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07.21.10

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Paula Poundstone embraces the 21st century

By Anna Schuessler


"This is awkward," Twitters Paula Poundstone, "I can't understand my iMac for Dummies book." In our social-media age, quick, witty humor rules, and Poundstone has hit her stride. The standup comedian, whose one-liners have been in style since the early '80s, kept the old and embraced the new when she developed her prowess on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Speaking by phone from her home in Santa Monica, Poundstone describes her first encounter with Twitter as "a match made in heaven."

"I thought, God, that is so great, the idea that you can just talk directly to people and not have that kind of gatekeeper of television." Twitter also gives her the sort of pressure she needs to keep churning out the tearjerkers. "I spend a lot of time crafting things into the 140 characters, for better or for worse," she says, but she prides herself on sparing the world from the more mundane of her daily activities. "One thing Twitter has taught me is that I do the same damn thing day after day."

Poundstone keeps it fresh with a rigorous standup tour on the weekends that takes her to some of the farthest edges of the country. Her tour hits Napa with her epigrammatic humor on July 29. Poundstone doesn't need to go the distance for fame, though; she's well-known these days for her quick wit on NPR's Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me! Poundstone says she's always willing to make the commute to Chicago, the program's home place, where she can collaborate with a host of comparably scintillating comedians. "For many, many, many years, I worked alone. It was just plain me," she says, reflecting that collaboration can be extremely refreshing.

In the end, face-to-face contact with people who come to laugh is what really motivates Poundstone. "I love talking to the people who come to see me. I like knowing who they are," she says. She follows the stories of people who come to see her in more than one place, and that for her is what gets her out of bed every morning. Juggling a family and full-time career, Poundstone finds herself questioning her choices. "I ask myself sometimes, 'How'd I get this way?' And then I remember: I guess it was me. It's not like I got knocked up or anything. I signed the papers for every goddamn one of them." In reality, she never questions them for very long. "I just think about how much fun it is to tell jokes to a group of people," she says. "And in the end, that trumps everything."

Paula Poundstone appears on Thursday, July 29, at the Napa Valley Opera House. 1030 Main St., Napa. 8pm. $40. 707.226.7372.


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