If you want to hear a hilarious in-depth account of Paula Poundstone’s recent legal woes, then pick up a copy of her acclaimed book There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say. But if you want the scoop on how the self-proclaimed “Stand-up Comic-Mother-Writer” manages to raise three kids, 11 cats, read Harry Potter, perform stand-up and fly to Chicago every week to record an NPR show, the answer is simple: no sex. No sex? Yeah, no sex. Read on.
GO: So Mary Tyler Moore wrote the foreword to your book?
Paula Poundstone: Yeah! We met many years ago at an awards show. I sent her a copy of the book. My favorite review ever was the message she left on our answering machine. It said, “Tell your Mommy I just finished reading her wonderful book.” My daughter’s voice is on our machine.
GO: How did you get involved with NPR’s show, “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me?”
PP: Well, in the least dramatic way, they called me up and said, “Would you do it?”
GO: It’s recorded in Chicago. Do you fly there every week from your home in Santa Monica?
PP: I’m on every couple weeks, but I do, yes, which I really enjoy. In terms of a performer, [the radio show is] a little bit like being a baseball player in a batting cage: I get lobbed [news] topics over and over again. Sometimes I swing and miss, and sometimes I get into a rhythm and it’s really fun.
GO: Are you a natural news junkie?
PP: Well, yes and no. I would be more so if I didn’t have 11 cats and three kids. I love staying abreast of what’s taking place. I watch The News Hour with Jim Lehrer almost every night. [On the show] I am to news, what grandparents are to children: I can enjoy it for a little while and then give it back to the hands in which it really belongs.
GO: Do you keep abreast of the Paris Hiltons of the world?
PP: You know, that kind of stuff just oozes in through your pores during the day.
GO: Who do you think your audience is? Lesbians, news junkies, NPR fans, moms?
PP: I have a lot of NPR fans within my regular audience which is really nice. But some people have just seen me for years, and we came together when none of us had any money—well, I still don’t—when the one thing we had in common was that we were all just starting out in our young adult lives.
GO: When the show tapes in New York City, what kind of audience do you think you’re going to pull in?
PP: I think in New York there’s only smart audiences, aren’t there?
GO: I like to think so; do you think New Yorkers are up on their current events?
PP: Oh, I think they are, ’cause it’s all around them. Also, ’cause you have those digital signs everywhere, you can’t help it. There’s nothing you can look at that isn’t screaming some sort of information at you. So yeah, I love playing to a New York audience.
GO: Which presidential candidates make the best joke fodder?
PP: I don’t know. I don’t have to have my comedy come from the failings of our leadership. I swear, I don’t. I can just make shit up if I have to. I’m willing to give up my career entirely—I’m willing to only look at the serious side of life – in exchange for a president that just does a good and reasonable job, someone that will match our behavior with our constitution. Or, at least, point us in that direction for God’s sakes! I’m so tired of America telling other countries what to do, and we leave nothing but wreckage in our wake, and we have the nerve to censure and sanction and speak out about other countries. When we get it going on here, we will be a shining example. And then everyone will wanna do what we do, won’t they?
GO: I certainly hope so.
PP: It really is my hope. Dennis Kucinich…I like what he has to say: approaching the problem with a plan of peace. I think it would be better for us if somebody else took up that mantle as well.
GO: Kucinich seems to be the only gay-friendly candidate.
PP: Yeah, I think he approaches the world in just a better way. You know what I’ve been thinking about a lot? If Dumbledore [in Harry Potter] really were gay, don’t you think Rita Skeeter would have been all over it years ago?
GO: Yeah, although he is the master wizard. He could be deep in the magical closet. Playing with his wand…
PP: It’s probably going to turn out the whole thing was about nothing but sex. I always hated that when I was a kid. You’d read this poem that looked pretty innocent and then the English teacher would go, “Let me explain it.” And it turns out the whole thing’s about sex, and I’d go “Oh, for Christ’s sake!”
GO: Speaking of sex…may I ask you a lesbian question?
PP: No! [Laughing] because I don’t date. I don’t have sex. I don’t know what I am and I don’t much care. I used to think there was something horribly wrong with me that I wasn’t interested in sex or partnering or anything. I must be the oddest bird in the water. And finally, I don’t know how old I was when I figured out, that it was like the greatest blessing of a lifetime! I also don’t have an extra minute of the day to pursue anything. I figure when my kids are functioning adults, by golly [laughing] I’m going to go looking for love. Until then—I’m so not like the rest of the world, which I used to think was this real sad, bad thing. I used to say that my insides must have looked like a Warner Bros. cartoon background: I could just picture the electrical outlet with a cord laying just near it, not plugged in. And I thought if I had surgery I could be, you know, ignited. Now, I’m perfectly happy just how I am.
Catch a taping of the acclaimed NPR show Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, with Paula Poundstone, December 13th at The Blender. Poundstone also has two stand-up shows December 14th in Peekskill and December 22nd at the Gramercy Theatre in Manhattan. Her book is in stores now.