An Evening with Paula Poundstone

By Laura Latzko, Dec. 18, 2014.

Although the details of her life have changed over the course of her career, Paula Poundstone continues to combine personal moments and observations from her daily life into her comedy.

The Comedy Hall of Fame inductee, known for her observational standup, will appear at the Mesa Arts Center Dec. 31 as part of her latest National tour, An Evening with Paula Poundstone.

Throughout her career, Poundstone has kept audiences – which she said consistently include a strong LGBT fan base – engaged with her spontaneously interactive style.

“I’m really lucky. I have great people come out to see me,” she said. “I really do have fun crowds. When I used to work clubs, and I headlined, guys would kill to work with me, and not because I was such as stroll in the park to be with but because they wanted to talk to my audience.”

But getting in her groove took work.

Poundstone grew up watching Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and The Three Stooges. As a child, she said she often joked around with her sisters at home, adding, “My sisters and I dealt with life with an amount of sarcasm and delight.”

Poundstone, a high school dropout, began doing standup in 1979 at open mic nights in Boston. She recalls making audiences laugh with tales of busing tables and taking public transportation.

Then, about 25 years ago, she took her show on the road for the first time and travelled the country by bus, performing at one open mic night at a time.

“Anyone who has ever done an open mic night, they come back for more right away. It’s great stuff,” Poundstone said. “The lifestyle that one has to live with with the road can be a little bit challenging, but it’s well worth it.”

Poundstone described her early days of stand up, as attempting to follow her notes without success before opting for a more natural approach on stage.

“I would get so nervous that I would step onstage and I would either be distracted by something that I saw, even on my way to the stage, or when I forgot what I was saying, I would panic and have to improvise,” she said. “At first I thought this was very bad form, and then … it dawned on me that it is where the whole joy in the experience [was].”

From there Poundstone said she made an effort to be herself onstage, instead of trying to control and limit her material – and her signature style was born.

“My act is largely autobiographical, so I talk about what I’m doing, thinking, reading and watching,” she said.

Poundstone has toured continually throughout her career, which often posed a challenge for her as a single mom raising three adopted children, now 23, 20 and 16. And these days, she said discussing her children – especially stories of raising her son – is an important part of her identity as well as her shows.

“I am never far from thinking about how to raise successful, contributing members of society,” she said. “He’s a piece of work. He’s like a project that I get up and work on every day. He’s like a paper mâché volcano or something. Yeah it’s challenging.”

Additionally, Poundstone is proud to have shared the humorous, and sometimes painful, details of her life onstage and credits comedy with helping her heal during difficult times and in her ability to relate to and help others.

“I find the more struggle I have with my personal life, the more I enjoy my job on stage, in part because I can share stuff about my struggle, and it turns out, oh guess what, I’m not the only one,” she said.

Poundstone said her passion for doing standup and love for making people laugh have grown equally throughout the years and continue to do so.

“Being on stage is absolutely delightful and it refuels me for every other thing that I do,” she said. “I’ve got no complaints … I love being with a crowd of people that comes out to laugh for the night.”

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