Comedian takes art of humor seriously
By Shelley Koppel
Staff writer Your Voice News & Views
game show panelist and spokeswoman for the importance of libraries in the
community. She was the first woman to perform at the White House
Correspondents Dinner. She has won two CableACE awards and was named to
Comedy Central's 2004 list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time.
Poundstone brings her humor to the Lyric Theatre for two shows on Dec. 28.
In a phone interview from her home in California, she spoke about just about
Poundstone is a regular panelist on the NPR news quiz show, "Wait Wait.Don't
Tell Me." The program has a segment in which a famous person is asked
questions about a subject for which they are not famous.
"They get great guests," Poundstone said. "We (panelists) can never figure
out why. Justice Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court was so charming,
self-effacing and sweetly funny. It came as a huge shock. I thought he'd be
austere. We had a wonderful conversation about where he got his robes
cleaned. There had to be lint. I have cats, so I think about it."
Another surprise was Jane Goodall, the primatologist.
"When I got the advance paper that said that Jane Goodall would be on the
show, I said, 'How the hell did they get her?' She was great. I had
something she said on my refrigerator for a long time."
One guest Poundstone missed was former president Bill Clinton. Since she
and the former president are known for wordiness, host Peter Segal jokingly
told her that if they'd had them both on together, they'd never have
finished the show.
Poundstone began her career, as did so many comedians, in front of open
open mic night.
"It was a little club," she said. "The nights can go on long, because
everyone gets five minutes, the wannabes and the professionals. It's part of
the training. My job was to get the crowd when someone had lost them. I
exhausted my material early on and had to make stuff up on the fly. It was a
great training ground. I was smart enough to feel I was strengthening my
muscles. It was the Thighmaster of stand-up comedy."
Poundstone decided early in her career that she had to please herself and