Despite her penchant for observational comedy, Paula Poundstone doesn’t move through the world mining for jokes. Life generously delivers truckloads of material that often manifests in lightning-quick, brain-to-mouth moments of comedy gold.
“ I just think of stuff and say it. Sometimes stuff I think of that I think is funny, I say it on stage and the audience disagrees,” says Poundstone. “It happens less often the more years that I do it because I don’t care what profession you’re in. There’s always something to be said for experience. But I don’t really analyze it very much. I just like things that are funny and I say them. I don’t say to myself ‘and now I’ll go find something funny’. I think its a very sort of almost self-conscious way at this point. I have like a pool filter. It’s not overt. There’s a low-grade sucking noise all of the time. I definitely have a catch basin somewhere in my brain.”
Poundstone shares her hilarious take on cats, kids and all the rest Saturday, April 9 at The Florida Theatre.
Funny things happen all the time but often, an experience doesn’t reveal itself to Poundstone as funny until she’s able to look at it from a different angle. “Irritating things happen to my all the time, just like they do to everyone else and I don’t initially find them funny in the moment but I think we’re one of the only animals that have this great coping mechanism of a sense of humor. I share things that are annoying or depressing or irriating but before I ever got on stage, I always took a certain pleasure in sharing my prevails with other people. Like ‘this sucks but I’ll tell Martha or this friend or that friend’. And I’m sure this sounds like a mentally unhealthy thing to say but the audience is my best friend and I love going on stage and telling them things.”
Poundstone’s art is in the masterful way she stiches each individual snippet together into a cohesive and deliciously funny conversation with her very best friends. “Thanks to Robin Williams, he really did away with the segue. He had that frenetic energy. One of the things he did, and he did many things, but one of the things he did for my brethren and I was to kind of jump around and that’s okay with the audience now,” Poundstone says.
“I happen to have OCD. One of the ways that it manifests itself in me is that there are times that I literally can’t stop talking. Everything reminds me of something else that I feel compelled to say, even if there’s no one else in the room. I’m constantly cutting myself off. I barely finish one thought before I have another thought on what I believe to be a related topic but I don’t think it always looks to everyone else like it was related. I see the quizzical look on people’s face and I have to back up and explain why it was connected in my mind.”
Like many young comics, Poundstone started out at open mic nights, trying her best to fit her rehearsed material into the strictly allotted five minutes, lest she cut into the time measured for the next act. “I would try really hard to have it all connect in a way that made sense to everyone else,” she says. “And then as the years went by, I realized that the joy of the whole event was that the more myself I was, the better off I was.”
Even the premise of Poundstone’s 2006 book, aptly titled “There’s Nothing in this Book That I Meant to Say,” is directly proportionate to her ability to connect seemingly random topics. She tells her own story in the telling of other people’s stories so every time something reminds her of something else, she has a new vehicle in which to share it. In writing about Beethoven and the mention of an opera, Poundstone recalled the time a producer from Oprah called her “because Oprah. Why not?” she says. “It was a blast to do because I allowed myself to be the most me I could possibly be.”