Paula Poundstone is one comedian who cares enough to really dig in and research a town before she performs there. For example, to promote her Oct. 14 show at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre, she tackled the precarious use of “heyna” — a daunting task indeed for anyone who wasn’t born and raised here.
In her television spot, Poundstone tries to incorporate this classic NEPA-ism into her script, but after struggling with the use and pronunciation of this local colloquialism, she finds herself knocking on the door of a Hey-na instructor. (Catch the spot on www.kirbycenter.org).
We recently caught up with Poundstone for a chat about, well, just about everything — from her life as a comedian, to being a mother, and how the use of Google may be influencing the way we process information. If you listen to her on NPR’s weekly news quiz show, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, you understand why she has become famous for her quick wit and spontaniety. She really can talk about any topic, any time, and the conversation is naturally funny and remarkably down to earth.
“Whether I’m doing Wait, Wait or not, I try to listen to the news on public radio as often as I can, just so I can be a halfway decent voter and have some idea of what’s going on in the world,” she said. Noting that her fellow panelists are “brilliant,” Poundstone enjoys the role she seems to have fallen into; one in which she’s the person who stops and asks, “Well, but how does that work?”
And she has a lot of fun when the results of various studies are cited. “The other day there was one that said people who own cats are jealous of their cats’ behavior. And I said, ‘Well, according to what study?’ It was done by Whiskas — a cat-food company,” she said, laughing. “Yeah, I have to blow the whistle on the Whiskas study. I’m sorry. I don’t think that one can go in the New England Journal of Medicine.”
Poundstone has been perfecting her comedic style since 1979, when she first began touring the comedy circuit in Boston. Over the years, she has developed a loyal following. “My audiences are smart and funny, and they’re intuitive and they’re willing to enter the journey and go along for the ride a little bit,” she said. “I’m not always joke, joke, joke. I don’t plan out what I’m doing, and they seem to trust that if we dig here we’ll find something.”
When doing her show, Poundstone’s favorite part of the evening is when she asks random audience members what they do for a living. So, when you see her at the Kirby Center, be ready, because what you’re about to experience is indeed very real. There are no “plants” in the audience.
Paula Poundstone will perform at the F.M. Kirby Center, Wilkes-Barre, on Oct. 14. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the show starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19-29. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.kirbycenter.org. To learn more about Poundstone, visit www.paulapoundstone.com.