You never know what will happen at a Paula Poundstone show. And neither does Poundstone.
That’s because the acclaimed comedian’s stand-up act is almost entirely improvisational. She said that other than the occasional note to herself, most of her material is culled from questioning the audience over the course of the show.
The reason she chose this style of comedy was partly out of necessity. Poundstone said when starting out as a comic, she’d get so nervous that she’d forget her scripted jokes and have to rely on improv.
“After a while I finally figured out that a lot of the richness of the experience for me – a lot of the magic of the night – comes from the part that’s unplanned,” Poundstone said.
Using improvisation has certainly served her well in a career that’s spanned more than three decades. She was the first woman to win a CableACE award for Best Standup Comedy Special, has been included on Comedy Central’s list of 100 greatest standups and is a regular panelist on NPR’s Peabody- winning show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.”
Now, that success is bringing her to the South Orange Performing Arts Center for a show on Thursday, Sept. 26.
But Poundstone said the best part of her job is not the accolades – it’s bringing joy to her fans.
“I consider myself a proud member of the endorphin production industry,” she said. “Laughing and being in a roomful of laughter and connecting with people in that way is exhilarating.”
Poundstone said she loves that connection so much that meeting the crowd after the show is one of her favorite parts of the night. She said it’s especially important for people to interact with each other in a world dominated by electronics, where “friends” are found on Facebook and not in real life.
Although she said she believes the current obsession with technology will soon fade, Poundstone said comedy can do a lot of long-term good.
“Coming out for a night of laughter with members of your community… is one of the most mentally healthy things you can do.”
With Poundstone’s signature brand of autobiographical humor, there’s likely to be plenty of laughter at her SOPAC show. Attendees can expect her to poke fun at all aspects of her life, including her children. While mothers of kids ages 15-22 would usually expect embarrassment from their children for talking about them in public, Poundstone said she hasn’t received any backlash – at least, not yet.
“They haven’t complained,” she said. “Maybe they’ll sue me someday.”
For more information and to order tickets, visit http://sopacnow. org/565/paula-poundstone.
Sean Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.