Duncan Trussell is an out-there kind of guy.
Anyone who's familiar with the Asheville-born, Los Angeles-based comedian, whether on his The Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast or as the cohost of Syfy's short-lived Joe Rogan Questions Everything, knows that he can go off on some trippy, stream-of-consciousness riffs that make you wonder if he took too many mushrooms at some point.
Indeed, while his stand-up rarely surfaces online—Trussell says he's "old-fashioned" about putting his material out there—one bit that did, from Comedy Central's This Is Not Happening, finds him talking about the time he dropped acid in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert in Charlotte.
But when you speak with Trussell by phone, you meet a grounded fourteen-year veteran of the stage who knows what he's talking about, especially when it comes to comedy.
"One of my favorite Bill Hicks quotes is that your jokes are safety parachutes for when your riffing isn't working," says Trussell. "A really good show, to me, is one where you can tell that the performer isn't afraid to veer away from the material. It's an art form that happens in the present moment. It has to be. So it's rather depressing when you realize a comedian is doing some kind of animatronic act."
Still, as someone who's preparing to record a new stand-up special this summer, Trussell knows that planning is an important part of showmanship, too.
"It's also kind of depressing when you see a comedian who is just rambling away with no punch lines," he says. "So I think a really good show is a fusion of those two modes of performing."
Trussell is returning to his home state on his There Are No Drugs on This Bus Tour, which pulls into Cat's Cradle Friday night. While Trussell promises "a classic stand-up comedy show," don't be surprised if he has some things to say about the drugs he claims aren't on his bus.
"One thing that I have become known for, to some degree, is that I am an advocate for psychedelic plant medicines, as they're called these days," he says. "I think it's a sad thing that we're at a point in human history where that even seems scintillating. Because, if you ask me, it's a pretty basic observation—if you take psychedelics in the right circumstances, then you will generally improve your life."
Like we said: an out-there kind of guy!
This article appeared in print with the headline "Stand-Up Shaman."