Some comedians tell carefully crafted jokes, but Paula Poundstone, whose birthday is today, seems to just open her mouth and funny things fall out without her even realizing it. Maybe that’s why, even though some of her performances have been captured, every performance is unique. She has prepared material but it’s always her improvised interactions with the audience that are the funniest, and whenever she’s a panelist on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me I think, oh, here we go and I tense up like a tightly coiled spring just waiting for her to point out the absurdity of a scientific study or ask a bizarre question or just offer some brilliant observation that no one else could think of.
It’s also what makes her book There Is Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say such a fun read. It’s not a typical memoir but is instead as meandering and funny as Poundstone herself can be, but as a bonus with each chapter she takes a notable person–Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Charles Dickens, The Wright Brothers, Beethoven, and Sitting Bull–and uses brief biographical bits about each one as jumping off points to talk about her own life.
Speaking of that it must be a bit of a bummer to have a birthday right after Christmas when everybody’s exhausted and the last thing they want to do is wrap and give more presents and right before but not actually on New Year’s Eve which is the biggest party of the year so no one wants to schedule anything right in the middle there, but here’s hoping it’s a happy one anyway.
I love Paula Poundstone too. One thing that I always thought was hilarious is when she described being a waitress at IHOP and she said, “If people were mean to me I would touch their eggs”. And now I’m always especially nice to waitresses who bring me eggs, because you never know, they might have heard that joke also.
That’s hilarious. I loved it that she also kind of got in trouble with the other waitresses. Because of her raging OCD she was cleaning everything and the other waitresses said, “Knock it off or we’ll all be expected to clean that much.”
I saw Paula Poundstone when she was starting out in Boston. I have to admit she wasn’t one of my favorite standups back then. I don’t remember her interacting much with the audience. It’s probably time to revisit her work. Thanks, Chris.
I hope you enjoy revisiting her work. The place she seems to shine best is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! where she regularly has interesting questions for callers and guests.