It’s been two years since Paula Poundstone was in Spokane. The stand-up comedian and frequent panelist on NPR’s quiz show “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” happened to be in town the same day as the Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity sparked a local version here. It left her with a good impression.
As she was walking through the rally in Riverfront Park, her cellphone dropped into the river. One guy fished it out, and another got her some rice to help dry it out. “It was such a series of kindnesses that I could tell I was in a really special place,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Santa Monica, Calif.
Poundstone is back in Spokane tonight for a show at the Bing Crosby Theater. She took a few minutes to answer some questions.
Q. I know your live act includes a lot of give and take with the audience. Given how polarized the country is these days, are you finding it more difficult to come to common ground with the audience?
A. Not at all. The majority of the evening is not about politics. … I never ask people about their political views. My goal is to entertain. When people come up to me afterward and tell me that their jaws hurt or their sides hurt, or even that they’ve become incontinent, I really feel proud. It’s a select few who admit to incontinence, but when they do, it’s really very moving.
Q. Thanks for answering my next question. I’ve interviewed a lot of comedians over the years and rarely are they funny on the phone. You’re funny on the phone.
A. Yeah, well, sometimes. I would never come out to see me based on what I say in an interview. Never. I used to just loathe talking to people at all off stage. It felt that I was going from this funny dynamic of one little circle, one little me on the stage talking to all these little circles. People would say, “Oh, I enjoyed the show,” and I would say, “Thank you. I’m glad you did.” And they would look at me like, “That’s not funny.” I felt I disappointed them.
In recent years … I have found that I really, really enjoy (meeting people). I love knowing who comes to see me. I get a few seconds to talk to people. Ask them their name and what they do for a living and have these great conversations. It feels a lot more complete. I feel like between that and goofy stupid social networking, and some mental illness on my part, I feel I have this connection to people that’s deeper and more strengthened. It gives both ways and it’s great.
Q. Speaking of social media, I know you’re active on Facebook and Twitter. Which format do you prefer?
A. I actually like doing goofy Twitter. I guess because I can do it from my iPhone where with Facebook, you probably can, I just don’t know how. For years before all this junk came into our lives, and it is junk on most levels, I wrote tons of postcards. And if I didn’t actually write a postcard, I was framing one in my head because I was alone so much because I travel for a living. So I was always thinking of some shortened version of whatever I was doing to zip off to one person or another. To me, Twitter is postcards in my head.
Q. You’ve been doing “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” for about a decade now. What is it about that show that keeps you coming back?
A. It is so much fun. I work with people I should get college credit just for talking to them. It’s a really fun way to keep up with what’s going on in the world. Not that it’s all heady, by the way, because they do more than their share of people-smuggling- monkeys-in-their-pants stories. What’s great about it for me is I like saying what strikes me in the moment, and on that show they really encourage us to do that. I’ve been on lots of shows where they really encourage me not to do that.
Q. I have friend who is a fan of yours and she wanted me to ask you a question: What’s with the suits?
A. She’s gotta see my new suits. She’s going to love ’em. I just had a couple suits made that are zoot suits. When the woman brought me some swatches of fabric and there were some that were so bold and big and she’s like, “You’re not going to want these.” And I’m like “ T hose are the ones I want.” Big, huge black and blue stripes. Big, huge red and black plaid. Some might say clownish. And I say, so be it. The great thing about a suit is that it’s all done for you. None of this Garanimals stuff. It’s one-stop dressing. And I like that.