Comedian Paula Poundstone can almost guarantee that her show at the Calvin Theatre on Saturday, May 14th will be physically safe.
"My high kicks aren't that high, and I don't do many. Plus, almost no one rushes the stage," she said.
With the matter of audience safety squared away, Poundstone goes on to explain just what her audience can expect: conversational humor and a spontaneous show. With 30 years experience as a stand-up comedian, Poundstone has plenty of material to pull from and performs without a set plan. In addition to touring as a stand-up comedian, Poundstone is also a frequent panelist on the NPR radio news quiz show "Wait, Wait … Don't Tell Me" which airs locally on WFCR/WNNZ.
When Poundstone hits the stage, she's excited to talk to people and make them laugh. She said she works hard on developing new jokes, but sometimes finds she can't remember them after jotting them down.
"I've got a thousand pieces of paper with little cryptic notes –‘Small shampoos,' ‘I Can't Believe It's Not Butter,' ‘2009 driving manual,'" she said. "I glance at some of those notes just before I go on, hoping to be full of stuff to say. It often works, but sometimes I just spend the whole night thinking to myself, ‘What the hell does small shampoos mean?'"
Poundstone's favorite part of the performance is when she's able to interact with the audience. She'll ask someone where they are from and what they do for a living, and she enjoys getting to know them as well as a sense of the town she's performing in.
"In this way, little biographies of people in the crowd often emerge, or little details about the area, and I follow those little tributaries," she said. "I asked a woman what she did for a living once, and she told me she did squirrel rescue. It changed my life. Of course, on the other hand, people often tell me that they design computer software or, worse yet, sell computer software. That does something no human being on earth can understand."
Despite some of the hardships of constant traveling, Poundstone has found that getting on stage and making people laugh is worth it.
"I am exhausted most of the time. I do much of my sleeping on airplanes, with my head akimbo and my mouth open for all of the world to see," she said. "If I weren't exhausted, I'd have the good sense to be more embarrassed."
Still, Poundstone knows being tired isn't a characteristic unique to the comedian profession.
"The truth is, however, I was exhausted when I waited tables at the IHOP too, but I also had syrup all over me, and truckers staring at the crotch of my pantyhose that was always down around my knees," Poundstone said. "I have the greatest job in the world. I feel a little embarrassed even calling it a job in front of others. I get to stand on stage and say stuff to make people laugh. Who invented this? It's fantastic.” (Kelly Ardis/Oregon Daily Emerald)