There are comedy festivals, and there is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Just ask Shane Mauss, whose self-spoken intro welcomed his small but amiable audience to “the finest comedy room in a car park in all of the Fringe! He’s been on Conan a bunch of times, Jimmy Kimmel and lots of other American shows you’ve never heard of and don’t care about…”
Opening with his befuddlement over the U.K.’s old-fashioned keys and bathroom water taps that spew either molten lava or liquid nitrogen, he turned his attention to the month-long event itself, one known for testing the stamina of freshman (and even veteran) performers. Mauss filmed a Comedy Central hour prior to his trip, and he figured things were on the upswing until he received the fateful call: “Hey Shane, we hear you have a great comedy career going. Would you like to come to Edinburgh and beg in the streets?”
As for his prepared material, he’d spent two years studying evolutionary physiology and biology in preparation for Mating Season, a show seeking to shed light on human behavior by understanding the primitive drives of our fellow animals. From monkeys learning to use currency to pay for monkey prostitution, male fruit flies dancing for female approval, elephants, peacocks, nursery web spiders and Americans who exhibit conspicuous consumption via excessively large trucks, every creature is subconsciously motivated to reproduce and further the species.
But his intro wasn’t kidding about the car park. ”This is really a shit festival, isn’t it?” Mauss interrupted himself midway through. “You don’t need another comedy show here. You know what you do need here this time of year? A car park!” Willing to let the moment take him where it would, he dropped all pretense, asking, “It’s way too hot in here, isn’t it?” then related his inquiries into amending the situation. Could they provide some air conditioning? Could he open a door? Could he hose the crowds down? With that Mauss walked stage left, threw open the double doors leading to a storage area and exhorted everyone to join him in the cool air. “It’s like Andy Kaufman!” he grinned.
He’d already proven himself a polished and accessible comedian with a folksy approach informed by his Wisconsin upbringing, but the ability to read a crowd and respond to their needs in a big way definitively established Mauss as a comedian unafraid to challenge imposed constraints. Attendees back in their seats and his set list abandoned by the wayside, he mused of bagpipers, “I have no clue; Is this his first time playing, or is he the greatest bagpipe player ever?” and wondered why local toilets remained low-flow for environmental reasons, yet handing out tree-killing fliers, the overwhelming majority of which were immediately discarded in rubbish bins, was mandate. And then he was off, promising the remainder of his nights would feature more of the same and admitting, “By the way, I did exactly eight minutes of my regular show tonight, and this is the most fun I’ve had.”