Comic Paula Poundstone makes her triumphant return to PAC3

April E. Clark
Arts and Entertainment Contributor
Paula Poundstone
Publicity Photo |

CARBONDALE — It’s not often I have the opportunity to interview one of my own.

That could mean women, tennis players or procrastinators.

The options are varied, really.

In this case, I mean Paula Poundstone. As in the #88 on Comedy Central’s 2004 list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time. A humble comedy icon, Poundstone is the first to admit she’s not as famous as I was thinking.

“At what age do you think you hit the big time?” I asked her, knowing she started at the age of 19 in 1979, when Saturday Night Live was revolutionary and Richard Pryor was king. We were chatting by phone as Poundstone found a little quiet time of her own in her walk-in closet.

“I’ll call you when I hit the big time,” she promptly replied.

The funny thing is, I thought she said, “locked-in closet” instead of walk-in closet. Which I didn’t see a problem with at all. I could see a few moms locking themselves in a closet for a breather or two.

Seems understandable to me.

Poundstone has three kids whom she fostered and adopted. These days they’re all past the screaming child phase. They are teens and young adults. When she was on the road as the kids were growing up, she always made sure to bring whatever book they were into at the time so she could read to them over the phone.

She admits they never thought she was that funny, either.

I was curious about her career and how she rose from a 19-year-old Boston comic to world-renowned sensation. Those last few words she will likely scoff at, I’m sure.

Did I mention she is humble?

But Poundstone is big to me. She averages two shows a week. Sometimes three. She travels to Boston and Chicago and Las Vegas. She admits she couldn’t stand the heat of Vegas. And, after learning I was a Hoosier, told me a great story involving a Midwest-centric club based in the Windy City.

“I once did a gig with the Indiana Club in Chicago,” she said. “Have you heard of them?”

I thought maybe I had.

I thought wrong.

“They were a club of people living in Chicago who got together to talk about how great is to live in Indiana.”

Living in Colorado yet watching Colts and Purdue games when possible, can I relate. And yes, you can call me a dork.

I mostly wanted to know about what it’s like to come up in the comedy world as women were clearly paving their way on the comedy stages. Poundstone didn’t see a lot of difference in her gender and her comedy. She said helping people forget that there’s a difference is the key.

“Work so hard that no one questions you,” she said.

Poundstone is in the comedy class of Gerry Shandling. She has spent the last three decades — four if you count that last year of 1970s — telling jokes as humorous life situations arise. She enjoys the improv aspect of the art of telling jokes. That’s why she enjoys her role as a regular panelist on the Peabody Award-winning weekly news quiz show, “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” on National Public Radio.

“It’s just a great group of people and they encourage us to jump in and say whatever we want.”

As part of her national touring schedule, Poundstone returns to Carbondale for her second year in a row at the PAC3. Her show starts at 9 p.m. and is said to sell out.

Poundstone said she enjoys returning to the mountains to tell jokes and visit a friend who suggested she play the PAC. But first, she made a stop in Sin City, where the heat beats Boston in the summer. Poundstone’s from-the-road Tweets were as funny as her live bits.

“I just got back from Las Vegas,” she tweeted. “I had to pee while we were at ‘O,’ so I stood in the cue.”

Sounds like big time to me.

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