Paula Poundstone “Twitter is the postcards in my head.”
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict what will happen when Paula Poundstone takes the stage April 12 at the Florida Theatre. It all depends on what she’s in the mood for and the atmosphere in the room but one thing is certain. You will laugh. Hard. “There should be no injuries if all goes well,” Poundstone says.
While no two shows are ever the same, Poundstone has an arsenal of material at the ready. She talks of raising a houseful of kids and animals. She touches on topical issues that prove she pays enough attention to the news to cast a halfway decent vote. But when Poundstone engages her audience in a spontaneous to and fro, that’s when the magic happens.
“My favorite part of the night is talking to the audience,” she says. “I do the ‘where are you from’ and ‘what do you do for a living’? And this way, little biographies of audience members emerge and I sort of use that to figure our how to trim my sails. I have tons of material but I select what to do based on how it’s going, what I’m in the mood for and what everyone else seems to be in the mood for.”
Poundstone is known for her witty brand of observational comedy, a skill that dates back to her humble beginnings as a chatty five-year-old in Mrs. Bunk’s kindergarten class. “The first sentence of the last paragraph of the summary letter written by kindergarten teacher in May of 1965 said ‘I have enjoyed many of Paula’s humorous comments about our activities’. That letter was around for a really long time. I was very impacted by an adult recognizing something that I did,” Poundstone says. “It’s hard to tell which came first – the chicken or the egg as to whether or not I gravitated towards comedy as a result of that but Mrs. Bunk liked me but I must say that my subsequent teachers did not enjoy my sense of humor as much.”
Growing up, Poundstone gravitated to the humor of Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges and Lucille Ball. Today, she “just thinks about Bridesmaids sometimes during the day and burst into laughter” and she enjoys sharing DVDs of “I Love Lucy” with her daughter over and over again. “I still laugh,” she says. “It’s just plain good stuff.”
Though her comedy is based on her life, Poundstone does not go out of her way to write to a specific agenda. She rarely sits down with a notebook with the intention of writing jokes and “there is never a topic that I say I have to have jokes on.”
“The truth is, if I told a story about our family that was somehow shockingly unique, then I don’t think people would laugh. I think they would just look at me like some sort of science display,” she says. “I think people laugh because of the commonality of it. Our struggles are not particularly unique at all.”
Poundstone says that the emergence of Twitter has helped her to be more deliberate with her comedy. “It’s like a furnace that you have to feed. I just loved the idea of thinking of jokes and putting them out there.” Once she embraced Twitter for the sheer pleasure of it, Poundstone was forced to also address the business end of the deal, pushed by her team to increase her number of followers and promote her tour stops. She accepts that we are very much in an electronic age and gets a charge after a show when she sees the flurry of tweets from people who have just seen her show.
As a traveling comic, Poundstone says she used to send postcards to friends and family while she was on the road but “I got to where I couldn’t remember if I had actually written a postcard or if I had just written it in my head,” she says. “So Twitter is the postcards in my head.”