Unlike fellow funny Wisconsinites Tim Harmston, Pete Lee, Mary Mack, and Jackie Kashian, LaCrosse native Shane Mauss didn't start his comedy career in the Upper Midwest.
"I wanted to get as far away from my home as possible," he says. "I ended up in Boston. I was aiming for New York or Los Angeles, but I had a friend moving to Boston and it was just easier to move with a buddy. I started doing comedy there."
He wound up back in Wisconsin last year, staying at his parent's house for an extended period of time, recovering from an injury suffered while hiking with friends in Arizona.
"I broke both of my feet," he explains. "So, I was on crutches for about 11 months."
Specifically, he shattered both heels. "I'm a very avid rock climber, and I was in the best shape of my life."
Finding a place to climb though was difficult due to wildfires in Arizona. While hiking, Mauss and his friends came across an area that afforded them a chance to do it. "I misjudged the height of something," he adds. "I had jumped off much higher things, but the angle was weird, and I was wearing bad shoes."
It was actually the second time in his life he had broken his heel bone, having done it once when he was a teenager. It was at that time that he discovered what a rare injury it was.
"I went in and got it x-rayed, and it was the first broken heal that the x-ray tech had seen in 20 years. He'd never seen one. When I broke both my heels this time, the x-ray tech had been doing her job for 10 years and had never seen one, and suddenly got to see two. That was a very exciting day for her."
Mauss wound up writing an entire hour about the experience, though he was reluctant to do so at first. "As far as I was concerned, I didn't want to be writing jokes about my broken feet," he says. "I didn't really care to be using my injury as inspiration, but it was kind of unavoidable because I was on crutches out onstage so I had to talk about why I was on crutches."
The situation forced him to alter his usual writing process, too. "At the time the injury was just a pain in the ass. It was the hardest I've ever tried to write material."
Normally, Mauss will just write down observations and experiences as they happen. "When stuff comes to me, I just write it up. But with this I was like, 'What's funny about broken feet?' It turned out to be a monster and it took over my whole act and turned into roughly an hour of material."
Not only did the injury itself turn out to be a source of material, but the subsequent recovery and repeated medical procedures were as well. Just when he thought his mending was well on track, complications developed.
"One of the heels started swelling, and in December I started getting a fever." His doctors told him that the hardware in his feet was likely infected. "It was such a nightmare situation," he says. "I was on the road at the time. I was paying for my post-operative care out-of-pocket in Wisconsin, just so I could get it there because my insurance is in California."
The procedure would have to be done back in Los Angeles. "So, I had to go back to California or it wouldn't be covered." Mauss wound up canceling a string of dates and driving from Cleveland to Los Angeles. "It's a 32-hour drive and I had 40 hours to do it." After a stop for gas, he looked at his GPS which indicated it was a straight shot to Southern California, and informed him the next turn he had to make was in 1250 miles. "I'll look out for that," he laughs.
At this point, Mauss still needs to use a cane, and he isn't entirely sure he'll make a complete recovery. "If I do I'll be like, 'Okay, that was worth it. I got on a lot of great podcasts and stuff talking about this, and I wrote a whole album.'" That album, My Big Break, was released at the end of May.
IF YOU GO:
Shane Mauss Acme Comedy Co. 708 N. First St., Minneapolis 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday $15; 18+ For more info, call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com