“Twitter once suggested that I follow Donald Trump. I would rather follow the devil himself into the gates of Abercrombie and Fitch." Paula Poundstone”

Laugh Yourself Silly on New Years Eve with Paula Poundstone

An interview with Paula Poundstone
Paula Poundstone By Mariah Fleming

Looking for a uniquely fun way to ring in the New Year? Start your celebration with comedian Paula Poundstone, who returns to the Mesa Arts Center on Wednesday December 31st at 8 PM. Recognized as one of Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand-ups of all time, Poundstone is also one of a select group voted into the Comedy Hall of Fame in 2010. And she's an American Comedy Award winner for Best Female Stand-Up. Tickets are flying so snap up yours now: Mesa Arts Center.

If you've missed Paula Poundstone in her role as a regular panelist on NPR's top rated, very funny "Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me" weekly news quiz show (heard internationally on NPR via the Internet and podcast) she regularly appears on late night talk shows including David Letterman and Craig Ferguson. She appeared in the 2013 Showtime documentary "Why We Laugh Too: Women of Comedy" with Joan Rivers and Whoopi Goldberg.

Poundstone has an unaffected and engaging stage presence. Known for her delightful interchanges with the audience, last time she performed at the Mesa Arts Center, she asked an audience member what she did for a living. "You don’t want to know!" the woman laughed. Poundstone wondered aloud "How bad could it be?" "I'm a coroner," the woman answered. That didn't deter Poundstone from turning the interchange into one of the funniest and most memorable moments of comedy ever, and the audience roared.

Being at a Paula Poundstone show is kind of like hanging out with a group of good friends in your living room. You relax, tell some tales, and then head for home feeling lucky to be on the planet. Poundstone was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. I found her answers entertaining and enlightening. Enjoy!

Q.When you were starting out in comedy, was interacting with the audience planned or did it happen spontaneously and evolve from there?
A.I started out doing "Open Mike" nights in Boston. The premise of those nights is that, anyone who wants to can do five minutes on stage. I would write, and memorize my five minutes. I'd be practicing all week, while bussing tables. If one looked closely, they could see my lips moving, while wiping the tables off. I would then go on stage, and either get distracted by something that caused me to comment, in which case I was no longer sure how much time I was taking up, or I would simply forget what I meant to say. Either way, I was forced to "work the crowd," because I didn't know what the hell I was doing. Even if I could work my way back to my material, I often found it then had an awkward rhythm and texture. At the time, I viewed this as a big mistake. It took me quite a while to realize that that was where the night's magic lay.

Q.Were you a funny kid? When did you realize you have a gift for making people laugh?
A.In her summary letter on my progress, in May of 1965, my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bump, wrote, "I have enjoyed many of Paula's humorous comments about our activities." I will say that not all of my teachers, in my subsequent school years, were of the same opinion, and probably with good reason.

Q.Some comedians assert that grown up comedians are borne out of unhappy childhoods. Do you think the maxim "Tragedy plus time equals comedy" is true?
A.I used to think that, because I was quite dramatic. Now, I think most of us probably had a much better upbringing than we realized. And lots of unhappiness is caused by not eating, sleeping, or exercising right. You can hydrate, and work out, and still be funny.

Q.A 2013 Chicago Tribune interviewer asked if your kids showed an inclination towards comedy. You replied that your son "likes to do his impression of a cat throwing up." As I read it online, above the words "throwing up" this ad popped up: "Find out the latest on throwing up. See what's trending on yahoo and stay up to date with throwing up!" What do you make of this frantically connected, privacy invaded, target marketed consumer society of ours?
A.I hate computers. I hate what they've done to us, and more importantly, our kids. I think there are going to be a lot of ugly, clunky shoes to drop in ill effects from the age of the Internet. Twitter once suggested that I follow Donald Trump. I would rather follow the devil, himself, into the gates of Abercrombie and Fitch.

Q.You work with the American Library Association raising awareness and funds for local libraries. You're a gifted writer yourself. If you hadn't become a comedian, do you think you'd have been a full time writer? I loved reading your first book, "There's Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say" and I listen to the audio book on long car trips.
A.I'm not sure I would ever have had the self-discipline to be a writer that could support myself. I could have written reviews of friends' couches. Thank you, by the way. I love it when someone likes my writing.

December 21, 2014

Contact the author of this article at Editor@MusicAndMoreAZ.com.