Poundstone in 2008
December 29, 1959 |
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
|Medium||Standup Comedy, television, radio, print, internet|
|Genres||standup, improvisational comedy, actress, commentator, interviewer,|
|Notable works and roles||Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me
There Is Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say
I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston (CD)
I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine (CD)
Paula Poundstone (born December 29, 1959) is an American stand-up comedian, author, actress, interviewer and commentator, known for her distinctive brand of spontaneous observational comedy. She rose to fame with a series of one hour HBO comedy specials and her backstage commentary during the 1992 presidential election on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and is now heard on National Public Radio's (NPR) weekly news quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, internationally on NPR Worldwide, and on the Internet via podcast, and tours across the country performing standup comedy.
Poundstone was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the daughter of Vera, a housewife, and Jack Poundstone, an engineer. Her family moved to Sudbury, Massachusetts about a month after her birth. Poundstone attended Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, but dropped out before obtaining her diploma. Her jobs have included bussing tables at an IHOP and working as a bicycle messenger.
Poundstone started doing stand-up comedy at open-mic nights in Boston in 1979. In the early 1980s she traveled across the US by Greyhound bus, stopping in at open mic nights at comedy clubs en route. She stayed in San Francisco where she became known for improvisational sets at The Other Cafe comedy club in the Haight-Ashbury. She was seen by Robin Williams who encouraged her to move to Los Angeles and included a standup comedy set for her on a "SNL" he hosted. In 1984, Poundstone was cast in the movie Hyperspace. She continued as a comedian and began appearing on several talk shows. In 1989, she won the American Comedy Award for "Best Female Stand-Up Comic". In 1990, she wrote and starred in an HBO special called Cats, Cops and Stuff, for which she won a CableACE Award—making her the first female to win the ACE for best Standup Comedy Special. She went on to another first with her second HBO standup special, Paula Poundstone Goes To Harvard, taped on campus at Saunders Hall, marking the first time Harvard allowed its name to be used in conjunction with a television show. Poundstone also had her own Bravo special in 2006 as part of their three-part Funny Girls series, along with Caroline Rhea and Joan Rivers, titled Paula Poundstone: Look What the Cat Dragged In. Poundstone worked as a political correspondent for The Tonight Show during the 1992 US Presidential campaign and did field pieces for The Rosie O'Donnell Show in 1996. In 1993, Poundstone won a second CableACE Award for "Best Program Interviewer" for her HBO series "The Paula Poundstone Show." She was then featured in her own variety show, The Paula Poundstone Show, on ABC (which lasted two episodes). She also appeared on Hollywood Squares and was a regular panelist for the remake of To Tell the Truth.
Poundstone had a recurring role in Cybil Shepherd's Cybill TV series (1997). She has also worked as a voice actress. She voiced Judge Stone on Science Court (also known as Squigglevision), an edutainment cartoon series done in the Squigglevision style that aired on Saturday mornings on ABC Kids in 1997. Staying with the makers of Science Court, Tom Snyder Productions, she was the voice of the mom, Paula Small, in the cartoon series Home Movies for the show's first five episodes, which aired on UPN. Between the show's 1999 UPN cancellation and 2000 revival on Cartoon Network, Poundstone chose to leave the show. The show's character, Paula Small, was named and loosely modeled around Poundstone.
Poundstone is a panelist on National Public Radio's (NPR) weekly news quiz show, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me. In 2013 and 2014, the program ranked as the most listened to show on public radio. In 2013 Poundstone was on the panel when the show was Cinecast to movie theaters across the country. She's also been on the panel when the show was taped before some of its biggest audiences, at Carnegie Hall, Red Rocks and Wolf Trap. In 2009 Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me received a Peabody Award for Broadcasting Excellence.
Poundstone tours the country extensively, performing standup comedy in theaters and performing arts centers. She is known for never doing the same act twice and spontaneously interacting with the crowd. Writes Nick Zaino III, of the Boston Globe, "Her crowd work has always been unusual—her natural disposition, curious and ever-perplexed, allows Poundstone to aggressively question audience members without ever seeming threatening. And no one does the callback better." She has released two comedy CDs - I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston on April Fools' Day 2013  and I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine (2009)  She posts regularly on twitter at  and 
Poundstone is also an accomplished author. Her first book was published in hard cover by Crown, 2006: There is Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say (with a foreword by Mary Tyler Moore) and is still in release on audio (Highbridge) and in paperback. Algonquin is set to publish her second book in the Fall of 2016. Paula wrote the column, "Hey, Paula!" for Mother Jones (1993–1998), and articles for The Los Angeles Times, Glamour and Entertainment Weekly, among others. Also an avid reader, Poundstone has been the National Spokesperson for the American Library Association's "United for Libraries" since 2007. They are a citizens support group that works to raise funds and awareness for their local libraries.
Poundstone is #88 on Comedy Central's 2004 list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time, and #6 on Maxim magazine's list of "Worst Comedians of All Time". In November 2012, Poundstone was honored, along with Nina Totenberg, NPR correspondent; David Brooks, New York Times columnist; and Bob Mankoff, New Yorker Cartoon Editor, with the 2012 Moment Magazine Creativity Award. In 1992 she became the first woman to be invited to perform standup comedy at the prestigious White House correspondents dinner. She was inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame in 2010.
Poundstone began serving as a foster parent in the 1990s, fostering eight children and eventually adopting two daughters and a son. In October 2001, Poundstone was found guilty of felony child endangerment in connection with driving while intoxicated with children in the car. She was charged with lewd acts upon a child under 14, and reached a plea agreement for probation and community service.
Poundstone has talked about her personal responsibility for the events that led to her arrest, and the steps she has taken, including a 6 month treatment program for alcoholism. Poundstone, who speaks about her private life in her standup comedy performances and on the NPR radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, has revealed that she is an atheist and has 16 cats.[relevant? ]
- Lambert, Pam (2001-09-10). "Matter of Trust". www.people.com. Archived from the original on 2014-04-20. Retrieved 2014-08-11.
- Paula Poundstone - Notable Names Data Base
- "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!". Retrieved 2009-01-26.
- "PaulaPoundstone.com - The Official Website of Paula Poundstone".
- United for Libraries website
- "Comedy Central Top 100 Greatest Standups of All Time". listology.com. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "The Worst Comedians of All Time". Maxim Magazine. August 22, 2007. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- Poundstone, Paula (2007). There Is Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-307-38228-1.
- "The Ups and Downs of Paula Poundstone", Talk of the Nation, Neal Conan, November 20, 2006. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
- Brownfield, Paul (July 12, 2001). "Paula Poundstone confronts dark side of life, Alcohol abuse has `a bearing on allegations'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- , Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!, March 15, 2014.
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|Database entry Q3372564 on Wikidata|
- Official website
- Paula Poundstone at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Paula Poundstone in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Poundstone's first column in Mother Jones
- Los Angeles Times interview by Candace A. Wedlan
- Radio interview with Poundstone on The Sound of Young America:MP3 Link
- Interview with Poundstone on the Feast of Fools (podcast)
-  Nick Zaino III review, The Spit Take, April 2, 2013
-  Twitter page
-  Facebook page