this stuff back to the audience who might be thinking about trying to take their career to the next level. The idea is if it seems strange, if it seems peculiar, but it feels important for you. It’s worth trying because it means that there’s a chance that there are other people like you and they’re not being served.

When I was doing regular old stand-up and making jokes about my girlfriend, a weird time travel joke or something like that and like, “Here’s a wacky thing about being from Wisconsin,” no one was coming up to me afterward being like, “Thank you for what you do. This is important.” The market is speaking. That took off for me. I did this 111-city tour. That’s why I had to start taking the business side of things and marketing. I can find these smaller, but now I need to fill it myself. I can’t depend on the comedy club to do that. I had to learn a lot of business techniques, which we don’t have time to get into all of it. I got it figured out, did this whole indie tour and then afterward I went back to comedy clubs doing regular stand-up again. I was like, “I don’t like this anymore. I like this indie thing where I’m drawing an audience that knows what they’re getting knows it’s not going to be a regular show, knows there’s going to be a little more intelligent content, knows that it doesn’t need to be as like punchline heavy.”

It’s a little more of a one-man show. There is a little more TED Talky. It’s a little more personal and storytelling and that thing. How do I do that? I’ve now been doing the Here We Are Podcast for several years. I felt like the indie market is the way to go. I was thinking about there are reasons why it’s hard for me to do a live Here We Are Podcast. I don’t have quite enough listeners to get a reliable audience in Timbuktu. If I advertise it, there might be people that are interested in science and comedy being put together.

If there’s not the name recognition, the title, Here We Are doesn’t say anything. They find out what it is. If they don’t listen to this podcast, is this relevant to them? Is this going to make sense for them? One day I was like, “What do I want to do? I want to stand up on stage. I don’t want to have to do punchlines all the time. Sometimes I want to talk about science. I was like, “I want to stand-up and do science.” I thought of Standup Science. I was like, “I can be joined by professors. I’ll have them give talks as well.” Figure that out. There have been a million lessons that I had to figure out along the way.

You and I are both talking about these side projects that are starting to become more and more prominent in our lives and their origins are rather the same, which is thinking differently about the world. Moving into a place that seems a little bit uncomfortable, doing something that comes from you and finding out that there are other people who are feeling underserved. By the way, I’m getting the same reactions to Solo. I’ve never had many people email me, call me, text me, send me private messages saying, “This is great. Thank you,” which suggests we’re onto something.

INJ 99 | Business Questions


One thing a mistake that a lot of people make is going back and revisiting a couple of things as we sum up what we talked about here is that a lot of people when they’re like, “What should I do with my life, with my career?” They’re like, “What do people do?” They’re getting their ideas like, “I need a job. I’ll look up what jobs are out there available because that is what the realm of possibilities is for me.” Rather than creating your own niche and following what you authentically want to do. No comedian does stuff about psychedelics. There’s not a market for that. Everyone says marriage and kids are the thing so I’m not going to go against the mainstream. If I’m going to write about her relationship thing, I’m going to do another new way of how to make monogamy work, because that’s what sells.

When someone critiques your idea that says no one is doing that, they might be right because no one wants it. They might be wrong because no one is doing it but the world wants that thing. Those things are worth a shot, as I say, to reiterate this point, but treat it like a joke. You’re limiting your downside risk. If this show doesn’t work out, I lose some thousands of dollars, but not tens of thousands of dollars. If your indie venue psychedelic show didn’t work out, you lost some time and a little bit of an investment in advertising. The upside is huge because, what does the psychedelic work turn into potentially?

It’s got me in all these big podcasts. I made a zillion new friends. I’m in this community. I’m going to get asked to do all of these different conferences and stuff. I get to meet the finest people I’ve ever met in life. I get to meet more people like myself and also free drugs all of the time so follow your dreams. You might get free drugs. The point is, if I were instead being like, “I see this hook going out there. Shane Mauss is doing a psychedelic show. Maybe I can do a psychedelic show too.” It doesn’t work. Find your own thing. If you are going to do something like that, I’m never going to start a restaurant, but all of the time because I travel. I love going out to eat. I have particular things that I like. When I see something new and different, I’m often like, “If I took that idea and brought it back to La Crosse, Wisconsin or whatever where I’m from, that’s maybe ten years behind where Austin is at or something like that.” Make my own changes and Wisconsin is up a little bit, throw a little more cheese on there. That idea could work. It will be a novel thing in that area.

We’re not going to end this with a nice little tidy bow on it. Thank you for reading. I hope this has proved to be a little bit of inspiration and there are a few new ideas that you walked away with that you didn’t have to begin with.

Part of the reason why there’s not such a tidy bow on here is that this is a longer than normal show. I didn’t even get to half of this. I didn’t even get to the stuff that I’m doing now. That’s because Pete and I, we could do a whole other episode about all of this stuff. There’s so much interesting content that you can learn from this book. If you want to put a nice little bow on things, the book, Shtick to Business, has a nice little bow and you can get all of these lessons and more and a ton of fun business examples like we’ve been sharing and check that out. It’s my first time contributing to a book. It’s Pete’s second book. It was inspiring, fun and cool. People are going to dig it. I’ll have some for sale at my live shows. I’ll sign them for you and everything else. I appreciate having such a wonderful audience of such curious and interesting people. Thank you for reading.

Thanks. Cheers.

 Resources mentioned:

About Shane Mauss

INJ 99 | Business QuestionsShane Mauss is a comedian with two touring shows. The first is Stand-up Science which is a half comedy and half science show. The second is called Head Talks (which is a special psychedelic version of Stand-up Science). You can find him in the documentary film Psychonautics. He also hosts the science podcast, Here We Are.



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