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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Q&A with NPR panelist Paula Poundstone

    Courtesy of Personal Publicity Paula Poundstone is featured regularly on NPR’s news quiz show,

    When she’s not wrangling one of her many house cats, Paula Poundstone is attempting to find the humor out of everyday life. A veteran comic who has worked with Jay Leno and Rosie O’Donnell, Poundstone currently performs as a panelist on the weekly NPR program “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” Starting this month, she’ll hit the road on a comic tour throughout the country, and Fox Tucson Theatre will be one of her first stops this Saturday night. Poundstone had a moment to chat with the Daily Wildcat on her life and work:

    When did you first realize that you were funny?
    The first sentence on a note from my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Thump, told my parents how much she enjoyed having me in her class. I don’t remember what I did, but Mrs. Thump seemed to think I was great.

    You dropped out of high school to become a stand-up comic; how did you have the courage to do that?
    I sort of oozed out of high school. I was a miserable and depressed youth. At 19, I was bussing tables in Boston, and it was there that resurgence in the art of the stand-up comic took place. I never really had a plan when I left high school; it was sort of just perfect timing.

    Does Twitter make you a better comic?
    When I first heard of it, I thought it was stupid, but I still enjoy it. It clears my brain for when the next joke is coming through. I think I have to force myself to think of jokes during the day, which I never used to do before Twitter. I would rather sift through litter boxes than self-promote, but it’s an enormous part of my job.

    You once performed at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner. What was that like?
    As a performer, it was horrendous. The event itself has grown and grown with news coverage, but when I did it back during the George [H. W. Bush] administration, it was much more low-key. Basically, nobody listens. Everyone is so into looking at one another that they don’t pay attention to the people performing. They were a horrible crowd to entertain.

    Your book “There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say” uses historical figures as metaphors for your own life experiences. Why did you choose to do that?
    Part of the joke was to pick people who were really iconic. The first that dawned on me was Lincoln. All of a sudden, it dawned on me that if I were to ever try and write a book about Lincoln, I couldn’t help but write about myself the whole time. In truth, I’m not like any of those great people I talk about in my book.

    Mary Tyler Moore wrote the foreword to your book. How did you get her to do that?
    We’re good friends. When I was first working on it she said, “Don’t tell anyone about it,” because she thought it was a great idea to poke fun at these iconic figures. I sent the book to her and she left me a message talking about how much she liked it … and I think she just volunteered to write the foreword to it … now that I think about it.

    What you do on “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” is completely improvised. Do you prefer that over stand-up?
    I really do mix improv into my stand-up. My favorite part is talking to the audience. Improvisation has a lot of flavor to it, and it’s very conversational, which is basically what stand-up is as well.

    What can people expect from your show?
    It’s about living in a house full of animals and raising kids. It will be a lot of talking to the audience, as that’s what I like to do.

    What do you like most about touring around the country?
    It’s just about the audience. That’s all I know about the place I’m at. … You go from the airport to the hotel to the show, so you’re not really soaking in the local culture of a city. The crowd just gets better and better with time.

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