Wait Wait: Paula Poundstone Ponders People, Politics … and Chairs?

The comedian is in Texas this weekend for a show in Austin. The Standard talks with her about her style of comedy and life on the road.

By Laura RiceAugust 20, 2015 2:22 pm

Comedian Paula Poundstone’s star began to rise in the 1980s – when she first started to appear on HBO standup specials. Since then, she’s gained a reputation for her quick, frank-speaking style and her preference for menswear. She’s probably best known by NPR listeners for her regular appearances on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.”

She’s performing Saturday, Aug. 22 at One World Theatre. She’ll be back in Texas – in Houston – in January.

On prepping for shows:

“People think sometimes that I’ve like studied newspapers about the area before I’ve gotten there but, in truth, that would require far too much work for me. I discover a lot about the area just from the people that I talk to during the show. It’s a little bit like Willy Wonka’s chocolate river churning its chocolate — my show has a lot to do with who comes to see it. That’s why no two shows are the same. The other night I got a woman in Hyannis, Massachusetts. I asked her what she did for a living and she told me she taught a hospice boot camp. And, man, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I had the best time. Every audience member thought the same thing that I did for just a second — which was what it sounded like was that she was making people at death’s door get up and work out — but really, of course, what it was was a training for people who are working with people with end of life issues.”

On why she takes pictures of chairs:

“You know, I started taking pictures of the chair in the dressing room years ago. And the point in the beginning was — I often get emails and calls from people who have like a charity or something and they want me to give away free tickets to the show — which I don’t have an issue with at all — but they always want, ‘oh, like a backstage pass.’ And I say to them, ‘you don’t want a backstage pass.’ It would be one think if I were a rock n’ roll band I suppose — maybe it would be exciting. But, really, it’s just me and backstage is not really glamorous in the way people think it is. So originally I took a picture of the chair just demonstrating the lack of glamour in the dressing room area. And then, I don’t know, I took a few more. And now, if I don’t take a picture of the chair and post it, people write, ‘What’s the matter? Why didn’t you put the chair?’ So, I just do.”

On laughing about presidential politics:

“At this point I feel like, like in the old days when you’d go see a movie and there was a cartoon first — I feel like we’re just watching the cartoon right now. But it is fun to watch. And I watched the Republican debates like everybody else… Jeb Bush said a great thing. He said that in Florida, they call him ‘Jeb’ because he’s earned it. I have no idea what he meant by that. I assumed that Jeb was his name. I don’t know, maybe in Florida, they have a different rule where you have to earn each letter of your name and for a while he was just ‘J’ and then he was ‘Je.’ I don’t know.”