Being a Poundstone

Paula Poundstone with a balloon human in her likeness. Photo courtesy of Queens Theatre
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Wearing her nifty signature suit and loud necktie, the bob-haired comedienne adjusts her mike and takes a swig from a can of Diet Pepsi as she gets ready for some serious joke-telling. Funnywoman Paula Poundstone’s off-kilter, improvisational comedy is as real and down-to-earth as it gets.

Taking a break from her tour, which stops at Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Dec. 3, the unassuming mom speaks about her family, their myriad pets and her roller coaster career, all while mixing in some of her signature off-the-cuff humor.

She said her adopted children “are the bane of my existence and the joy of my life.

“I have three kids. My oldest is 20, and has a fantasy of just sitting in a chair while other people do things for her. So far, the rest of us keep wrecking it.” Another daughter, 17, is looking at colleges, and her son, 13, she said, is “looking at middle school homework.”

With a full-grown German Shephard mix, a new puppy, and 16 cats all living in her Santa Monica, Calif. home, Poundstone said everybody vacuums a lot: “If there was a high school vacuuming team, my kids would be in the first string, but what with all the budget cuts, they’re not having a team this year.”

And when asked about Halloween at the chaotic household, she jokes: “We had a terrible Halloween. Kids kept ringing the doorbell — asking for candy!”

So, what’s her best advice as a mom? “Wear a holster with a damp cloth in it. Kids are sticky.”

Awaiting her comedic brilliance at Queens Theatre in the Park, Poundstone’s fans will be enjoying her side-splitting remarks and spontaneous, humorous banter with unsuspecting audience members.

Getting laughs is music to a comic’s ears and her brand of comedy has resulted in riotous laughter wherever she performs.

“I love N.Y.C. It’s great!” she said. She likes seeing so many different kinds of people working and living so well in one place: “New Yorkers have had an undeserved reputation for being rude, for years — I find them quite humane. Try crowding a bunch of Californians. I got in a fight with someone here in L.A. over a parking space at The Museum of Tolerance!”

Rewind back to the early ‘90s, when Robin Williams was hosting Saturday Night Live and his friend, Paula appeared on the show. “I owe my career to the talents and kindness of Robin Williams, my mentor, and Lily Tomlin, a national treasure,” said Poundstone, who started out as a bus girl and bike messenger in the small Massachusetts town of Sudbury, where she grew up. “At 19 I became a stand-up comic, turning my back on a successful table-busing career,” she said.

“I did open mike nights in Boston, then took a Greyhound around the country, and ended up in San Francisco — another lucky break,” she said. “I went on stage there, and fell in love with the crowds. They seemed to hope you’d do or say something unpolished, and were kind of along for the ride.”

Looking back on her career, Poundstone, 51, credits her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bump, with being the first one to spot her comedic talents.

She fondly recalls her HBO and Bravo comedy specials and numerous, memorable gigs on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” “Sesame Street,” “To Tell the Truth”, and “Comic Relief.”

Featured on National Public Radio’s news quiz show, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” Poundstone’s funny take on current events steals the show as she matches wits with some of today’s leading pundits.

Back in 2001, news headlines announced her shocking drunk driving arrest. She had been driving with her kids. It was a really tough time for the family when the state took temporary custody of her three children, she said, while she spent “180 days in a 30-day rehab program.” In an NPR interview she joked about it: “Out of deference to me and my family, I was actually court-ordered to Alcoholics Anonymous on television. Pretty much blows the hell out of the second ‘A,’ don’t you think?” Making light of this terrible experience is how she dealt with it all these years.

So, who are some of Poundstone’s favorite comedy actors? “Abbott and Costello,” she said. “I grew up watching Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, and Lucy. Their work never gets old. I wanted to be them more than anything when I was a kid, but I missed by a country mile. Still, I don’t think any of them vacuum as much as I do. If I were them, we’d have suffocated from fur here at the old Poundstone place.”

The comic’s first book, “There’s Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say,” is a laugh-out-loud account of how the lives of famous historical figures, like Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc and Sitting Bull mirror her own.

She won an Emmy Award for her field pieces on PBS’s “Life & Times,” and in 2009 released her first comedy CD, “I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them In Maine.”

“I love to laugh. I love the sound of laughter. I also love things that lift us up. I aim for that. A sense of humor is a valuable tool in getting through anything, and so that’s what I do,” she said. “I can’t say that I always hit the mark, but I love trying.”

If You Go

Paula Poundstone

Queens Theatre

14 United Nations Ave. S

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Queens, NY 11368

Dec. 3, 7 pm and 9 pm

Updated 1:41 am, November 17, 2011
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