PAULA POUNDSTONE INTERVIEW – TUESDAY JUNE 7TH 2011 WALLINGFORD/L.A.
Last Tuesday I did a phone interview with 32 year veteran stand-up comedienne Paula Poundstone. She has an appearances coming up in the Connecticut area on the following dates: June 24th she'll be at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ (seeya there Paula). On July 8th she'll be at The Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, MA and on July 9th she will be appearing at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in Westhampton, NY. Thanks to Derek and especially to Paula for taking the time she did for this and for the laughter and good works she does.
Me: First question: You’ve got 16 cats.
Paula: I DO have 16 cats.
Paula: Because I had 15 and then I got one more. That’s my traditional answer. I DON’T know! It probably is like some weird mental thing. I’ll tell you, we were walking, my kids and I on Sunday, down by a busy populous Street here in Santa Monica and there was some cage of kittens some rescuer was giving away and I had the nerve to stop and think about it. I’m dumb! I don’t know why! My whole life is cleaning up someone’s waste product. I clean litter boxes, like four times a day! The honest truth is they’re really fun and their entertaining and that’s why we have them. But it is a pain in the neck.
Me: After I had seen you in Manhattan you sent me a card with a picture of your cat named Hep.
Paula: Oh yeah. Good old Hep.
Me: Why did you name her Hep?
Paula: Oh its Hep cat, as in… he’s a hip cat, you know, jive talk.
Me: Oh. You wanna know where my mind went? I thought you named him after a social disease. Hepatitis.
Paula: Is there a social disease that’s Hep?
Me: Yeah, hepatitis.
Paula: OH MY GOD! That’s too funny! I never thought of that. Some of our cats are named after Harry Potter characters. Some when the kids were littler after the color of their fur, but I had to put my foot down and say that I had to do the naming because you’re gonna be off in college and I’m gonna be stuck with Fluffy. Like they wanted to name one cat Olive. I hate the name Olive. I don’t want a cat named Olive, I don’t even like olives. And another cat’s name is Sham Wow. It’s a long-haired cat – it’s the only long-haired cat we have.
Me: Feralcare.org is a good organization that rescues feral cats.
Paula: OH! There’s some organization – how can I forget the name of it, it’s something feral cats as well. You know 50% of cats are feral! They need to be trapped and fixed….
Me: It’s a good cause.
Paula: Yes it is, definitely.
Me: Another sort of serious question. Are you political? In your comedy and in general? In other words to you have a political orientation?
Paula: I have a political orientation. I’m a Democrat. However… and I do...
Me: It’s hard to say that on the post-Weiner day.
Paula: Yeah I jumped on the Weiner bandwagon to some degree. You know frankly I wasn’t quite inclined to do so. Frankly I don’t care if he Twitters pictures of his penis or not, I don’t care. Or his crotch or whatever the Hell he’s doing, I don’t know. But it makes no difference to me. I just think his word ‘certitude’ sounds vaguely sexual in itself. I thought that that part was all kind of weird. But no, I talk about politics onstage, but not because I’m always right. You know what I mean. There’s some comics who if you think differently than them then your cast as somewhat of an idiot. I don’t join in that I don’t think. I just try to make jokes; I don’t always think that I have any answers at all. I just like to make jokes. I don’t know anything about how to make a budget. It makes me nervous. I flipped by Suze Ormand a few times on television and she scares me! And I even fear that my credit card is gonna get cut up when I use it. And also that she’s going to jump out from some kind of display case and shout at me.
Me: She kinda makes me wonder what she does when she’s Tweeting.
Paula: Boy, she scares me. Yeah I do talk about politics from the point of view of just an average citizen trying to glean what I can to cast a half way decent vote. I wouldn’t tell somebody else how to vote.
Me: Are you an Obama supporter?
Paula: DEFINITELY! And I have come out for one President or the other and done fund-raisers and this or that, but when I’m talking to the audience onstage at a show where they’ve paid to come see me, I certainly don’t say you have to do this or you have to do that, other than recycle.
Me: Let me throw out a few names and see what you have to say about them. Comedians. What do you think of Jon Stewart?
Paula: Well I think I’d love him if I saw him, I don’t watch television much. I haven’t watched prime-time TV since Radar left M*A*S*H*. I used to work with Jon a hundred years ago. That was before his show and I liked him a lot. But I get nervous about people saying they get their news from Comedy Central. It’s not a source for news it’s a source for opinion and its fun.
Me: It’s kinda like getting your news from Fox.
Paula: Well, I get nervous watching MSNBC. I agree with it mostly, but it’s not a source of news, editorials really and silly.
Me: Speaking of comedians let me throw a couple more out there. What do you think about Sarah Palin?
Paula: Ohhh. She’s just a…she’s just a… I don’t know... Just look what she’s done! I went onstage the night after Mitt Romney announced and the first thing I said to the crowd was ‘Mitt Romney is running for President.’ Because I really feel that anyone who knows that he’s running for President needs to turn to the person beside them and say it. The man’s been done an injustice. The media have the NERVE to follow Sarah Palin. Instead of someone who is throwing his hat into the ring for the Presidential election. We need to hear from Mitt Romney, not Sarah Palin. If she’s gonna run then she should talk. But the media should be following the man who’s gonna run for President.
Me: Between Anthony Weiner and Sarah Palin, Romney’s announcement didn’t stand a chance.
Paula: I don’t know if it’s the chicken or the egg. I can’t tell if the media does that or if WE make the media do that. You know, salivate for this stuff.
Me: What do you think of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilley?
Paula: Well Beck is going to be an internet presence. You know I’ve never seen more than 2 seconds of any of them. None of that really appeals to me. You know what appeals to me, early ‘Leave It To Beavers.’ I just get nervous when people are doing masquerading as one thing and doing another. My son is Eddie Haskell. He’s always complimenting my necklace. I’ll tell him you have to get up now and he’ll say ‘Yes Mom.’ And then not a move. Not anything. But it all sounds so good. He presents so smoothly in that Eddie Haskell kind of a way.
Me: You know your son might wind up with a political career.
Paula: Yeah, there are two that would make great politicians. [lol]
Me: When I saw your show at the Gramercy in Manhattan there was a guy in the audience, a Madison Avenue guy, who claimed credit for the Clorox bleach ad campaign, do you remember?
Paula: [laughs] Ooh yeah!
Me: He claimed credit for making Clorox popular. You dismantled him and Wall Street.
Paula: Well Wall Street is doing a pretty good job of dismantling itself. I saw a bank ad the other day that was really reprehensible. They’re trying to make themselves look real friendly, I can’t remember what bank it was, but ‘you know, come on in tell us what we can do for you.’ That was like their little slogan, it’s more like ‘Come on in, none of us ever went to jail.’ Gawd!
Me: Yeah, well they got one, Madoff, that’s it.
Paula: Well he wasn’t doing what they were doing, it was just coincidence that he did it right around the time that they were doing what they were doing.
Me: Wrong place wrong time, he was caught at a bad time for him.
Paula: Yeah, it must have been the air they were all breathing.
Me: Do you have a script planned for your shows or not?
Paula: No. Not exactly, I’ve been doing my job for about 32 years now. I’ve told a lot of jokes. It’s certainly unscripted. My favorite part of the night is the time honored part: ‘What do you do for a living?’ And I allow for the biographies of the people’s jobs steer the topic and where I go. I happen to have obsessive compulsive disorder and literally everything somebody says reminds me of something else that I feel that I MUST say and so that’s what sorta drives the show. And then I ask people questions and then everything they say reminds me of things that I MUST say.
Me: You have a great job
Paula: I have a really hard time getting off the stage actually. That’s why my shows are very long. Everything reminds me of something else I want to say. I could go on forever!
Me: Let me ask you about the library cause. The Association of Library Trustees… You’re the national spokesperson.
Paula: That’s quite a name. Huh?
Me: Yeah a bit bureaucratic. ALTAFF.
Paula: They used to just call themselves ‘Friends of the Libraries.’ The come around to some of my shows and sell books and the money goes to that organization. I didn’t know until I met them, I always thought that all tax money paid for libraries. Although some tax money goes to the libraries, a lot of it is raised through fund raising arms that help raise money to not only help keep libraries going but it’s for books, and CDs and after-school programs, sometimes literacy programs—even for adults—it depends on the library. Because they’ve morphed over the years. When I was a kid we had a library in Sudbury [MA]—there was this hill, and kids used to run up this hill to this low window and there was a rock. And we believed that a kid had hit his head on that rock and there was blood there and so we would run up to look at that and looking for the kid’s blood on the rock was the most exciting thing we did. So libraries have changed. There’s more than just looking for blood on the rock. I’m not even sure if there was, but by God we’d convince ourselves there was.
Me: I joined the local library fund-raising group here in Wallingford and got two free coffee cups.
Paula: Well eventually you’ll get a tote bag.
Me: Libraries really are a First Amendment thing, and that ties in to another project of yours. Could you talk about NPR [National Public Radio] a bit?
Paula: Listen, I love public radio and I love public television. And I feel really strongly that we need their good journalism. And it’s not a good idea to leave things in the hands of the citizen reporters. That’s lovely, but we need good, well-trained unbiased reporting. And I really think that public radio and public television gives us that. Otherwise we can’t make good decisions. That’s really all there is to it. I don’t really want to hear someone else’s opinion. Not when I’m getting my news I mean. The truth is, when I watch CNN what I come away with often is the name of the person doing the story. As much as I listen to NPR and PBS whenever I listen to them I can’t remember the name of the person who did the story. Because that’s not what the story was about. It’s a real important distinction. It was never the Margaret Warner Show. Or the Gwen Ifill Show. As opposed to Anderson Cooper. You don’t know anything about the stories he’s talking about, what you come away with is knowing about Anderson Cooper. ‘Look he’s in Haiti.’ Anderson Cooper was assaulted by someone; it turned out it was an agent or something. I couldn’t figure out how he got from Haiti to Egypt that quick…They’re out to aggrandize Anderson Cooper.
Me: Someone wanted me to ask you this: What personality characteristic do you think we need more of?
Paula: Oh gee! I don’t have a clue! I really don’t have a clue. I have so few answers it’s just embarrassing. I mean to anything.
Me: I think that’s a good answer.
Paula: I don’t know. I don’t know how we’re supposed to be. A while ago there was this push to get celebrities to come out against bullying. Do you remember that?
Paula: You know there’s bullying going on in school, blah, blah, blah. There has been since time began and the odds of eliminating bullying are very, very slim. So in the middle of that I was interviewed by this lady, and it was a taped thing and she was hoping I’d say some kind of pissy thing. And she said ‘Can you talk about bullying?’ And I said ‘Well you want to get them when they’re small!’
Me: Try doing that on Ellen Degeneres’ show and see what happens. You can’t do it on Oprah anymore. Omg. [Lol]
Paula: [Lol] I Tweeted the last Oprah by the way!!!
Paula: Oh man did I have fun.
Me: Did she put it on?
Paula: No, Heavens’ no. No I just Tweeted her into the Tweetosphere, and I got a lot of feedback from it. But it was really, really, really fun to do. I probably never watched more than 5 minutes of Oprah. I remember one time back in the early 80s I saw probably half of the show maybe. And since then maybe one segment. And since then I haven’t watched except maybe 5 minutes. So who could not hear it was gonna be the final episode. So I Tweeted it and it was glorious—the Tweet. I mean, I’m an atheist, but I couldn’t help wondering during the show the people who are believers were supposed to thank God for Oprah or thank Oprah for God. It was a hairline distinction.
Me: I didn’t see the final episode, but I do believe there should be an ‘Anti-Peace Prize’ like the opposite of the Nobel Peace prize for Oprah for giving the world Dr. Phil McGraw. [lol]
Paula: Ooh! Do I agree with that! I totally agree. That’s one of the things I wrote, ‘anybody who gives us Dr. Phil can’t be all good.’ But you know as bad as Dr. Phil is, in the battle of good and evil he would be in a white suit compared to Dr. Drew. Now that’s evil incarnate.
Me: I don’t even know Dr. Drew.
Paula: OMG!! He’s a heinous guy! He sets himself up as this celebrity drug and addiction guy. Oh he’s on like CNN a lot. He’s awful. Here’s the thing that he does. I personally hate A.A. However there are people who feel it’s been helpful for them. More power to them. One of the main tenets of it is anonymity. You’re not supposed to go around telling people. That’s one of the ways that it functions and it works. Well this BONEHEAD…he’s the guy who has the show with the celebrities and the rehab, that’s him. The other thing he does, maybe it’s even worse than that, at least those poor guys who have decided to sell their souls to the devil and do that show during the most miserable time of their life… but ok, at least they actively chose it. But he’s this guy who goes on CNN with a person with a fall from sainthood, somebody with a problem with alcohol or whatever it is they’re doing and they call up this idiot to come on the show and talk about them. The problem is he’s talking about them as if he knows. If he knows them, then it is illegal for him to do that and certainly immoral and if he doesn’t know them then it’s immoral. He’s talking as if they’re clients of his. He’ll say ‘Well, she is in a decline now…’ or whatever. I mean really awful. It’s like paid gossip.
Me: Like a local A.M. talk show or something?
Paula: He did a call-in show. It’s like the evil juicer from which he was distilled. It’s underhanded and the notion that he’s profiting from somebody else’s struggle is reprehensible to me. It’s like the plane has crashed and you can’t move and somebody comes over to take the money out of your pocket.
Me: Like ‘Caught on Camera’—taking the change off a cadaver.
Paula: I would rather have Charlie Sheen do sensitivity training with my children than have this guy talk to them. You should watch him for 2 seconds – he’s really, really awful.
Me: He’s with CNN?
Paula: He’s with any slimy vehicle that will hire him. He had a reality show…if you look very close at the top of his head there’s two little buttons where the horns come in.
Me: Comment on Bob Hope?
Paula: I met him once. When I did backstage coverage at the Emmys, and Angela Lansbury [Murder She Wrote] was the host and Bob Hope was a guest and he was very elderly at that point and he was backstage. You know where they kind of wind him up and send him onstage and then wheel him back in. Very elderly at that point. And I met him then, that was the only time.
Me: What did you think of his comedy—his stand-up?
Paula: I’m not that familiar with it! When I was a kid I definitely knew who he was. I love it that he was a USO guy. That I certainly have undying admiration for. I wish that now, that we are absolutely abusing these young men and women, who go into the service—I wish that we had more for them than a planeload of comedians every so often. At the same time I really respect that he made such a notable contribution to the USO. But I don’t know that much about his comedy. I love Abbott and Costello,
Me: How about Rickles?
Paula: I loved Mr. Potato Head, I can tell you that! I remember him from when I was a kid. But I’m not really all that familiar with his work. I loved the Three Stooges. I loved I Love Lucy. I love Mary Tyler Moore. There’s a woman named Christine McIntiyre who was the blonde, really beautiful woman who was often in Three Stooges shorts. And she was a genius. Larry said she would do anything. I love Margaret Dumont.
Me: I’m a big fan of Gracie Allen.
Paula: I drive on her street! In Beverly Hills there’s a street named after her. And there’s a street named after George Burns.
Me: Do you ever do any venues in CT?
Paula: I do go to CT a good deal. I don’t remember exactly where. I’ve been to Hartford a lot, I know I’ve been to New Haven a lot. I’ve even been to where you mentioned, begins with a W?
Paula: Yes, there used to be a club there I’d work in a long, long time ago.
Me: I really want to thank you for doing this, I’ll see you in Rahway on the 24th.
Paula: Thank you very much, I appreciate it.