Paula Poundstone talks her non-tour

Comedian Paula Poundstone Performs tonight in Eugene and tomorrow in Bend.

So, you’re going to be Eugene tomorrow for a show? Is that the kick-off for this tour?

Well, I don’t do a tour like on the back of a sweatshirt. I go out most weekends. I have a little time off over the holidays, but generally speaking, I go out Fridays and Saturdays. So, it’s sort of an unending tour.

Have you been to Eugene before?

Many times over the years, you know different places. Actually, I’ve even visited Eugene socially once. Long story short, my high school in Massachusetts had three teachers from Eugene, Oregon. I was friends with one, and I went to visit her when she moved back there.

Speaking of Massachusetts, not that long ago, I got to listen to your cd “I Heart Jokes”, in which you talk about a Maine and Massachusetts rivalry. I thought it was hilarious!

Maine is a great place. It’s just wonderful. I look forward to going there. They’re sweet. I look out across a sea of grey hair. It’s not because they’re older than anywhere else I work, they just don’t waste their time with crap like dying their hair.

That’s practical.

I’m all in favor of that. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I dye my hair. I wish I lived in Maine. I always tell people that HBO wanted me to dye my hair, and that was just to get the service.

(Laughter) Well, after you go to Eugene, you’ll be in Bend the next day on January 19th. I really like Bend. It’s actually the first town I visited in Oregon.

I know I’ve been there a few times too. When I go there again, I’ll go “Oh yeah!” But I don’t remember a lot of specifics. The truth is that it’s not like I take a lot in of any one place as a general rule, because I fly in, and I go to the hotel. I’m generally exhausted, because most of my flights are first flights out, and I had to get up at 3:30 in the morning. So, I’ve only had a couple hours sleep in a bed, and a couple more on a plane. By the time I get to the hotel, if I can get a nap, some dinner, and make a business call or two, I consider myself a genius. But, Oregon people are always very nice. I have a good time there, so I’m looking forward to it.

I was telling a friend about interviewing you. He’s 22, and he got really excited. I guess his mom references your Pop Tart jokes all the time. 

Wow, that’s very lovely that my jokes are in the home. Well, I want you to know that I still eat pop tarts. A lot of times in hotels if there’s room service at all by the time I get off it’s closed down. Usually, there’s no place to get food. Therefore, I actually sustain myself on Pop Tarts a good portion of the time. I think they’ve started doing something different to them. There’s something coco-nuty about them.


I don’t know if it’s an oil, but there’s something they did. I’m sure it’s some cost saving measure.

That’s not surprising. Perhaps they ship them from one country another for finishing touches.

Yeah, exactly. We make them there here, but then we dry them in India. There’s something, I’m telling you, that they’ve done. I still eat them. I can’t help myself.

I have to say, that I love you on “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.

Thank you very much. That’s nice to hear. I always tell people, that it’s a great job. If the others didn’t cheat it would be the perfect job. No one ever talks about the steroids.

Oh there’s juicing? You juice?

There’s some doping going on. I’m willing to break the silence on it, but the others…

Well, we do like our NPR comedians big and strong.

Yeah, well, I also get to learn a lot of stuff I wouldn’t otherwise, like animals being smuggled in people’s pants. It’s things like that I’m mostly informed of.

I love the part with the panel where you have to spot which news of the weird story is a lie. I always feel a little bad for the person who has to tell the truth. The lies just seem like more fun. Of course, you make those up yourselves?

Of course. Yes, and I’m bitter about it most of the time, because it’s work. They usually tell us the night before what the theme of the story is, and it’s our job to write a story on a similar theme. We’re supposed to have it in before we go to work that night.

That’s a short amount of time.

Exactly! It is a short amount of time. One time, I wrote it while the show was going on. They really frown on that.

People kept going, “What are you doing?”

“Nothing nothing! Why do you ask?”

That show has been on a long time now. What has it been? It’s been 15 years I think?

Yeah, it has, isn’t that great?

It’s amazing.

It is amazing. I came on board maybe the second year or possibly the third. When I first started doing it we weren’t all in one place. We were hooked up via wire. Each performer would go to their local NPR outlet, and there was no audience obviously. Carl didn’t fly. Now, Carl is very proud of his frequent flyer miles. He enjoys the club thing, you know, the Admiral’s Club thing.

He could wear an admiral’s hat while sitting in the Admiral’s Club.

He would if he could. Honestly, he would. He really likes it. One time, he brought me in as his guest. The thing is, that I’ve been in the Admiral’s Club before, and I have the option. I think you have to have to pay five hundred bucks or something, and have a certain number of miles. But, I don’t know what’s in there that isn’t in the other room. I can’t quite figure out what the joy of it is, but never was a man more delighted.

We love our NPR here. It’s almost like a religion.

It’s a good thing to be into.

What I like about Portland is that we kind of rule the state. We aren’t big as far as cities go, but we’re dense. I’m proud of our density.

I’m very dense myself. It never occurred to me to be proud of it.

Take what you’ve got.

You’re right there. You know, my daughter goes to school in Portland.

Oh really, where?

Lewis and Clark. It’s great actually. She’s really happy, and I couldn’t be happier for her. She’s home on break now. At the end of the year I drive up and get her, and it’s a spectacular drive. Not so much the Southern California part, but when you get up into Northern California and Oregon it’s spectacular.

It is beautiful, especially if your car can make it up the hills.

Yeah, and we rent a car, so we did!

So your kids are doing well?

Seemingly, well nobody’s killed anybody, and I feel good about that. It could be part of our density. Everybody’s good. I’ve given a solid two lectures already this morning, and as far as I can tell they’ve both gone unheeded, so yeah.

Oh, that’s… good.

That’s good, because it means I’ll never be out of work. You know?

That’s true.

If they were listening to what I was saying, that would mean that eventually I’d have gone through everything. Then, I would be expendable. But, since they don’t listen to a goddamn word I say, I realize there’s a permanent job for me.

Well, and being listened to goes straight to our heads.

Honestly, you’re right, it would probably just create a monster in me. My son and I carpool, so the car was here to pick him up this morning, and he wasn’t standing by the window ready to go, which I really want him to be. That’s how you do it. Don’t keep everybody waiting.

So I said, “You’re not in here. Can you come in?”

And he was sauntering. I said, “If you could run, you know, that would look better.”

And he said, “Well, they don’t!”

“Okay Okay, get out! Just go as quick as you can.” I love that.

How old is he?

He’s 14.

Oh, that’s a sauntering age, I think.

It is a sauntering age. I remember when I was a kid, and I rode the school bus. We lived on Oak Hill Road. You had to go up the hill from our house, and down the hill the other side of the street to where the bus came. So, if you were late, and the bus was there… She was a nice bus driver, and she’d sometimes wait for you. But the thing is that you then had to be seen running, because of the hill. You were on display to do your geeky run with your bag, and your crap.

Oh, it would swing. That sounds annoying.

It was humiliating. So my sister and I made a pact. Although were appreciative that the bus was willing to wait, if we were at the top of that hill and saw the bus, we’d wave it on.

“Thanks, but we don’t run in front of people.”

So, I had to reflect on that this morning when I was really annoyed with him. I guess when I was that age I thought it didn’t look cool to be frantic. Now, I just think if it looks like you care, and that’s better.

That’s true. Hopefully most people come to that realization at some point. I think that they do.

Well, I’m 53 now. I saunter because I can’t run. I’m actually trying to, so I still look the part. I’m amazed. I’ve used to waitress. I worked at a fast food place. So, it drives me crazy when you go someplace and there’s a big line, and the people on the other side of the counter don’t look like they notice. And my feeling is that it’s not that they need to go any faster. It’s what I said to my son. Fake it! Look like it’s stressful to you. Just look like you care.

It can be an expression.

Sure, something that says, I wish I could get to all of you faster. Just pretend. There’s not a lot of that anymore. This sauntering thing is actually quite popular.

Anyone who behaves that way should have to work in a gay bar here. There’s a lot of drinking, and no patience for lack of performance.

Are things worse in a gay bar?

Yeah, they can be, at least here anyway.

I’m shocked.

(Laughter) Well, Portland is full of young heavy drinkers. It can be a real feeding frenzy, and Yelp is just full of people wondering why there aren’t seventeen bartenders posted for a particular dance night. It’s brutal.

Yelp is a site where you critique places?

Yes, you can say whatever you want about a business or a product without that pesky face-to-face thing.

My daughter has the tendency to want the most expensive version of any thing. It doesn’t matter how trivial the item is. Often, it’s when any of that item will do. So she was saying to me the other day that she needed hand cream, but she needed to get it at Whole Foods. I’m like, Jesus Christ.

She tells me, “Oh mom, I need a special kind. None of them work.”

I say, “Oh honey, really none of them work. Drink a lot of water.”

But she had to have the special hand cream. So she goes to Whole Foods, and buys the special kind.

A day or two later she’s like, “This stuff is terrible! It doesn’t work!”

Yeah. She says, “I don’t understand, the reviews were amazing!”

What fucking idiot has a minute in their day to write a hand cream review?

My daughter said, “No mom, it’s not like that!”

No, no one would do that! Who takes a minute out of their day because they are enjoying their hand cream so much that they’d like to go online and say so?

What people do and don’t have time for always seem a little backwards to me. I agree that’s kind of sad.

I know, “Sorry I’m late to work, I had to do my hand cream review. I know, I sauntered in, but it’s because…”

Well, I better get going before I get fired.

I think you should saunter.

Paula is performing January 18th in Eugene at The McDonald Theater.

Click here for info and tickets.

She performs January 19th in Bend at Tower Theater.

Click here for info and tickets.

Lyska Mondor

About Lyska Mondor

Lyska Mondor writes regularly for Just Out. She is a published poet and aspiring sci-fi author.

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