If you’re a fan of NPR’s fast-paced, satirical news quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me, you probably have your personal favorites among the rotating stable of regular panelists. And I probably wouldn’t lose any money if I bet on the quick-witted Paula Poundstone being among them. Though she has been in the comedy business full-time for 32 years and has told some of her stories hundreds of times, Poundstone’s schtik never seems less than fresh and off-the-cuff. There’s no particular gimmick, catchphrase or routine that paints her into a creative corner. Her live shows morph constantly and spontaneously, depending on the circumstances. “The audience is my friend,” says the comic. “I go to them for support, and they’re who sets the tone for the show.”
As Wait, Wait host Peter Sagal puts it, “Paula comes out onstage and she starts talking about her life, and then 20 minutes later you realize you’re in the middle of her comedy act and didn’t really know it.” It’s true, and what makes it all especially entertaining is how relatable she is. Though politically astute and always savvy about current events – in 1992 she covered the Presidential election live for The Tonight Show and became the first woman ever to host the White House Correspondents’ Dinner – Poundstone comes off as a regular gal with working-class problems like single motherhood and feisty opinions about the weirdness of modern American life and culture.
Besides being on seemingly perpetual tour doing standup, Poundstone has won a slew of awards with her comedy specials for cable TV, authored several books (including three comedic math texts for middle-schoolers), recorded audiobooks of her favorite jokes, done voiceovers for animated characters (including a cameo in Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out), delivered commentaries for CBS Sunday Morning, interviewed famous folks for Writers Bloc Presents and served as national spokesperson for the American Library Association’s United for Libraries program.
Fortunately for us in the mid-Hudson, Paula Poundstone also seems to like playing the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie. She’ll be back again this Friday, June 24 at 8 p.m. Come acquaint yourself in person with what the Boston Globe calls “one of comedy’s most nimble and disarming comic imaginations.” Ticket prices range from $42 to $77 and can be obtained from the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072; the Ulster Performing Arts Center box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088; or via Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. For more info, visit www.bardavon.org.