For this installment of “Why So Serious?” we talked to veteran comedian Paula Poundstone, a product of the ’80s comedy boom who rebounded from an early 2000s scandal to reconnect with her audience via NPR appearances and tireless touring.
Dressed in her iconic suit and tie, the 51-year-old Malibu, Calif. resident threads her conversational, never-blue humor through crowd work and riffs on daily events. Dry? Yeah, but snappy as hell, too.
Read on for our Q&A in advance of Poundstone’s Saturday, May 21 show at Boulder’s Chautauqua Auditorium.
Do you have a joke you used to love to tell but now can’t stand?
I’m partial to all my material, but I used to do a joke about Daryl Hannah, and it’s hard for me to figure out now why I would have cared that much about Daryl Hannah one way or another. I guess because she was in a lot of movies? Somehow, unbeknownst to Daryl Hannah, she was bothering me and I couldn’t keep it to myself. People were really into at the time. Someone actually gave me a T-shirt that they made with the international “no” sign over Daryl Hannah’s face.
Can you remember the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
Yeah, it was over something my daughter said. I have a daughter who, sort of as a defense mechanism, says things always slightly to the left of what the discussion is about. She did one of those a couple weeks ago and I laughed so hard that there was a brief moment where I thought, “I’m actually going to do die.” I had reached a level of laughter that was beyond where the Star Trek ship used to go.
What did your daughter think of it?
When I laugh like that it upsets my children somehow, which makes me laugh even harder — my son in particular, who spends so much of his life figuring out exactly how to make me miserable. The idea that I am laughing just really makes him nervous, so then it gives me even more joy. I think they would rather hear me yell and scream.
You’re playing Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, which is a partially open-air venue. Are there any particular challenges playing those types of gigs versus clubs and theaters?
Well, of course, wildlife. Woodland animals entering the room can ruin a show. And it’s easier for people to sneak out subtly — something that’s always on my mind. I take attendance. People don’t realize I’m doing it, but I’m making note of who’s sitting where and if they’re not in their seat when I turn around it’s a little upsetting.
What’s your favorite joke at the moment?
There’s one about when Obama responded to the whole birth certificate thing. His response was intelligent and non-inflammatory and non-incendiery and well-reasoned and brilliantly expressed. So much so that I feel he couldn’t possibly have been born in the United States. He’s not one us, that’s all there is.
What do you have planned in the next few months that we should know about?
Well, there are those billboards everywhere saying the rapture is coming, so not much. But I don’t have any room in my freezer anymore, so that’s fine with me.
John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.