Paula Poundstone on Writing, Public Broadcasting and Denver Audiences
Paula Poundstone tickles the usual place at the Paramount April 25.
Photo courtesy NPR
No one deserves success more than Paula Poundstone, who'll be in town for a special solo benefit for Colorado Public Television on Saturday. A genuinely sweet person with more than thirty years of touring as a comedian under her belt, she has diversified into writing, acting, interviewing and commentating — and is a treasured regular on the panel of in-the-know smart-alecs of the hit NPR comedy/quiz show Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me.
“It makes the medicine go down a little easier,” she says of the acerbic, topical tang of that show. She flies into Chicago most Thursdays to tape the newest episode, hilarious colloquium on the you-can’t-make-this-kind-of-stuff-up events of the week.
Getting the topical humor out of her system helps Poundstone focus on more universal themes in her standup work: family ( “After I get him in bed," she says of her sixteen-year-old son, "I go to my room . . . and complete — my – sentences!”), work, life...and the opportunity to put on puppet shows with her feet. Often she’ll keep banter going with numerous audience members all through her solo gigs.
“It’s a different show every single time,” says Dominic Dezzutti, VP for content at CPT 12. “She goes up there and relates so easily to audience and the community. And she’s just the same offstage as on.”
It took some time for Poundstone to find quite the right venues for her talents. Her short-lived, 1993 commercial TV series featured such surreal, off-the-wall shenanigans as Sam Donaldson reading Where the Wild Things Are in its entirety and economists being interviewed in a carnival teacup ride interspersed with a barbershop quartet; the humor was classic, but the show was quickly canceled.
Poundstone’s steadfast support of public broadcasting means that CPT 12 has quite literally enjoyed the benefits of her concerts for nearly a decade now. Such support helps fund local programming like Street Level, Front and Center and the new OpenAir Live & Local.
Dezzutti notes that Denver is one of only thirty markets nationwide with more than one public TV station. “We are very lucky,” he says of the friendly competition between CPT 12 and its older sibling, Rocky Mountain PBS. “It makes both stations better and benefits the audience. Any time you have more options, you have more content.”
Denver’s a favorite town of Poundstone’s as well; early in her career, she spent a lot of time headlining at the long-gone George McKelvey’s comedy club on East Hampden Avenue (where this humble reporter, long a comic in recovery, used to open for her). Local comedian, playwright and director Edith Weiss still has the laundry basket Poundstone bought her to help clean out the back seat of Weiss's car during one visit. “Denver crowds are so good, they always have been,” Poundstone says. “They’re quicker. They just get stuff.”
Despite her 45 weeks on the road each year and the weekly radio show, Poundstone is hard at work on her second book as well. Slated for release in the fall of 2016, it’s a sequel of sorts to her 2006 There is Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, an exercise in autobiography that escapes tangentially from Poundstone’s discussion of great historical figures.
“This new one is also biographical, but it’s much different from the first, many more experiments," she says. "Writing is the best worst thing in the world,” she adds, going off about the dangers of negotiating her treadmill/desk. Despite the potential of suffering a George Jetson-like authorial fate, Poundstone has a safe and secure place in audiences’ hearts.
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