Paula Poundstone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Paula Poundstone
Poundstone in 2008
Born (1959-12-29) December 29, 1959 (age 60)
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
MediumStandup comedy, television, radio, print, internet
Years active1979–present
Genresstandup, improvisational comedy, crowd work, actress, commentator, interviewer,
Subject(s)Observational humor
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
  • I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine

Paula Poundstone (born December 29, 1959) is an American stand-up comedian, author, actress, interviewer, and commentator. Beginning in the late 1980s, she performed a series of one-hour HBO comedy specials. She provided backstage commentary during the 1992 presidential election on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She is the host of the Starburns Audio podcast (previously a member of the Maximum Fun network) Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone, which is the successor to the National Public Radio program Live from the Poundstone Institute. She is a frequent panelist on NPR's weekly news quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, and was a recurring guest on the network's A Prairie Home Companion variety program during Garrison Keillor's years as host.

Early life[edit]

Poundstone was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the daughter of Vera, a housewife, and Jack Poundstone, an engineer.[1] Her family moved to Sudbury, Massachusetts, about a month after her birth.[2]


Poundstone started doing stand-up comedy at open-mic nights in Boston in 1979. In the early 1980s, she traveled across the United States 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 Holy City Zoo and The Other Cafe comedy club in the Haight-Ashbury.

In 1984, Robin Williams saw her act and encouraged her to move to Los Angeles. She performed her act when Williams hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live.[3] That year, Poundstone was cast in the movie Gremloids. 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 woman to win the ACE for best Standup Comedy Special.[4] In March 2019, comedian Tig Notaro named "Cats, Cops and Stuff" one of The 5 Funniest Stand-Up Specials Ever for TIME Magazine.[5] Poundstone went on to another first with her second HBO stand-up special, Paula Poundstone Goes to Harvard, taped on campus in Sanders Theatre. Poundstone 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 Cybill Shepherd's TV series Cybill (1997).

Poundstone 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 on Poundstone.[citation needed]

Poundstone is a frequent panelist on National Public Radio (NPR)'s weekly news quiz show, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me.[6] In 2017, she launched a new science-comedy-interview program on NPR called Live from the Poundstone Institute that released episodes weekly, then stopped suddenly, saying “the semester is over”. In July 2018, Poundstone began co-hosting the information-based, comedy podcast "Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone" with Adam Felber.

Poundstone tours the country extensively, performing stand-up 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 three comedy CDs - I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston on April Fools' Day 2013[7] North By Northwest her first double album in June 2016 recorded in Wisconsin and Oregon in 2015[8] and I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine (2009).[7]

Poundstone at a book signing in 2007

Poundstone's first book, There Is Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, was published by Crown in 2006. Her second book, published by Algonquin in May 2017, is titled The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness. She also wrote the column Hey, Paula! for Mother Jones (1993–1998) and articles for The Los Angeles Times, Glamour, and Entertainment Weekly, among others.

An avid reader, Poundstone has been the National Spokesperson for the American Library Association's "United for Libraries" since 2007. It is a citizens' support group that works to raise funds and awareness for their local libraries.[9]

Poundstone is No. 88 on Comedy Central's 2004 list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Poundstone began serving as a foster parent in the 1990s. She has fostered eight children, and eventually adopted two daughters and a son.[7][11][12]

In October 2001, Poundstone was charged with felony child endangerment in connection with driving while intoxicated with children in the car. She was also charged with three counts of lewd acts upon a girl younger than 14.[13] She changed her earlier plea of not guilty, and, in exchange, prosecutors dropped three counts of committing lewd acts against a child and added a misdemeanor count of inflicting injury upon a child.[13][14] Poundstone also pleaded no contest to one count of felony child endangerment.[14] She was sentenced to probation and six months in rehabilitation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.[14] In 2002, Poundstone talked about her personal responsibility for the events that led to her arrest and the steps she has taken, including a six-month treatment program for alcoholism, but said that she did not commit any lewd acts or child abuse.[14]

Poundstone is asexual[15] and an atheist.[16][17]


Film and television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1984 Hyperspace Karen Actress, 3-D movie
1988 Poison N/A Writer, TV movie
1989 Not Necessarily the News Commentator Actress, TV series
1990 Paula Poundstone: Cats, Cops and Stuff N/A Writer, TV documentary
1991 Wisecracks Herself Documentary
1993 Reasonable Doubts Betty Tannebaum Actress, TV series
1995 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman The Computer Actress, TV series
1996 Adventures from the Book of Virtues The Djinn Voice actor, animated series
1997 Cybill Minni Arbogast Actress, TV series
1998 Hercules Armageddon Bow Voice actor, animated series
1997-1999 Science Court Judge Stone Voice actor, animated series
1999 Home Movies Paula Small Voice actor and writer, animated series
2006 Paula Poundstone: Look What the Cat Dragged In N/A Writer, TV special
2013 Wanda Sykes Presents Herlarious Usher Actress, TV series
2015 Inside Out Forgetter Paula Voice actor, animated film
2015 The HOA (TV movie) Lorraine Actress, TV movie
2019 Summer Camp Island Paulette Voice actor, animated series (3 episodes)


  1. ^ Lambert, Pam (September 10, 2001). "Matter of Trust". People. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Archived from the original on April 20, 2014. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  2. ^ "Paula Poundstone". Notable Names Data Base.
  3. ^ Roe, Dale (August 21, 2014). "Paula Poundstone talks crowd work, Robin Williams". Austin, Texas: Gatehouse Media. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Ress, Arieh (September 1, 2016). "What Are You Reading? Paula Poundstone Edition". New York Public Library.
  5. ^ Notaro, Tig (March 1, 2019). "The 5 Funniest Stand-Up Specials Ever". New York, New York: TIME USA, LLC. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  6. ^ "Programs: Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!". NPR. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c "". The Official Website of Paula Poundstone.
  8. ^ "". Highbridge Audio.
  9. ^ "United for Libraries Forms National Partnership with Paula Poundstone". July 2, 2009. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  10. ^ "Comedy Central Top 100 Greatest Standups of All Time". Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  11. ^ Poundstone, Paula (2007). There Is Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say. New York City: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-307-38228-1.
  12. ^ Conan, Neal (November 20, 2006). "The Ups and Downs of Paula Poundstone". Talk of the Nation. Washington DC: NPR. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Gorman, Anna (September 13, 2001). "Paula Poundstone's Plea Deal Ends Child Abuse Case". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c d Weinraub, Bernard (January 22, 2002). "The Hard Road Back For Paula Poundstone; Comic Tries to Save Her Career After Arrest". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  15. ^ Nesti, Robert (August 21, 2013). "Paula Poundstone Lives Her Life In Her Comedy". Edge Media Network. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  16. ^ Poundstone, Paula (2006). There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 9780307382283. Retrieved November 23, 2019. I’m an atheist. The good news about atheists is that we have no mandate to convert anyone. So you’ll never find me on your doorstep on a Saturday morning with a big smile, saying, ‘Just stopped by to tell you there is no word. I brought along this little blank book I was hoping you could take a look at.’
  17. ^ Meyer, Ronald Bruce (February 11, 2011). "December 29: Paula Poundstone (1959)". Free thought Almanac. Retrieved November 23, 2019. My family, we are atheists, and many times people have had the nerve to say to us, because this is a terrible thing to say to anybody, but they say it to me: “Where will your children get their moral guidance without religion?” And I quickly assure them that we have three seasons of “Lost in Space” on DVD [which, she says, “we use for moral and spiritual guidance.”]. So I believe we’re covered in that area.

External links[edit]