Appearing on stage with a stool, a microphone, and a can of Diet Pepsi, PAULA POUNDSTONE is famous for her razor-sharp wit and spontaneity. The Boston Globe said, ‚ÄúPoundstone improvises with a crowd like a Jazz musician‚Ä¶swinging in unexpected directions without a plan, without a net.‚ÄĚ Paula is so quick and unassuming that audience members at her live shows often leave complaining that their cheeks hurt from laughter and debating whether the random people she talked to were ‚Äúplants‚ÄĚ.
Paula grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts and by the time she was nineteen was traveling on a Greyhound bus across the country ‚Äď stopping in at open mic nights at comedy clubs as she went. She credits her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bump, with being the first one to spot her comedic talents. Bump wrote in a letter to Paula‚Äôs parents: ‚ÄúI have enjoyed many of Paula‚Äôs humorous comments about our activities.‚ÄĚ
In 1979 Paula began nurturing her standup comedy talent as part of the Boston comedy scene, and then moved to San Francisco where she continued to flourish. By 1990 she‚Äôd relocated to Los Angeles and had starred in several comedy specials for HBO, as well as appeared on Saturday Night Live when friend and mentor Robin Williams hosted the show. Paula‚Äôs first one-hour HBO special, ‚ÄúCats, Cops, and Stuff.‚ÄĚ made her the first woman to ever receive the Cable ACE for best standup comedy special. She also starred in a self-titled talk show series for HBO (for which she won her second Cable ACE Award for Best Program Interviewer, beating out other, more recognized names in that field.)
In 1992, Poundstone forsook what she considered the ‚Äėstaid‚Äô 5-minute standup set on late night talk-shows for something she thought would be more real with the audience and filed memorable field commentary of the Presidential Election for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. This led to her own show on ABC, aptly named, ‚ÄúThe Paula Poundstone Show‚ÄĚ, and behind-the-scenes coverage of that year‚Äôs EMMY Awards for which she was critically acclaimed. During this time, she also became the first woman to perform at the White House Correspondents dinner.
By the mid-90‚Äôs, Poundstone had shifted her performances from comedy clubs to performing arts centers and theatres where her interactions with the crowd became the stuff of legend. In 1996, Paula taped her second hour special for HBO, ‚ÄúPaula Poundstone Goes to Harvard,‚ÄĚ - the first time that elite university has ever allowed it‚Äôs name to be used in the title of a television show. The Boston Globe also said about Paula, ‚ÄúYou know Poundstone‚Äôs a great comic the way you know any fine performer when you see one‚ÄĒthere's a disarming ease in her craft, an immediate sense that she's so quick on her feet you need never worry about the possibility of something going wrong.‚ÄĚ
Paula‚Äôs off-kilter sensibility and impeccable timing made her a perfect fit for NPR‚Äôs ‚Äúoddly informative‚ÄĚ, weekly news quiz program, ‚ÄúWait Wait‚Ä¶Don‚Äôt Tell Me,‚ÄĚ which she joined as a regular panelist seven years ago. Hosted by Peter Segal, the show is broadcast in 50 states and gives Paula a chance to match wits with some of today‚Äôs leading pundits ‚Äď not to mention interact with some of the people at the forefront of our nation‚Äôs eyes, including Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. The show tapes weekly before a live audience at the Chase Auditorium in Chicago, or on location. Paula will be one of the panelists this year when the show goes to Kuwait.
It took Paula eight years to write her first book, There‚Äôs Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say. (Harmony Books, a division of Random House, Hardcover pub: November 2006, with foreword by Mary Tyler Moore). ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs because I was writing it in real time,‚ÄĚ Poundstone jokes. Part memoir, part monologue, Paula‚Äôs unique laugh-out-loud book features biographies of legendary historical figures including Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc and Sitting Bull, among others, from which she can‚Äôt help digressing to tell her own. The paperback edition hits bookshelves November ‚Äô07.
Last November was also when BRAVO premiered Paula‚Äôs newest standup comedy special: ‚ÄúPaula Poundstone: Look What the Cat Dragged In‚ÄĚ The show was taped before a live audience in Los Angeles at the landmark Orpheum Theatre. Other credits include: Frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor's ‚ÄúA Prairie Home Companion;‚ÄĚ Voice of Judge Stone on ABC‚Äôs Saturday Morning ‚ÄúScience Court‚ÄĚ aka ‚ÄúSquigglevision‚ÄĚ, and ‚ÄúPaula‚ÄĚ, the mom in Cartoon Network‚Äôs ‚ÄúHome Movies. Paula has made numerous appearances on ‚ÄúLate Night with David Letterman;‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĚSesame Street;‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúTo Tell The Truth‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúComic Relief.‚ÄĚ Paula won an EMMY Award for her field pieces on PBS‚Äôs ‚ÄúLife & Times,‚ÄĚ and is also the author, along with her high school math teacher, Faye Ruopp, of three math text books for children published by Heinemann Press: The Sticky Problem of Parallelogram Pancakes; Venn Can We Be Friends? and You Can't Keep Slope Down Paula‚Äôs published several magazine articles, and for five years wrote a back-page column in Mother Jones.
An avid reader and author, Paula was recently named the national spokesperson for Friends of Libraries U.S.A (FOLUSA) ‚Äď a citizens support group with chapters all over the country that help raise money for their local libraries children‚Äôs summer reading programs, author events, special book collections, equipment, and whatever else they might need. The campaign debuts the week of October 21, 2007, which also happens to be National Friends of the Library week!
Paula began fostering children in the early 1990‚Äôs, and went on to become a parent to three children of her own, Toshia 16, Allison 13, and Thomas E., 9, The family lives in Santa Monica, California.
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Books:There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, November 2006