Paula Poundstone


Marin favorite Paula Poundstone is back in the Bay Area this month, for shows in Santa Rosa and Walnut Creek and a stop at the Osher Marin JCC on May 11. The regular panelist on NPR’s weekly comedy news quiz Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! recently launched a weekly podcast called Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone.  We caught up with her to discuss the show and more.

Your website says you perform 85 shows a year. That’s a lot. Where do you call home?

San Marcos (in San Diego County). It’s not my home but I’ve been staying there temporarily for 30 years; I just haven’t figured out where I am going yet.

You return to Marin and the Bay Area regularly. What do you like about returning to Marin?

Marin is one of my favorite stops. It is a nice crowd, plus I love Linda Bolt, who books the place and runs the program. And I have some friends there. It is always nice to see familiar faces. My favorite club doesn’t exist anymore [the Other Cafe in Cole Valley] but one of the owners, Bob Ayres, brings me to the JCC so it is tied to nice memories. I always find nice people in the crowd to talk to.

What do you like about Bay Area audiences?

I don’t ask of my crowd that they think what I think. Sometimes I have to say I am not a political analyst and I’m not campaigning. I’m not even the most informed voter. My act is largely autobiographical, that I heard something and this is my reaction to it. Most people come to see me deliberately, either because a friend told them to or they’ve seen me for years and they are coming back.

Is it fair to say that Bay Area audiences are most likely to know your work from your recurring appearances on NPR?

I did live in the Bay Area for a while and I was a part of the club scene in the early ’80s, so there is that. But some people come who know me from the NPR show and are mystified as I don’t answer questions [in my show] about the week’s news. The two groups get along well.

What first drew you to the comedy of news, as it were?

I was captivated by the Iran-Contra hearings [in May 1987]. I even had or still have Iran-Contra Scandal trading cards. A comic book company made them. There was an illustration on one side of a character, like Oliver North, and on the other side, an explanation about who they were in the story. I got hooked watching the hearings and that was the beginning. I was in my 20s. It was just so wacky with Fawn Hall and the documents stuffed down the front of her shirt. And when I discovered the wackiness, it wasn’t dry and dusty. Looking back, one of the striking things about those hearings, and I had forgotten this until George Bush Sr. died, is that he pardoned all of those criminals. I got swept up in Bush’s beautiful story. It was also striking how bipartisan they were.

Is that when you became a regular news viewer?

I still swear by the PBS NewsHour for news. They go so far out of their way not to editorialize. The NewsHour always explains acronyms. They always back up and explain one if someone used one. Try not to leave viewers like me behind. I love Mark Shields and David Brooks. They are just having a conversation and people do not have to get all up in their face about it. But I miss Gwen Ifill. MSNBC gives me digestion problems.

What do you read to keep current?

When Trump dumped on The New York Times, I started subscribing. I couldn’t even keep up with section A. I’m sad to say I recently re-subscribed to Mother Jones magazine. It only comes out every other month so I have a chance to keep up. But it’s so fucking depressing. When it arrives, I take breaks to read The Handmaid’s Tale to cheer me up.

According to your Wikipedia page, your birth year ends in nine which means it is a banner birthday this year. Any special celebrations planned?

A doctor told me yesterday I was young so I am going to use him as a therapist now. It ain’t over yet.