Whether you know her as the suit-and-tie wearing comedian who has been making appearances on late night television since the 1980s or as one of the witty disembodied voices on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”, Paula Poundstone’s brand of observational humor has cemented her place in the comedy world. Poundstone will bring that wit to the Civic Theatre in New Orleans on Saturday, March 21.
After dropping out of high school, Poundstone worked odd jobs until she got her big break from the late comedy legend Robin Williams, who saw her improvisational material in San Francisco in the ’80s and helped her get a spot on an episode of Saturday Night Live.
After a string of stand-up successes, Poundstone’s HBO special “Cats, Cops and Stuff” made her the first female comic to win CableACE Award for Best Standup Comedy Special, and a Tonight Show stint as a correspondent covering the 1992 presidential election showed that she could be funny off the stage, as well.
Poundstone has starred in specials on BRAVO and HBO, has won an Emmy, wrote the pseudo-memoir “There Is Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say,” recorded two comedy albums and was a voice actor on cult classic cartoons such as “Science Court” and Home Movies. In the midst of all of that, she took the time to be a foster parent to 11 children and an adopted parent to three.
The modern phase of Poundstone’s career came in a form Poundstone herself least expected: public radio.
Poundstone is now one of the most popular and frequent guests on NPR’s current-events quiz show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” — she joined the cast when it performed live in New Orleans last weekend. She admitted that as a kid she would groan every time her dad turned the dial to public radio, but Poundstone’s casual and improvisational style proved to be a good fit for the show.
Despite being popular with “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” listeners, Poundstone is not necessarily the show’s most successful participant. As of a few years ago, Poundstone claimed the overall loss record on the show, a dubious distinction she chalks up to being a working mom with three kids, 16 cats, two dogs, a bearded dragon lizard and a lop-eared rabbit. (She claims that the non-cats are merely a ploy to get people to call her an “animal lover” instead of just a “crazy cat lady.”) Poundstone says that with all those lives in her hands, she just doesn’t have as much time as her competitors do to catch up on the news.
The on-the-fly wit that has earned her fans on the show is on full display in her live acts. She boasts that no two of her stand-up shows are the same, and she frequently combines observational humor on topics such as her kids and the addictive quality of Pop-Tarts with friendly, inquisitive banter with the audience.
She turns audience confessions of gas station lube rack accidents into running jokes and suggests audience-wide field trips to the nearest 7-Eleven to buy out their supply of Slim Jims, among other things.
Those who love her on “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” and want to put a face to the voice and those who just want to see a veteran comic in their natural habitat can do so at the Civic Theatre on Saturday, March 21.