Appearing on stage with a stool, a microphone, and a can of Diet Pepsi, Paula Poundstone's ability to create humor on the spot is legendary.
There’s a wonderful synergy to each of her one-of-a-kind twohour shows. She improvises with a crowd like a jazz musician. She’ll find an audience member who sells grass seed to golf courses in part of the state of Maryland and wonder, "In such a small territory, even if the grass seed were any good at all, how could you possibly be working to your full potential?" -- then she swings in another unexpected direction without a plan, without a net. Paula is so quick and unassuming that audience members leave complaining that their cheeks hurt from laughter and debating whether the random people she talked to were "plants." Known for her honesty, and an off-kilter view of the world, Paula is currently delighting crowds across the country on her hilarious national tour, "The Big Picture". "My show is about finding the teeny tiny part we play in the ‘Big Picture’, like a life-sized ‘Where’s Waldo!’" says Paula. Never one to be defined by the usual genderbiased topics of relationships, diets, men or sex, Paula nimbly mixes in everything from how the shameful deterioration of the broadcast news industry threatens our democracy, and arguing over a parking space at the museum of tolerance, to recycling her newspaper with the cover story on the oil spill, her near-death experience with cinnamon, and the frustration of living in a house full of pencils with no erasers. "How can an eraser that small possibly eradicate all of the mistakes one could make with all of that lead?" She even handles politics without provoking the pall of disapproval less artful comics have received.
A single working mother, with children ages l3, 10 and 6, much of Paula’s material is based on her life at home in Santa Monica. The house is never quiet. There are nine cats, a big cat-eating dog, a bearded dragon lizard, an elderly bunny and one doggedly determined ant left from an ant farm. Recently, one of her children was upset that the family didn’t celebrate Easter: "First of all, it’s not our religion," she told the child. "Second of all, you all don’t like eggs. Third of all, you guys don’t look for anything." "I love doing my job," Paula says. "It’s a privilege to perform for people who come to see me and I would do it if there were only six, although I’d have to up the ticket price." In the Spring of 2002, Paula became a regular panelist on NPR’s oddly informative, weekly hour-long news quiz program "Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!" where she matches wits and tests her knowledge against some of the best and brightest in the news and entertainment world including Roy Blount Jr, Calvin Trillin, Adam Felber and P.J. O'Rourke. Paula’s website,www.paulapoundstone.com, is being applauded for it’s originality and entertainment. Visitors are treated to Paula’s personal diary entries with pictures from her life; her Calendar, with humorous detail; and a special column, "Ask Paula to ask Hep Cat." Paula’s cat Hep can speak (but only to Paula) with authority on a surprisingly wide array of topics, and what Hep doesn’t know she’s only too glad to try and find out. Paula, for example, asked Hep recently if she should use a "no stick" spray on a "no stick" pan and Hep replied, "no." Answers are posted on the website for all to read. A talented writer, Paula had a monthly column in Mother Jones magazine from 1993-1998 where her broad base of topics ranged from covering the basics of government with former Senator Paul Simon (while enjoying rides at an amusement park) to poignantly noting the similarities between her life and that of Koko, a gorilla who knows sign language, and answering questions from her readers. Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times’ Sunday Calendar, Glamour, Entertainment Weekly and Buzz, among others. She is currently writing a book for Harmony Books, a division of Random House, which she says is taking her a long time to write "because I’m writing it in real time."
Paula grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston) and began performing at open-mic nights in 1979. She was among a handful of comics who rose to prominence during the comedy craze of the 1980s, and her talent was so genuine, she was still standing when the fad subsided. Paula credits her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bump, with her success in comedy. Bump stated in a "summary letter" sent to Paula’s home in 1965 that "I have enjoyed many of Paula’s humorous comments about our activities." Paula says, "she found something positive to say and expressed an adult interest instead of squelching my sense of humor. In the first grade, Miss Carter wrote I was subject to emotional outbursts and that I had poor penmanship. That didn’t help at all." In 1992 Paula was the first woman to win a Cable ACE Award for Best Stand-Up Comedy Special for her HBO special "Cats, Cops, and Stuff." In l996 she debuted her second HBO stand-up special, "Paula Poundstone Goes to arvard," the only time the elite university has allowed their name to be used in the title of a television show. Paula was the first woman invited to headline the White House Correspondents Dinner, and she provided memorable live coverage of the ’92 political conventions and presidential inauguration for "The Tonight Show." Her casual air and razor-sharp wit made her a perfect fit as backstage commentator for the ’93 Emmy Awards the following year. Paula starred in a self-titled series for HBO in ’92 (for which she won her second Cable ACE Award for Best Program Interviewer) and moved the show to ABC in ’93, where it was short-lived but applauded for its break from convention. She performed at both "A Gala for the President at Ford’s Theatre" television specials broadcast on ABC during President Clinton’s administrations. In the Fall of 2004, Paula hosted the WIN Awards (Women’s Image Network), honoring Jack Nicholson, director Catherine Hardwicke, and several other luminaries for their outstanding work to further the image of women in all forms of entertainment. In February 2005, Paula will perform at the highly-regarded HBO Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen Colorado, a part of which will air as a special on TBS in the Spring. Additional credits include numerous appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," "The Tonight Show, Garrison Keillor’s "A Prairie Home Companion" for American Public Radio, and "The Rosie O’Donnell Show, " She has served as a guest commentator for the Oscars on "E! Entertainment Television." Paula voiced the character of Judge Stone on the acclaimed ABCTV Saturday morning animated series "Science Court" (a.k.a. "Squigglevision") for three years, as well as the character of "Paula" on Cartoon Network’s "Home Movies." She has appeared on PBS favorites "Sesame Street"and "Storytime." During 2000 and 2001, she served as a celebrity regular on the syndicated game show "To Tell The Truth." Not one to be easily defined, Paula guest-starred on the CBS series "Cybill," which led to a recurring role during the show’s final season. Her field pieces on the renowned series "Life & Times" for PBS station KCET won Paula a local Emmy Award. Paula has lent her services to help raise funds for several causes she believes in, including legislation for gun control and campaign finance reform, healthcare for the homeless, the Democratic party, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Actors and Others for Animals. Paula recently participated in the first "Standup for Justice" benefit in San Francisco, and she has performed on HBO’s "Comic Relief" since its inception. A woman of many interests, Paula produced the award-winning children’s audio book project Completely Yours and gave voice to one of the characters alongside Mary Tyler Moore, Bea Arthur, Kathy Najimy, Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. Released in 1997, the project featured a story about adoption called A Mother for Choco and is available through the Children’s Book of the Month Club and select bookstores. While she has amassed an impressive list of accolades in print and on stage, Paula is a dedicated single mother, so the majority of her time is spent at home, with her children, where she watches steadily improving cartwheels, denies junky snacks, tries desperately to remember the parts of speech, corrects long division, listens to Nancy Drew read aloud, overcooks noodles, and tries to explain that life isn’t always fair, but that right now it’s Thomas E’s turn to use the pogo stick. She says things couldn’t be better.
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