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Paula Poundstone On Stand Up Comedy, Libraries & ‘Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!’


Paula Poundstone started performing stand-up comedy at open mic nights in Boston more than three decades ago. She continues to perform live, though many weekends she can also be heard as a panelist on NPR's Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! Poundstone says that though she's found success in voice work, radio, TV, and has written a book she sees herself primarily as a stand-up comedian.

Poundstone said in an interview that she would also, when her schedule allows, “throw myself more in the comic ensemble acting arena.”

Paula Poundstone

Paula Poundstone

Photo Credit: Michael Schwartz

But she said, “If I never did, if I just continued being a stand-up the rest of my life I would still be the luckiest performer in the world. It’s just the best job.”

“There is magic in that room,” Poundstone said. “Whether I show up or not.” 

She will perform at the Virginia Theatre on November 7th and said she loves performing in Illinois. When she goes out on stage she doesn’t have a set routine, every night is different.

“I say whatever comes into my head for the most part. I curse here and there. It depends,” said Poundstone. “I mostly talk about raising a house full of kids and animals, trying to pay close enough attention to the news to cast a halfway decent vote, and then just the slings and arrows of getting through the day.”

She was once introduced as not only being an incredibly funny comedian but also being someone with a clear social conscience and an intelligence that comes though clearly in her comedy. One organization she’s particularly passionate about is the American Library Association.

“Libraries are public servants, and I think they are doing a bang-up job of it,” she said. 

Poundsone also talked about how she started as a panelist on Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me! (we have her nanny to thank), being a mom, her 16 cats, and more.