Laugh Out Loud

A Q&A With Comedian Paula Poundstone

A funny phone conversation with the HBO star, author and cat hoarder before her Feb 16 performance at the Vilar.

By Kirsten Dobroth February 12, 2017

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Paula Poundstone visits the Beav' on Thursday (Feb 16) for the Vilar Performing Arts Center's Comedy Series.

Paula Poundstone's no stranger to comedy's many stages. While she's known for -- and found her stardom from -- stand-up routines, she's gone on to win awards for her HBO comedy specials, host the White House Correspondents Dinner (a first for a woman), lend her voice to Disney/Pixar’s Academy Award-winning animated film, Inside Out, contribute as a regular panelist on NPR's "Wait Wait ... Don't tell me!" and author a book somewhere along the way (she's got another one coming out in May). It's a litany of accolades that's exhausting to list let alone fathom, especially given that the comedienne averages about 90 stops throughout the year on her stand-up schedule. One such stop happens to be at Beaver Creek's Vilar Performing Arts Center on Thursday (Feb 16), and while her schedule leaves few opportunities for chit-chat (and even fewer for e-mail) she took the time to fill us in on balancing her daily schedule with the demands of being on the road, thoughts from her upcoming book, The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, and if she really has 14 cats.

On being on the road, and balancing work and parenting:

I do about 90 tour dates a year, and in this current moment I have no kids at home, so I travel more than I used to. When the kids were home and they were smaller, I suspect that I was just like any other working parent trying to strike that balance between doing one thing when you feel like you should be doing another. I read over the phone a lot -- that was big. I read from cars, from airplane gates, backstage, at hotel rooms, I read for hours. Although, my daughter recently told me my son used to put me on speaker phone and leave the room -- time well spent. So now I've got a great children's literature background.

On her 14 cats:

I have 14 cats because I'm stupid. People ask me all the time how I got 14 cats and I tell them, 'I had 16 but two died.' My daughter volunteered at the animal shelter for a year, so we ended up getting a lot that year; we were just visiting the animal shelter recently and the guy there asked me, 'So, what are you taking home today?' I'm not taking home anything anymore!

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The Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek.

Image: Zach Mahone

On her new book The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness:

The premise was -- and I started writing it probably about 8 years ago now -- I would experiment doing things that either I or other people thought would make me happy. The data from the experiment would include how things were going in my regular life, and the question wasn’t would I enjoy it or was something enjoyable, but would it make me happy, which were two different things entirely. I had no idea it was going to take so long to do; the first book I wrote took me 9 years to write, I’m not a writer by living, so it’s hard for me to find time for it aside from slipping it in where I can. And I wasn’t just writing, I had to do the experiment! I like to think they’re the funniest field notes ever written. Now the publisher keeps sending me the copy for the flaps, and I’m so ready to be done, it’s hard for me to get excited about it -- I don't think Charles Dickens had to write flap copy, but I could be wrong.

On keeping it old-school, and finding inspiration in the process:

I was never a great paper writer, but I was always a letter writer – still am. I like to write letters. I like to receive letters. I like the mail. I don’t like e-mail -- most of the time I think with e-mails it would have been easier just to call. I wrote most of my first book by hand; I like the feeling of the drag of the pen on the page. To some degree the part where I sit down with a pen in my hand ... that’s sort of secretarial work. The actual [composition work happened] while I was doing the dishes, while I was walking the dogs, or riding in an airplane or a car, where you just drift and you think of stuff. I mean not that I necessarily always want to be alone with my thoughts, but I think that’s the part where creativity comes from: when there’s really nothing going on.

Paula Poundstone performs at the Vilar on Feb 16 at 7:30 p.m. $38. Buy tickets here.


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