From best-selling books to consistently being on the road entertaining crowds with her hilarious stand up, Paula Poundstone continues to be a leading and legendary force in the comedy world. I sat down with her to chat about what one of our favorite funny ladies finds really funny, her affinity for classic comedy, and her special reflections on her audience, as well as where we may expect to see her next.
Paula, you're still one of the leading comics in your field and you still love hitting the road. What makes you keep wanting to do it?
You know, I love the road, I'm going to say something and it may sound crazy, but the audience is really my best friend; they just are. It's so much fun. For many years, I hated talking to anyone off stage. I felt like i went from talking to a large group to talking to an individual and that was so hard for me. They would mention that they liked the show, I would thank them & they would look at me like "that's not funny" and I started to feel that it was a disappointment to meet me in person.
Several years ago I wrote a book "There's Nothing In This Book That I Want To Say" and then after the show, I was doing book signings, which is part of the package as they say. I have come to discover that it's actually a delightful part of the night. I don't often do it, but when I do, I enjoy it. I kind of know now, to some degree, that I have the greatest crowd in the world, that's always the case. Even when I was younger, when I was middle act, the headliner, whatever. I mean, people would kill to work with me, not because I'm such a stroll in the park, but because they wanted to work off of my audience. They are nice, fun, smart people. How they come to see me I have no idea! LOL. They're delightful.
What kind of an audience demographic wise do you think you have?
You know, I think that generally speaking, maybe I flatter myself, they are people that see beyond themselves. I think they think about the world outside of themselves. I mean, don't get me wrong, we're all the stars of our own shows, but I don't feel like the rest of the shirt is just red shirts to the people that come see me. And much of my crowd would know that that meant. People come up to me afterwards and they tell me things about themselves, their lives. They're huggers too. Listen, in order to go out for the night you have to see a value in that and oddly enough, thats becoming more and more less common. Some people think you can get everything you need from a stupid computer. Computers have cruelly hijacked words like "connected" and "friends". One is neither connected or has friends online. We are pack animals, we require the human touch and eye contact and theres nothing like that. I remember years ago when "Bridesmaids" first came out and my girls wanted to go see it. I didn't want to go see it, I thought the taste would be different, but I deferred to my daughters and we went. I went in not wanting to see this movie and found myself caught up in the waves of laughter with other audience member for two reasons; one, because seeing something in a group is just so much damn fun and two, because I think it may be the funniest movie of all time. It is really funny.
I love the "Three Stooges". I grew up watching them, I introduced my children to them, I have them on VHS and DVD and I have watched each of their shorts probably literally hundreds of times each. Several years ago, we went to the Three Stooges Film Festival at the historic Alec Theatre in Glendale CA. There it is on this big huge screen for one thing, and surrounded my hundreds of other Three Stooges fans. It's not that I laugh when I see them, I acknowledge to myself that they amuse me, rarely have i laughed out loud at them. But with all of these other people, the laughter is simply infectious. It's a collective experience. A lot of people are foregoing that because they can stay home and do this or stay home and do that, and I just think we're missing the boat sometimes. It's so mentally healthy to be a part of that as well. I always tell people, Im not insisting people have to come out and see me, but they have to go out and get that experience.
There has been alot of loss in comedy in the past couple years, from Robin Williams to Joan Rivers. Is it hard to stay inspired creatively when a large part of comedy can sometimes be inherently dark?
No. Nature has given us, for whatever strange evolutionary reason, this coping mechanism that is really beyond all others; finding humor even in the darkest of experiences. So I don't think it will l ever be harder to do it one time than the other. I think it's actually more important. People may feel that it's inappropriate here or there, but that's people. If you go to a funeral or the most dire of experiences, somewhere, maybe not in front of people, you and your closest circle will make jokes and laugh at sometime. I cant help it. I remember years ago when I was in silly stupid rehab, they insisted on having someone teach meditation. I really had to refuse at a point. I knew that i was incapable of not running it for others, I just can't. It doesn't always fit in socially, but Im really glad that I have that valve in me.
It's like that great "Mary Tyler Moore" funeral episode where they laugh at Chuckles the Clown in the funeral parlor.
Do you think you'd want to do something more, like you did when you guest starred on "Cybil" or have your own show again? Amazon and Netflix are becoming the new frontiers in terms of mediums.
I think sometime perhaps I will, yes. I've always said that I had to devote some time to my children and I was hoping that there would be some elderly women roles left over. When I watched "Bridesmaids" one thing I was totally jealous of was getting to play off of the "ensemble", getting to play off of other people like that. It seems like so much fun! I do a little bit on the side, but nothing professionally . I hope to be able to do that someday, but I don't really know what I'm gonna do just yet.
You have a new book coming next year correct?
Yes and I am working painfully slowly on it. If i never did anything else but what I am doing right now, I would consider myself the luckiest person in the entire world. It really is a joyful experience. Sometimes the plane I think eats away at my bones a little bit, but other than that its all joy.
Who is out there doing what you do now that you love?
you know, i never watch anything on television, I'm kind of a snob. Last summer, we rented a screening room and watched "Abbot and Costello"; that's our idea of a great night For alot of those guys, it was the Margaret Dumont, the severe women, Part of the joy is the guys trying to hide from those women. I really don't watch too much new stuff on tv. the older stuff, It's tried and true. Its like with reading, I could probably put together a stack of books that I could probably finish from now before I die. it's sometime best to absolutely stick with the classics.
(Photos by Michael Schwartz/WireImage)