Paula Poundstone has been performing stand-up most of her life. Since her first open-mic nights in 1979, the comedian has kept audiences rolling in the aisles. Dressed in a suit and tie, her funny observations have led her to write a book and make a comedy CD entitled I Heart Jokes.
We talked to this classic funny woman before her upcoming show in Skokie.
Windy City Times: Hey, Paula. Good to see you are coming to town.
Paula Poundstone: Me, tooI love playing in Skokie.
WCT: I am glad to see that the show is closer to Chicago this time out.
Paula Poundstone: Skokie moved?
WCT: No (laughs), but your other shows have been farther out in the suburbs. I will definitely be at this show.
Paula Poundstone: Oh great, come up and say hi!
WCT: Will do. I saw you recently went to Alaska.
Paula Poundstone: I did, last weekend. It was fantastic. I am still recovering. It was a whirlwind trip to say the least.
WCT: It is daylight for a long time there, right?
Paula Poundstone: It wasn't at this time. I was working a lot and I had brought my daughter with me. Normally during the day I am fairly sedentary when I am on the road. I travel, I eat, I do some writing, I take shower, I go to work, I take nap, but because she was with me more was expected of me. We did dog sledding and stuff like that. It was cool. We went to the glacier. I summited a rock.
Paula Poundstone: Not that big of a rock, honestly.
WCT: Well, you did it.
Paula Poundstone: I stood on it.
WCT: How did your show go there?
Paula Poundstone: The audiences were great. I had a blast talking to the people. They were all rugged individualists.
WCT: They are very Republican there, aren't they?
Paula Poundstone: I don't know, but I made some jokes about the Republican primary. One can't help oneself. It is like in the Roger Rabbit movie when they lured him out saying, "Knock, knock." You can't throw this Republican field in front of me and have me resist saying stuff about it. It is just too damn funny. It has been a boon.
WCT: The jokes write themselves, I am sure.
Paula Poundstone: It kind of doesSantorum, my heavens! Newt Gingrich said he was going to do something with Israel his first day in office. I thought, "Wouldn't he just put up his pictures and his little tchotchkes on his desk first?"
WCT: I liked reading your Twitter posts. Lisa Lampanelli told me once if she could get two jokes a day on there, then she is happy.
Paula Poundstone: I am about the same. It is interesting because for my act I never really push myself that hard. I never wrote two jokes a day for my act. I also do it differently onstage. A lot of things I have developed by talking onstage. I certainly never sat down with a piece of paper and said, "Now I am writing jokes." When I am on Twitter, I sit at my computer and think of things to say.
I also tell people where I am going to be although I never thought of that when I first started using it. I hate to do that without giving them more enjoyable content.
WCT: How do you keep your act fresh after performing for so long? It has to be hard being away from your kids.
Paula Poundstone: That is fresh sometimes. … When I first started out I took a Greyhound bus around the country to see what clubs were like in different cities. I ended up in San Francisco at The Other Café. It was very small and I was desperate for money so I got a job working behind the counter. I didn't want to wipe my hands on my apron and come out onstage. I decided to work at night as a standup comic and during the day work behind the counter. I did open mic on Wednesdays.
When I opened the place in the morning I would hear people bitching about the comics from the night before. The number-one complaint was [that] people always did the same thing. I became very sensitive to the waitresses' opinions. I was very liberal about mixing it up after that. I guess I still am. If you came to the two nights in Anchorage, Alaska, there would be a few things that I repeated from one show to the other but much of it is unplanned. So in that way, it regenerates itself. I don't do the same thing that I just did because I grew up doing it that way.
WCT: Lily Tomlin just performed at the same place in Skokie. She took questions from the audience. Do you do something like that?
Paula Poundstone: I ask people where they are from and what they do for a living. I love talking to the audience. It is my favorite part of the night. I randomly ask people questions. In this way little biographies are developed. That is how I set my sails for the night. Depending on what one person says then I will talk about a certain topic. I will talk to a different person and follow that. It is like being a pinball I guess. I let the conversation with the crowd dictate where I go next. It seems to work pretty well.
WCT: Have you played Provincetown before?
Paula Poundstone: I have and I love it.
WCT: I thought you would have a huge gay crowd for that.
Paula Poundstone: I have been doing it for several years now with a night or two. It is such a great place like a carnival. There is the natural beauty of the place and the wacky beauty too! I like both.
WCT: Would you ever do a reality show, like Celebrity Apprentice?
Paula Poundstone: One of those? Yes, I would. I wanted to do Dancing With the Stars. They didn't want me. I pursued it to a degree. Somebody even started a Facebook page. It was a running joke with my Twitter followers for a while.
Someone told me the list had come out and Nancy Grace was on it. I thought it is one thing to turn me down but to have Nancy Grace's face on television for one more millisecond contributing to the destruction of the world has made them tainted! They could ask me but I would no longer doggedly pursue trying to get on the show.
My children and I watched it last night but they were horrified by the notion that I would do thatas if there were anything else I could do to embarrass our family more! I would do it strictly for the weight-loss factor and to drop a pound or two.
WCT: You would be Paula Poundless, then! Sherri Shepherd is on there to do that this season.
Paula Poundstone: Who is that?
WCT: She is from The View.
Paula Poundstone: That show is horrible. If that is The View, then give me a room with no windows!
WCT: Hilarious. The weather is going to be perfect for you the week you are here in Illinois.
Paula Poundstone: We live in southern California and it has been so cold. I wear that jacket from Alaska to bed with me at night! I am looking forward to going to Skokie for the warmth.
Bring the heat to Skokie and see Paula at the North Shore Performing Arts Center, 9501 Skokie Blvd. on Friday, March 30, at 8 p.m. For tickets and information, visit www.northshorecenter.org . For more Paula, try www.paulapoundstone.com .