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Paula Poundstone - 7/26
at City Winery New York City
Appearing on stage with a stool, a microphone, and a can of Diet Pepsi, PAULA POUNDSTONE is famous for her razor-sharp wit and spontaneity. The Boston Globe said, “Poundstone improvises with a crowd like a Jazz musician…swinging in unexpected directions without a plan, without a net.” Paula is so quick and unassuming that audience members at her live shows often leave complaining that their cheeks hurt from laughter and debating whether the random people she talked to were “plants”.
Paula grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts and by the time she was nineteen was traveling on a Greyhound bus across the country – stopping in at open mic nights at comedy clubs as she went. She credits her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bump, with being the first one to spot her comedic talents. Bump wrote in a letter to Paula’s parents: “I have enjoyed many of Paula’s humorous comments about our activities.” In 1979 Paula began nurturing her standup comedy talent as part of the Boston comedy scene, and then moved to San Francisco where she continued to flourish.
By 1990 she’d relocated to Los Angeles and had starred in several comedy specials for HBO, as well as appeared on Saturday Night Live when friend and mentor Robin Williams hosted the show. Paula’s first one-hour HBO special, “Cats, Cops, and Stuff.” made her the first woman to ever receive the Cable ACE for best standup comedy special. She also starred in a self-titled talk show series for HBO (for which she won her second Cable ACE Award for Best Program Interviewer, beating out other, more recognized names in that field.) In 1992, Poundstone forsook what she considered the ‘staid’ 5-minute standup set on late night talk-shows for something she thought would be more real with the audience and filed memorable field commentary of the Presidential Election for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
This led to her own show on ABC, aptly named, “The Paula Poundstone Show”, and behind-the-scenes coverage of that year’s EMMY Awards for which she was critically acclaimed. During this time, she also became the first woman to perform at the White House Correspondents dinner. By the mid-90’s, Poundstone had shifted her performances from comedy clubs to performing arts centers and theatres where her interactions with the crowd became the stuff of legend. In 1996, Paula taped her second hour special for HBO, “Paula Poundstone Goes to Harvard,” – the first time that elite university has ever allowed it’s name to be used in the title of a television show.
The Boston Globe also said about Paula, “You know Poundstone’s a great comic the way you know any fine performer when you see one—there’s a disarming ease in her craft, an immediate sense that she’s so quick on her feet you need never worry about the possibility of something going wrong.” Paula’s off-kilter sensibility and impeccable timing made her a perfect fit for NPR’s “oddly informative”, weekly news quiz program, “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” which she joined as a regular panelist seven years ago. Hosted by Peter Segal, the show is broadcast in 50 states and gives Paula a chance to match wits with some of today’s leading pundits – not to mention interact with some of the people at the forefront of our nation’s eyes, including Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. The show tapes weekly before a live audience at the Chase Auditorium in Chicago, or on location.
It took Paula eight years to write her first book, There’s Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say. (Harmony Books, a division of Random House, Hardcover pub: November 2006, with foreword by Mary Tyler Moore) “That’s because I was writing it in real time,” Poundstone jokes. Part memoir, part monologue, Paula’s unique laugh-out-loud book features biographies of legendary historical figures including Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc and Sitting Bull, among others, from which she can’t help digressing to tell her own. The paperback edition is also available nationwide. In 2007 BRAVO premiered Paula’s newest standup comedy special: “Paula Poundstone: Look What the Cat Dragged In” The show was taped before a live audience in Los Angeles at the landmark Orpheum Theatre. Other credits include: Frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion;” Voice of Judge Stone on ABC’s Saturday Morning “Science Court” aka “Squigglevision”, and “Paula”, the mom in Cartoon Network’s “Home Movies. Paula has made numerous appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman;” ”Sesame Street;” “To Tell The Truth” and “Comic Relief.” Paula won an EMMY Award for her field pieces on PBS’s “Life & Times,” and is also the author, along with her high school math teacher, Faye Ruopp, of three math text books for children published by Heinemann Press: The Sticky Problem of Parallelogram Pancakes; Venn Can We Be Friends? and You Can’t Keep Slope Down Paula’s published several magazine articles, and for five years wrote a back-page column in Mother Jones.
In 2009 Paula released her first comedy CD: I HEART JOKES: Paula Tells Them In Maine, 60 minutes of the smartest comedy recorded live at the sensational Stone Mountain Arts Center – because as Paula says, “It’s very hard to do it any other way.” The new CD is available at www.amazon.com , iTunes, and at www.paulapoundstone.com. Paula continues as the National Spokesperson for (ALTAFF), The Association of Library Trustees Advocates Friends & Foundations, a national network of enthusiastic library supporters who believe in the importance of libraries as the social and intellectual centers of communities and campuses.
Paula is supporting libraries on a local level by partnering with promoters and the local Friends organization in cities where she performs. The local Friends group receives tickets for use in fundraising or promotion as well as a portion of the book and CD sales after the performance where she makes herself available for signings. Says Poundstone: “It’s funny that we think of libraries as quiet demure places where we are shushed by dusty, bun-balancing, bespectacled women. The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community. Librarians have stood up to the Patriot Act, sat down with noisy toddlers and reached out to illiterate adults. Libraries can never be shushed. If you haven’t been to your library lately, you’re overdue.”
Paula began fostering children in the early 1990’s, and went on to become a parent to three children of her own, Toshia 18, Allison 15, and Thomas E., 12, The family lives in Santa Monica, California.