Comedian Poundstone To Perform At Paramount Friday
By Virginia Dean
RUTLAND — The first sentence of the last paragraph of comedian Paula Poundstone’s kindergarten report card indicated then that she might be headed for comedy for, as her teacher said, “I have enjoyed Paula’s humorous comments about our activities.”
But the road to comedic fame wasn’t as clear-cut as some predicted during Poundstone’s early life. “Oozing” through high school and earning her diploma by “sliding under the door in a depressed funk,” Poundstone wasn’t certain about her future.
“I didn’t know what I would do,” she said in a recent interview. “I really didn’t think I would do comedy.”
Growing up in Sudbury, Mass., Poundstone bused tables for a while before landing in the Boston area where she became involved in the 1970s Comedy Connection, one of the city’s large comedy clubs known for its improv and milieu for young comedians looking for a career break.
“This was a new idea,” said Poundstone. “This kind of club was springing up then all over the country – even beyond. In fact, I have a graduating class of comics from all over the country who started when I did. It was really just time and place. I actually thought I would work my way to managing a restaurant.”
Instead, however, Poundstone gradually made her way into other comedy clubs, soon becoming recognized for her wry, intelligent and witty comedy.
Scheduled for a concert at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland tomorrow night, Poundstone tours regularly, performing standup comedy across the country. Within the next month, for example, she will present her artistic work in New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, and Ohio.
She is also a regular panelist on NPR’s weekly news quiz show “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” headquartered in Chicago. Her fondness of the international radio broadcast has a lot to do with being spontaneous.
“They allow me to say whatever I want,” she said. “The panelists are unscripted, so it’s perfect for me. I feel like I’m a batter in a batting cage. I get lobbed topics. Sometimes I just watch them go by, but every now and then I get a piece of one. If the others didn’t cheat, it would be an almost perfect work experience.”
Much of her humor, she said, is autobiographical and not to be categorized.
“It’s very personal,” she said. “It really has to do with my own experiences, or perhaps politics or current events here and there because I stumble upon it. I don’t see myself as being a particular type.”
Poundstone’s spontaneity, however, is a key aspect of what separates her from other comedians and that has made her a legend among comics and audiences alike.
“No two shows I do are the same,” she said. “It’s not that I don’t repeat material. I do. My shows, when they’re good, and I like to think they often are, are like a cocktail party. When you first get there, you talk about how badly you got lost and how hard it was to find parking. Then you tell a story about your kids or what you just saw on the news. You meet some new people and ask them about themselves. Then, someone says, ‘Tell that story you used to tell’, and then someone on the other side of the room spills a drink, and you mock them. No one ever applauds me when I leave a party, though. I think they high five.”
Throughout her career, Poundstone has amassed awards and accolades that include an Emmy, an American Comedy Award for Best Female Standup Comic, a member of the Comedy Hall of Fame, the cable ACE for Best Standup Comedy Special, and recognition as one of Comedy Central’s 100 greatest stand-ups of all time.
She remains modest about her accomplishments, however, continuing to point to being at the right time and place as the reason for her success. She grew up adoring such comedians as Lily Tomlin and Bill Cosby who undoubtedly influenced her current “better worn” life path.
This March, Poundstone joined Whoopi Goldberg and Joan Rivers in a comedy for a feature-length documentary entitled “Why We Laugh Too: Women of Comedy.” Last year, Poundstone was honored at the Moment Magazine, receiving its Creativity Award at its 35th anniversary symposium and dinner. Her newest comedy CD, “I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston,” was just released in April.
Poundstone is also a published author and lecturer. Her book, “There is Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say” (2006) precedes her present novel which she says is about raising her family.
“It’s experiential and autobiographical,” she said.
Poundstone also continues her role for the American Library Association (ALA) as the national spokesperson for United for Libraries, a citizens support group working to raise awareness and funds to support local libraries. Poundstone has appeared as the headliner at the ALA’s annual conference for their “Laughs On Us” panel.
Poundstone resides in Santa Monica, Calif., with her three children.
Tickets for Friday, Sept 13 8 p.m. show are available by calling (802) 7750903 or by visiting www.paramountvt.org.