Paula Poundstone

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Paula Poundstone
Poundstone in 2008
Born (1959-12-29) December 29, 1959 (age 60)
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
Medium Standup Comedy, television, radio, print, internet
Nationality American
Years active 1979–present
Genres standup, improvisational comedy, actress, commentator, interviewer,
Subject(s) Observational humor
Notable works and roles Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me
There Is Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say
I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston (CD)
I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine (CD)

Paula Poundstone (born December 29, 1959) is an American stand-up comedian, author, actress, interviewer and commentator. Beginning in the late 1980s, she performed a series of one-hour HBO comedy specials. She provided backstage commentary during the 1992 presidential election on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She is a frequent panelist on National Public Radio's weekly news quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me.

Early life

Poundstone was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the daughter of Vera, a housewife, and Jack Poundstone, an engineer.[1] Her family moved to Sudbury, Massachusetts, about a month after her birth.[2] Poundstone attended Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, but dropped out before obtaining her diploma. Her jobs have included bussing tables at an IHOP and working as a bicycle messenger.


Poundstone started doing stand-up comedy at open-mike nights in Boston in 1979. In the early 1980s she traveled across the United States by Greyhound bus, stopping in at open-mike nights at comedy clubs en route. She stayed in San Francisco, where she became known for improvisational sets at The Other Cafe comedy club in the Haight-Ashbury. She was seen by Robin Williams, who encouraged her to move to Los Angeles and included a stand-up comedy set for her on an episode of "SNL" he hosted. In 1984, Poundstone was cast in the movie Hyperspace. She continued as a comedian and began appearing on several talk shows. In 1989, she won the American Comedy Award for "Best Female Stand-Up Comic". In 1990, she wrote and starred in an HBO special called Cats, Cops and Stuff, for which she won a CableACE Award — making her the first female to win the ACE for best Standup Comedy Special. She went on to another first with her second HBO stand-up special, Paula Poundstone Goes To Harvard, taped on campus at Saunders Hall. Poundstone also had her own Bravo special in 2006 as part of their three-part Funny Girls series, along with Caroline Rhea and Joan Rivers, titled Paula Poundstone: Look What the Cat Dragged In. Poundstone worked as a political correspondent for The Tonight Show during the 1992 US Presidential campaign and did field pieces for The Rosie O'Donnell Show in 1996. In 1993, Poundstone won a second CableACE Award for "Best Program Interviewer" for her HBO series "The Paula Poundstone Show." She was then featured in her own variety show, The Paula Poundstone Show, on ABC (which lasted two episodes). She also appeared on Hollywood Squares and was a regular panelist for the remake of To Tell the Truth.

Poundstone had a recurring role in Cybil Shepherd's Cybill TV series (1997). She has also worked as a voice actress. She voiced Judge Stone on Science Court (also known as Squigglevision), an edutainment cartoon series done in the Squigglevision style that aired on Saturday mornings on ABC Kids in 1997. Staying with the makers of Science Court, Tom Snyder Productions, she was the voice of the mom, Paula Small, in the cartoon series Home Movies for the show's first five episodes, which aired on UPN. Between the show's 1999 UPN cancellation and 2000 revival on Cartoon Network, Poundstone chose to leave the show. The show's character, Paula Small, was named and loosely modeled around Poundstone.[citation needed]

Poundstone is a frequent panelist on National Public Radio's (NPR) weekly news quiz show, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me.[3]

Poundstone tours the country extensively, performing stand-up comedy in theaters and performing arts centers. She is known for never doing the same act twice and spontaneously interacting with the crowd. Writes Nick Zaino III of the Boston Globe, "Her crowd work has always been unusual—her natural disposition, curious and ever-perplexed, allows Poundstone to aggressively question audience members without ever seeming threatening. And no one does the callback better." She has released two comedy CDs - I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston on April Fools' Day 2013 [4] and I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine (2009) [4]

File:Paula Poundstone 1.jpg
Poundstone at a book signing in 2007

Poundstone's book There is Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say was published by Crown in 2006. Algonquin is set to publish her second book in the fall of 2016.[citation needed] She wrote the column, "Hey, Paula!" for Mother Jones (1993–1998), and articles for The Los Angeles Times, Glamour and Entertainment Weekly, among others. Also an avid reader, Poundstone has been the National Spokesperson for the American Library Association's "United for Libraries" since 2007. It is a citizens support group that works to raise funds and awareness for their local libraries.[5]

Poundstone is No. 88 on Comedy Central's 2004 list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time,[6] and #6 on Maxim magazine's list of "Worst Comedians of All Time".[7]

Personal life

Poundstone began serving as a foster parent in the 1990s, fostering eight children and eventually adopting two daughters and a son.[4][8][9] In October 2001, Poundstone was found guilty of felony child endangerment in connection with driving while intoxicated with children in the car. She was charged with lewd acts upon a child younger than 14 and reached a plea agreement for probation and community service. Poundstone has talked about her personal responsibility for the events that led to her arrest and the steps she has taken, including a six-month treatment program for alcoholism.[10]


  1. Lambert, Pam (2001-09-10). "Matter of Trust". Archived from the original on 2014-04-20. Retrieved 2014-08-11. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Paula Poundstone - Notable Names Data Base
  3. "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!". Retrieved 2009-01-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 " - The Official Website of Paula Poundstone".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. United for Libraries website
  6. "Comedy Central Top 100 Greatest Standups of All Time". Retrieved 2009-12-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "The Worst Comedians of All Time". Maxim Magazine. August 22, 2007. Retrieved January 5, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Poundstone, Paula (2007). There Is Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-307-38228-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "The Ups and Downs of Paula Poundstone", Talk of the Nation, Neal Conan, November 20, 2006. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  10. Brownfield, Paul (July 12, 2001). "Paula Poundstone confronts dark side of life, Alcohol abuse has 'a bearing on allegations'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 5, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links