Working The Crowd: 11 Questions With Comedian Paula Poundstone

Thursday, June 30, 2011 14:29
Posted in category In the News, Interviews, Special Events
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Veteran comic performs at Anthology in Little Italy July 2

By Gordon Downs |

With over 30 years in the business comedian Paula Poundstone is somewhat of an institution in the world of stand-up comedy.

Poundstone rose to success during the great comedy boom of the eighties landing her on HBO, Saturday Night Live and what once was the Holy Grail for stand-up comedians, The Tonight Show. Having survived the fast paced lifestyle and over indulgence of the 1980’s and endured the lethargic comedy scene of the 1990’s, Poundstone has remained relatively unscathed and still performs around the country all while raising several children and numerous cats.

As she prepares for her one night only performance at Anthology in Little Italy, SanDiego,com was fortunate to catch up with Poundstone from her home in Los Angeles and discussed her early years as a comic in Boston and the ongoing improvisational relationship she has with her audience.

Is it true that you traveled across the country via Greyhound bus doing open mics?

Paula Poundstone: Yeah, I started out in Boston and wanted to see what clubs were like in different cities, so I rode the dog all around the country and Canada. I had an Ameripass; for $150 you could go anywhere you wanted for a month.

What year was this?

PP: It might’ve been 79’ or 80’.

So this was right at the cusp of the great comedy boom.

PP: Yeah I was really lucky, and there was no genius there. It was just time and place. I also happened to be nineteen years old, which sure doesn’t make it easy.

Would you describe the nineteen year old Paula Poundstone as a free spirit?

PP: Um, no, just really compulsive. I look back on it now and if one of my kids wanted to do that; I wouldn’t stand in their way. But if they wanted to it would probably be for a good reason. But I look back on it now and I’m like, ‘Whoo boy! Gee.’ I’m lucky I wasn’t clubbed over the head.

It’s a different world now than it was back then.

PP: Yeah, it is. You’re absolutely right about that. I told my kids this story before, I sort of tell it, couching it in. The first night I spent in San Francisco; I knew a comic from Boston who’d gone out to San Francisco and I was going to catch up to him and stay with him a couple of nights or whatever. But when I got to the Greyhound station I couldn’t reach him. I believe this was the day before the elections when Reagan was elected, and there was a rally for John Anderson who I had moderate interest in knowing nothing about politics. Having really nothing else to do I went to the rally and I think I had a newspaper that I was sitting on and someone asked me if they could read it or maybe it was the other way around. And I ended up hanging around for the rest of the night with that guy. Nice young guy, probably a couple of years older than me; can’t remember his name. I remembered that he lived up a ton of stairs and we rode the cable cars together. We invested what seemed like a huge amount of money at the time which was $10 to go see Gallagher at the Great American Music Hall, and I stayed only that one night. It wasn’t like a sexual thing, I stayed in one room he stayed in another room. I have never seen that guy again. I don’t remember his name or anything about him. I remember saying to him as we were riding the cable car, ‘Isn’t this strange in a way?’ and he said, ‘Naw, people treated me nicely when I came to town.’

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