Comedian Paula Poundstone Returns to Iowa City

This article was originally published in The Daily Iowan November 12, 2009. The original article can be found here.

Comedian Paula Poundstone was “born” to Tweet.

Twitter allows her to make jokes about things she sees in her life that don’t always make it into her performance, she said.

“I do the same goddamn thing every night,” Poundstone said. “How many jokes about airplanes can I crank out?”

She will perform her standup at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., at 8 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $30 to $40.

She is known for mingling with the audience during her shows. She doesn’t know when the idea first came to her, she said, but she finds it helps her find the “magic of the night.”

Another reward is that the technique helps her keep her routines fresh, something she’s seen plague too many comics. The Sudbury, Mass., native recalled a comedian she saw in San Francisco who told a story about helping a juvenile delinquent during two separate sets.

“I don’t like to do that,” Poundstone said. “It’s like having sex with multiple partners in the same night.”

Along with her standup, she is a regular panelist on the NPR news satire show “Wait,Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” answering questions, often humorously, about the previous week’s news.

The show’s move to live recording is a huge difference, she said, but is still a far cry from her standup because the audience remains separate from most of the show’s content.

The differences between performing onstage and on-air is a common challenge for many comics.

Recent UI graduate David Philips is a member of the local improv group Paperback Rhino, and along with its stage performances, the group also does a radio show on KRUI. Radio is much scarier than performing on stage, he said.

“You have to have confidence that what you do is funny,” the 24-year-old said. And while he admitted he wasn’t Poundstone’s biggest fan, he said they both focus on autobiographical work.

“A lot of comedy is autobiographical,” Philips said. “Almost all people tell jokes that express some form of themselves. I’ve always been surprised that [Poundstone] incorporates some embarrassing detail.”

Along with her comedic work, Poundstone, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., is also the 2009 spokeswoman for the Association of Library Trustees Advocates Friends & Foundations. The comedian will donate a percentage of the proceeds from her book, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, to the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St.

She said she used to believe tax dollars paid for libraries, but most funding comes from chapter groups through book sales. She said people are not aware of libraries’ source of income, and it is important to keep them well-funded.

Poundstone also said she does not see libraries going away anytime soon — even if they’re free. She compared library support to the health-care debate.

“It’s remarkable something so great and valuable stays free,” she said. “They said the library is the public option in books, and it hasn’t put Barnes & Noble under.”

Her love for literature is apparent in her personal life, and she sometimes reads to her kids over the phone. Her three children are not allowed to watch TV, but they enjoy such books as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Hardy Boys series.

And while the TV is off in the Poundstone household, she said, she watches TV while on tour to keep up with the news for “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

However, Poundstone said, she doesn’t try to incorporate her material into the show.

“I’m a batter in a batter cage and am waiting for stuff to be lobbed at me.”