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Friday, Nov. 15, 2013

Recap: Wisconsin Native Shane Mauss Riffs on Bigots and Bird Mating at the Comedy Café

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Funnyman Shane Mauss has come a long way since his days as a sounding board for his racist co-workers at the Arcadia, Wis., Ashley Furniture. Since leaving the storeroom a decade ago, the La Crosse native has appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” five times, starred in a “Comedy Central Presents” special, become a frequent “Bob & Tom Show” guest, and currently co-hosts the Double Date Podcast with his comic girlfriend April Macie and freshly filmed a forthcoming hour special.

Thursday night, the California transplant returned to his native state and treated a woefully small crowd to an uproariously funny hour-long evolution lesson, hinged on dick jokes and La Crosse acid trip recollections in the first performance of his five-appearance, three-day Milwaukee’s Comedy Café occupation. Host and local stand-up stalwart Erik Koconis overcame a shaky start, a broken microphone stand and underwhelming reception from the approximately 35-person turnout to finish strong before bringing Chicago comic Joe Kilgallon.

Between sips of New Glarus Spotted Cow—which his Illinois friends asked him to mule across the border for them—the energetic feature comic talked about being a newlywed, railed on the deadbeat fathers of LeBron James and Eminem, and sought to help Chicago and Milwaukee find a common ground: hatred of Indiana. After the satisfying half-hour warm-up, Kilgallon gave way to the homecoming headliner.

Making his return to the club after a two-year absence, Mauss started things with the aforementioned tale of furniture store racism, in which he dissected the flaws in his co-workers’ sentiments about Mexicans taking American jobs and not knowing English. “Why do you want them to learn the language?” he asked. “You’re a miserable, lazy bigot who nobody likes. English is the only thing you have going for you.” Mauss then took his second and final dip into the topic of race by enlightening the audience on the Japanese career of shoving willing commuters into overcrowded subway cars. “If you can’t squish Asians, this job is close second,” he deadpanned.

With the audience hooked, Mauss (also taking advantage of the availability of Spotted Cow) performed his next-to-most preferred vocation admirably. He owned the miniscule stage and brought down the third-full house with his innovative application of textbook evolutionary and psychological tendencies into bits that were equal parts witty, raunchy and hilarious. His set came with facts about male birds seeking mates being responsible for the majority of early-morning chirping—which he tagged, “Meanwhile, I’m trying to sleep. Will someone at least give this guy a wing-job or something?”

Yet Mauss’ hour wasn’t all sexual jokes shrouded in heady items like natural selection and negativity bias. He opened up about his own bedroom failures (complete with unsettling hand gestures), two-tap Irish faucets, working in a crouton factory and his aged-hippy neighbor “The Dude-ical”—each addressed with an animated-yet-intellectual approach. Before departing to the lobby to pedal plastic “Mauss-stashe” beer bottle clips, Mauss ended his set the same place he’d started it—his Western Wisconsin youth. He recounted the last time he’ll ever take acid, complete with witnessing a lizard transformation.

Attendance aside, Mauss was the highlight of a few dozen people’s evening with a set worthy of many more witnesses bound to two-drink minimums. Fortunately for Milwaukee, he’ll be doing it four more times this weekend.

Shane Mauss, Joe Kilgallon and Erik Koconis will appear at Milwaukee’s Comedy Café at 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night. The show costs $9 in advance and $12 at the door.