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Paula Poundstone looks at her life—and others'
by Jerry Nunn
2010-12-01

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Paula Poundstone has been performing stand-up for ages and returns once again to Illinois. She spoke Nunn on One, covering cats, kids and comedy.

Windy City Times: Hey, Paula. So you are coming to Chicago to record NPR's quiz show.

Paula Poundstone: Yes. I come in about once a month to record "Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me." So I am in Chicago quite a lot.

WCT: Where do you fly in from?

Paula Poundstone: We live in San Diego, Calif.

WCT: How are the kids?

Paula Poundstone: We're good. I am coping with the southern California school system. That is enough to just kill anybody. My son has an addiction to computers and electronics. I went to the school and told them no assignments on computers because if he logs in to do that it sets him off. They didn't like that. I said, "He never writes more than a paragraph and when someone tells him to write more, he simply writes in a bigger font!"

WCT: That's a smart kid.

Paula Poundstone: I am 50 and not that fucking old, but there is a generation of where they have proven that handwriting does something to the brain that is positive. This doesn't surprise me. There is a generation that is lost because of using the silly computer.

WCT: Well, you have been on Facebook and Twitter a lot.

Paula Poundstone: I do all that stuff but not to the exclusion of anything else. However, I must say that I rather enjoy it. I enjoy writing a 140-character joke. I stretch my wings on my website and allow myself to be a little more verbose. The great thing about the social-media stuff that I am enjoying is that you don't have the gatekeepers of television or radio telling what you can say and do.

WCT: That's true.

Paula Poundstone: On my website I know have a stream that is on for 24 hours with a camera on my cat's food and water bowls. Many people just go on and watch my cats because I have 16 of them and usually a fair amount of action at the bowl. I get to put out jokes continually if I want to.

WCT: From being a friend of yours on Facebook since I last interviewed you, I get to know you a little more in a way.

Paula Poundstone: Yeah; my act is not really an act—it's largely biographical. When I reflect on politics and current events it is not because I am always right sometimes it's just what I am thinking.

WCT: You are working on a second book, correct?

Paula Poundstone: I am, painfully and slowly.

WCT: What will it be like?

Paula Poundstone: It is about experiences. I am writing about things that make me happy. I am not a professional writer so I slip writing in the cracks of my day. The truth is that I have not had a crack in a while now! That's why the first book took me nine years.

WCT: Oh, really?

Paula Poundstone: I thought after setting the bar that low in terms of scheduling that this would be more of a breeze. I thought there would be no way that it would take me longer than nine years and now I am beginning to wonder. Look: I have three kids, I am a working mom, I have 16 cats, a bearded dragon lizard, a German shepherd mix dog, a lop-eared bunny and one ant left from my aunt's ant farm!

WCT: Wow. That's a lot.

Paula Poundstone: And then I have to deal with the public-school system every day. If that was one's only job that would certainly be enough to drive you to drink. My God,it's painful.

WCT: Well, you are always on the road so that has to be tough.

Paula Poundstone: It takes up a bit of energy. I am very lucky because the two things that I do most is take care of my kids and do my job. It turns out that those are the things that I most enjoy doing. I have the greatest audiences, I always feel like Jackie Gleason when I say this, but I really do.

WCT: Do you like when people yell things out?

Paula Poundstone: I am not so big on yelling out but my favorite part of the show is the "what do you do for a living" part. I just grab people quite randomly and talk to them. Every now and then there is somebody very enthusiastic and they will speak to me before I speak to them. That is fine but depends on the intent. I don't have any mean hecklers or anything like that. The ticket prices are too expensive. Who the hell would do that? It's like going to Cirque du Soleil and trying to knock the unicyclist off his bike!

WCT: Has there been an interesting job that someone has had?

Paula Poundstone: I have talked to a couple of mortuary people, which always does fascinate me because I don't see the draw.

WCT: Seems like it could bring down the party a little.

Paula Poundstone: No, actually I think people are fascinated by the topic. People want to know why: "Since you were a kid this is what you dreamed of?"

WCT: Six Feet Under was a big show.

Paula Poundstone: I haven't seen it but the reason it was successful is probably for the same reason that people are interested in the topic. Most of us don't have time in our day to swing by the mortuary and ask questions to people that work there.

WCT: Any other common jobs?

Paula Poundstone: I get a ton of "I am a computer programmer." What I do before I glaze over entirely is ask them what they do on the weekend. There is something about a discussion with anything technical that just hits my internal "off" switch.

WCT: I understand that one. I am not a techie…

Paula Poundstone: There was someone when I recorded my CD in Maine who was a snow ranger.

WCT: I can hardly wait to see who comes to your Elgin show. You seem really good with your fans.

Paula Poundstone: I am; it's a perfect example of a symbiotic relationship. I hope they get things out of it and I get tons out of it. Not necessarily tons of money, by the way, but generally I get things out of it.

On Friday, Dec. 3, Paula takes on The Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony, Elgin. Call 847-931-5900 or visit www.hemmens.org for tickets and information.


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