Paula Poundstone

By Megan Wadding, September 2016 Web Exclusive.

You know her from NPR’s No. 1 show, “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” and as one of Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Standups of All Time.

And on Oct. 1, award-winning comic Paula Poundstone, will take the stage at the Mesa Arts Center’s Ikeda Theater.

Poundstone spoke to Echo from the road about her new book, her problem with politics, her hoard of cats and her love for the TSA.

Echo: You’re currently on tour and it looks like a pretty tight schedule. How do you manage?

Poundstone: I do about 90 shows a year. I keep kind of a crazy schedule, but it’s a small price to pay for such a fun job. I usually do two or three nights out, and then I go back home. In part, because I love the TSA. It’s the pat-down that I get most excited about.

Echo: You have three children and lots of pets. Do they ever come on the road with you?

Poundstone: My 18-year-old son is at home. My middle daughter is in college in Oregon, and my oldest is 25 and out of the house. They don’t need me in the same way that they once needed me. I have fourteen cats. It is a tremendous amount of cats. Clearly, it’s some sort of hoarding thing.

Echo: You’ve been a regular panelist for NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” radio show for the past 15 years; how do you manage to still do the show while on the road so much?

Poundstone: I’m not on every week, but I’m on many weeks. Usually we are in Chicago, but once a month we travel to a different city. It’s fun, they’re nice people, and it fits right into the way I work. It’s unscripted for the panelists. We jump in on topics and it is very ego-free. No one cares who said what. I’m the luckiest performer in the world.

Echo: Seeing as your career has spanned nearly four decades, I know a lot of people remember watching you when they were very young. Do you tend to get that a lot? How does that feel?

Poundstone: It’s wonderful. I really like that. Sometimes people even say that I got them through a difficult time or something and I think, that’s just the best thing ever.

Echo: In your stand-up shows, you tend to play off the crowd. How do you prepare for what you’ll talk about, or does it depend on the crowd?

Poundstone: My favorite part of the night is just talking to the audience. I figure somewhere in my head I have 37 years of material floating around. A lot of stuff that I say in conversation with the audience is just unique to that night and that particular crowd.

Echo: I know you’ve touched on politics at times in the past. Seeing as it is election season, do you find it being a common topic in your shows right now?

Poundstone: I do talk about politics here and there. I’m trying not to right now because sometimes I’m not as well informed on the issues as I should be. Here’s an example: My daughter is a vegan and I try to swing that way, honestly, when it’s convenient. So I try not to buy real butter anymore. But as it turns out, some use palm oil and apparently that’s destroying the rain forest. So you can’t win. It’s the same with political issues. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Echo: You have a new book coming out in May of next year. What can you tell me about it?

Poundstone: It took me seven years to write. My book is a series of experiments about doing things that I or something else thought would make me happy. The analysis part is how that thing affected my real life.

Echo: What kind of experiments did you end up doing?

Poundstone: I didn’t do anything wildly out of the realm except for a did rent a Lamborghini. I took swing dancing lessons and I also worked with an organizer to try to get organized. That was almost enough to kill me. You can see where it could make you happy, if you could do it. But it’s like holding back a waterfall. 

Echo: I heard you received some really wonderful blurbs for the book from some amazing fellow celebrities who got to read advance copies, and that these blurbs will be included in the book.

Poundstone: Yes. A couple days ago, I got a blurb from Dick van Dyke. He said he laughed on every page, so that’s good. The book’s number one job is to be funny. I got some blurbs from Lily Tomlin, Trisha Yearwood and some others. I’m encouraged by the response that I’ve gotten, and now I’m really excited for it go out.

Echo: Anything else you’d like to add?

Poundstone: I’m looking forward to my upcoming Arizona show. Follow me on goofy Twitter!

For more information on Paula Poundstone, like her on Facebook  or visit

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