Poised between Ellen Degeneres and her wide-eyed Pollyanna musings and Rosie O’Donnell’s bilious observances, there’s stand-up perennial Paula Poundstone. The Alabama native simply tattle-tales on herself in a signature deadpan, stumbling onto wince-making universal truths. Starting out in comedy clubs in 1979, the award-winning Poundstone made the transition to TV and has performed on several HBO specials. Adored by fellow comedians, she has been booked numerous times by Jay Leno and David Letterman. (A misguided 1993 TV variety series, however, lasted two episodes.)
While raising three kids as a single mother has limited her club gigs, Poundstone was able to transfer her coruscating wit intact to the page with her first book There’s Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say (Random House, 2007). She has also written math books for students. Having just released her first CD, I Love Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine, Poundstone is in the process of writing her second book. From her home on the West Coast, the comedian shared her views on the new president, sleeping on Timothy Leary’s couch and the value of Dumbo’s feather.
Paula Poundstone will perform at the Bearsville Theater on March 7 at 9pm.
(845) 679-4406; www.bearsvilletheater.com.
CHRONOGRAM: You hail from Sudbury, Massachusetts. Have you ever gone back there for a reunion or for a stand-up gig?
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Many times, many times. I actually did a benefit at my high school many many times, starting in the 80s all the way up to the late 90s. And in the last couple of years, I brought my children to Sudbury, Massachusetts and we were going ñ now, you have to know Massachusetts well to know exactly how far out of oneís way you have to go to do this. We would be in Manchester, Mass. Which is on the North Shore and weíd be heading out to Pittsfield, Mass., which is in Western Mass. Weíd swing by Sudbury, withy the main purpose being to g to the penny candy store on Route 20 in Sudbury, mass. Candy hasn't been a penny there since I was a little girl. But when you add all that gasoline to it, it isn't a bargain.
CHRONOGRAM: A lot of comedian attribute their need for comedy to their past; to growing up. Was there anything about growing up in Sudbury, which helped define you as a person with a comic outlook on life?
PP: I don't think so. Sudbury was a really nice place to grow up; it was fairly sheltered in most ways. We had conservation land behind our house ñ which, by the way, theyíve long since built on. They didn't when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time walking around the woods and riding your bikes down streets where most people knew you. And if you did something stupid, somebody was gonna tell on you. Mrs. Gutcher told on me and Janet Ross for jumping out the second-floor window.
CHRONOGRAM: Did you hurt yourself?
PP: No! We were practicing for a fire, we told each other.
CHRONOGRAM: Was she just the neighborhood busybody?
PP: Well, we thought so, when we heard she ratted us out like that. We had no tolerance for what we viewed as disloyalty. But, as it turns out, it was probably a good thing.
CHRONOGRAM: From a quick survey of comedians in America, you emerge as one of the better-informed people --
PP: Thatís frightening.
CHRONOGRAM: As a testament to that, you have a great gig on the NPR current events show ìWait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!î Does that require being more voracious about what you read on a weekly basis to keep up?
PP: No. I don't even know how to describe how uninformed I am. And I try really hard during those weeks to keep up. I was just telling somebody today: I was in san Francisco for awhile, and I was lucky enough ñ not by anything I did by design, honestly ñ but I was lucky enough to be apart of the comedy scene back there that was very creative. The audiences looked for people who were doing insane things that were more alternative ñ or we told ourselves we were, anyway. And the audience told us we were. We all may have just been fooling ourselves. But it did feel like they were willing to wait for the laugh, they were willing to find the path les trod ñ not untrod, but less trod. It was jut really a great thing. And I was just telling somebody today: The truth is, at that time in my life, I didn't ever watch he news; I had not a clue what was going on in the world outside of me. And when recently, theyíve talked about how unemployment rates are as high as they were in 1982, I had no idea the unemployment rate was high in 1982. I-I-I was alive and telling my jokes and doing fairly well, but just didn't have a clue.