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Comic Paula Poundstone stands up for Spokane Public Radio

Comic Paula Poundstone performs tonight in a benefit for local public radio stations.
Comic Paula Poundstone performs tonight in a benefit for local public radio stations.

To emphasize the nonglamour of her life on the road, Paula Poundstone posts pictures of chairs on her Facebook page. Skuffed-up metal folding chairs, hard plastic ones, grungy sunk-in easy ones – backstage is not what people think it is, the comic said in an interview before her stop in Spokane tonight.

And if the chairs look lonely, posing solo in the corners of bare-walled rooms, there’s truth in that, too. Traveling alone is lonely, Poundstone said.

“I’m in a hotel. I fly by myself,” she said. “I mean, there’s other people on the plane, but you know.”

But then she gets in front of a crowd, and she starts talking – not just to her audiences, but with them. She’s known for her banter. That part of her job is “wonderful.”

In a phone interview, Poundstone riffed on her work, TV, sexism and the “painfully, horribly bad” movie she went to for the sake of her child.

Poundstone on her regular gig as a panelist on public radio’s “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”: “I often feel like a batter in a batting cage in that we sort of get lobbed topics. Sometimes I watch it go by, and sometimes I swing and miss entirely. There are times when I get a little piece of it.”

On the “Bluff the Listener” stories she writes for the show: “We’re usually told like the day before, and they always write this funny little note: ‘Have it in the afternoon.’ I’m like, yeah, good, keep writing that.”

On the time she wrote her story during the show: “I’m not saying that’s optimum, you know. But I don’t always come up with ideas all that fast, and I like the idea to generate the writing. Sometimes I’m not quite sure when it’s coming in.”

On what happens when public radio listeners sit alongside standup comedy fans at her shows: “The two groups mesh nicely. I’m pleased about that.”

On not watching TV: “I’ve never seen ‘Seinfeld.’ I went on ‘Jeopardy!’ one time, and I had never seen it. Boy, did that make them mad. I didn’t know how to play. It wasn’t that hard to figure out, quite frankly. … I would push the button without even thinking about the question.”

On making Alex Trebek upset: “There was an answer about an island country or something like that. And I said, ‘Uh, who is Tom Selleck?’ Alex Trebek was just so – the look on his face was the closest thing to horror that I think he could show.”

On male dominance as late-night talk show hosts and in other high-profile jobs: “I don’t much care in terms of television at all. But I do care in terms of the powers that be in the world, because I think testosterone is an evil hormone. It leads to fighting and standoff and foolishness. If women were more in charge, or at least equally in charge, I think just the whole world over would be a lot better off.”

On watching David Letterman one time from backstage, before she went on his late-night show: “I guess he’d been stuck in traffic or something, and he just went, ‘Jerks. That’s all I want to say.’ I just thought that was him being the ultimate him. I don’t think that was written down on a piece of paper anywhere. I think that was just Letterman in his arrogant, I-can’t-put-up-with- everybody kind of way. But it was really funny, because we’ve all at one time or another flown in the face of our fellow man in that way.”

On Letterman’s retirement next year: “I’m sure there’s some sort of vicious back story that surrounds it, but I don’t know what it is. … If he doesn’t want to do it anymore, he shouldn’t do it anymore. I don’t know anything about (Letterman’s replacement on CBS) Steve Colbert. I’ve never seen his show. I know the name of ‘The Colbert Report.’ I only recently understood what it was.”

On one backstage area she does like, the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine: “They have a house potter. They make you a mug with your name on it. Not every venue has a house potter. You go to a lot of places, you go, ‘The sound’s really good, but they don’t have a house potter.’ ”

On seeing “Divergent” with her 15-year-old son: “I didn’t share my popcorn. Because you know what? I really felt I’d already gone out of my way.”