Paula Poundstone hit the comedy scene in the 80s. She is an Emmy-award winning standup comedian with a new book out. She has stayed in our minds and hearts as a comedian, author, interviewer, actress and commentator. She is heard on NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” and is a mother and pet-lover on top of it all. She is bringing her comedy talents back to the Moore Theatre tonight, May 20th. You might still be able to get a ticket if you run to the box office now. Check out her new book, “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness” here. Check out our interview with Paula Poundstone below:
Earle Dutton: Why did it take so long for you to write this book?
Paula Poundstone: Well, for a variety of reasons the least of which is that I am not a writer for a living. I had to kind of slip writing sessions into the cracks of my life and my life doesn’t have many cracks. The other reason is that every chapter is written about some sort of experiment about what I or other people thought would make me happy. Some of those experiments took quite a while. Some were something I would do for a day, while others might encompass things I did for months. It was a combination of those two things that made it an intolerably long process. Every day of my sons life he had to hear me day, ‘Oh God I have to write again today.’
ED: So tell me a little bit about the show you are bringing to The Moore in Seattle?
PP: I can’t wait. The Moore is one of my favorite places to perform. That Seattle crowd is so much fun to play to. You are almost living the lie when you perform for a Seattle crowd. Years ago, I used to work a little club in Seattle called The Comedy Underground. It was this low-ceilinged basement room. I think it was back in the 80s. I would get booked for like five nights in a row. In the 80s comedy was incredibly hot. They would have three shows on a Saturday night and two shows a night on a Friday and Sunday. There were nights that I never even really touched my material. I would just talk to the crowd. It was just explosive laughter. Every comic who worked that stage would tell you the same thing. It was just a fun romp the entire time. Then, wherever you went the following week you would bomb your ass off. All because, you believed what the Seattle audience told you. It was a MISTAKE! It is a very fun city. I have been at The Moore many times and always enjoy it. I talk about raising a house full of kids and animals. I talk about trying to pay attention to the news as much as possible to cast a halfway decent vote which we all know is not an easy trick at all. My favorite part of the night is just talking to the audience.
ED: Do you have a formula for your perfect comedy show?
PP: No, I have no idea. There have been nights where I have gone on and made funny jokes about politics which were insightful and well crafted. Then when I would come off stage people would say, ‘well that was great but how come you didn’t talk about your cats?’ The truth is no matter what I do (laughter), there is just something not quite right. I don’t know that there is a formula. If I had a script it would be wrong.
ED: What attributes or values of yours contributed most to your career’s longevity?
ED: I don’t really know the answer to that question. I just must be the luckiest comic in the world. About fifteen years ago, I got hired on “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” the NPR news quiz show and that really extended the size of the crowd that I play to. A lot of listeners come out and see me live. Beyond that, I just really don’t know the answer. I do work really hard at it all. It is not the easiest job in the entire world but nor is it the hardest.
ED: Would you encourage your kids to be either writers or comedians?
PP: Oh, I would encourage them to do whatever they thought would fill them up. I think I have been really good at getting out of my kids’ way. I have always told them the story of me at nineteen when I started to do standup and people would say to me all the time, ‘well, what do you parents think about that?’ I would always say, ‘I don’t know because I didn’t ask because I don’t care.’ I don’t think any of my kids want to do either of those two things. None of them have shone a penchant for performing. I will say my daughter Toshia played Yente in a children’s theater production of “Fiddler on the Roof” on time. I was unable to go because I was working. I am sure it was the most interesting interpretation of Yente that there has ever been as my daughter is black and has cerebral palsy. I can’t even imagine her Yente performance.
Don’t forget to check out Paula Poundstone’s new book, “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness” here.