Fans of the NPR’s #1 show, “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” should rejoice because the witty, and at times irreverent panelist, Paula Poundstone, is returning to Maine for two shows tomorrow night in Ogunquit at Jonathan’s, and Saturday night at the Waterville Opera House. She’s also an author.  Her latest book is called, “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness,” as well as a lecturer and humorist, and Poundstone was more than generous in granting me a some of her time to reconnect and find out what’s been happening in her life since last we chatted back in February 2015. I called her at her Southern California home on the 13th of this month and began with a fairly innocuous, and obvious observation.

Q: So, you’re coming back to Maine.
Poundstone: Ah, you see? You know why I’m coming back to Maine? Because I’m lucky!

Q: No, you’re Paula, I’m Lucky.
Poundstone: Oh, right, I forgot that, but no, I love it there. I mean, I even go to Maine during mud season, for heaven’s sake! I’m really all-in on Maine.

Q: Well, we have an early winter upon us at the moment, so be prepared for that.
Poundstone: Yeah, so I’ll break out my jeans instead of my cargo pants.

Q: You must love it here to come back especially in this weather and all.
Poundstone: I do, I do. I like it in every condition. Plus when you’re cold or you’re muddy, that’s when you really need a laugh.

Q: (Laughter) Oh, that’s so so true.
Poundstone: Yeah, so it’s really more of a mercy thing (chuckle) and I like to go to Florida in mid-summer because I just feel they’re so hot that they need to laugh.


Q: Laughter is the cure for everything, is it not?
Poundstone: It really is. We’re so lucky to have it. I don’t know why, as a species, we have it. I’m not sure that any other species do have it … I think maybe dogs and raccoons, but that’s it?

Q: Could very well be. I know not about those things, but I do know that I enjoy you all the time on “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”
Poundstone: That’s nice to hear, thank you. It’s very fun to do. It’s a smart show in this way, which is that they have you on and they say, “Say whatever you want!” which is often times the opposite of how the show business works. Often times somebody has you on and they go, “Don’t do that thing you do!” (chuckle) “You know that thing you do? Don’t do it!” which is foolish.

Q: Yeah, what’s the point of being there if you can’t do that thing that you do?
Poundstone: Yeah, it’s like hiring a painter and going, “Well, don’t get anything on the walls.”

Q: Good point. Now you’ve been to the Waterville Opera House before, have you not?
Poundstone: I have, yup. I can’t remember very well anymore but I know that I have been there before. I do so much traveling but when I get to a place I can tell, “Yeah, I’ve been here before.”

Q: What do you do to prepare for, say, the performance there at the opera house? Do you have previous material to draw upon?
Poundstone: Well, I lug around a notebook, folder, really, that’s full of pieces of paper where I’ve written things. I glance at it sometimes to refresh my memory before I go on. I’ve been doing this job for 40 years now so somewhere in my head I have 40 years of material rattling around … but I don’t have like a structured act — as will become painfully clear!

Q: (Chuckle)
Poundstone: My favorite part of the night is talking to the audience. I do the time-honored way from “Where are you from?/What do you do for a living?” From this little biographies of audience members emerge and I kind of use that to set my sails. It seems to work, so far.


Q: Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Poundstone: Yeah, exactly.

Q: Now, do you find that the environment that we live in currently is conducive to observational humor?
Poundstone: Well, yes. It takes up a lot of space in my head, that’s for sure, and yeah I’m tired of being lied to. I’ve just about had it and it’s funny how we’ve come to sort of accept it. I’m looking forward to a calmer time, it may not exist but I’m looking forward to it anyway.

Q: We can always hope.
Poundstone: Yeah, right.

Q: One thing I like to do in my columns is alert folks reading them to places where they can find out more about the people I chat with. In your case, you have several books out and you’re on public radio with “Wait, Wait…”
Poundstone: Well, I had begun work on another book, and I intend to go back to it, but I’m doing this podcast and (it) takes a lot more time than I had originally thought that it would.

Q: A podcast? What’s it called and where can it be found?
Poundstone: There are any number of ways to get to it including just plain Googling “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone,” that’ll give you a couple of things you could click on to get there. We’ve got just about 70 episodes or so and we’ve been doing it about a year. It’s been fun and it’s me and my partner, Adam Felber from “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me.” The listeners we have are very devoted and seem to be enjoying themselves, and the numbers are going up but as a business investment, I’d steer clear of it (chuckle), it’s no glory hole.

Q: Yes, but like I said earlier, this gives people another place to find you other than NPR.
Poundstone: Yeah, and I’m no President Trump but I do tweet a lot, so I’m available that way, too. Oh, and I recently put out a rap song, a social justice rap song!


Q: Wait…what?
Poundstone: It’s called “Not My Butterfinger” and the jumping-off place for the song is the outrage of the fact that they changed the Butterfinger recipe and it’s now inedible…

Q: Oh, no!
Poundstone: But that’s only the jumping-off place (chuckle). It can be found on iTunes or Apple Music, anywhere you get your music.

Q: Will you be performing it at the show in Waterville?
Poundstone: No. I think it’s on the playlist as the people are walking in, though.

Q: Is there anything, Paula, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Poundstone: I always like to remind people that it is a night of healing laughter, and it may be the only health care we have left soon.

Q: Oh, no!! (Laughter from both participants!)

Lucky Clark has spent 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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