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Funny farm

By |2008-01-17T09:00:00-05:00January 17th, 2008|Entertainment|

Something shocking happened near the end of our gabfest with Paula Poundstone: Her phone rang. Wow – right? Had you heard the ringtone, you would’ve thought so.
You see, the quick-witted comedian, who’s performing on Jan. 12 at the Brighton Center For Performing Arts, doesn’t want to broadcast what she sings in the shower. So, like nobody you probably know, Poundstone uses that simple default ringer – the one heard in that shut-the-hell-up movie-theater warning.
“I don’t need people to know that much about me,” she pauses and unleashes a laugh. “I don’t really need to impress people with my great taste.”
That’s a reasonable justification. But once we learn Poundstone was just recently informed what anonymous Web babble is on NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” (she’s a regular panelist) – and she handwrote her 2006 book, “There’s Nothing in This Book that I Meant to Say” – we’re also convinced the computer is not her friend. Which would make downloading ringtones a bitch for the mother of three.
“I do answer e-mails people send, but I do write everything by hand – and then somebody else puts it on the stupid machine,” she insists. Even if chatting with PaulaPerv69 isn’t her style, she’s aware the fans she communicates with are strangers, but “it’s not (for) an intrusive purpose.”
“The occasional fan letter where somebody’s kinda coming onto me really goes into the nutcase pile. I don’t encourage it, or foster it, or try to draw it out by writing back, ‘You’re awesome!'”
She’d tell that to her biggest fans, though: her kids, her 11 cats, a bunny, a bearded dragon lizard and, perhaps, even her “big, stupid” dog (“I run a really unprofitable farm”). That’s where most of her time goes to these days. Still, the mornings are the worst. “It’s basically, you know, shoveling waste product. And by the time I’m finished with that, it’s time to make the snack bag and go get the kids.”
And you know how they say kids say the darndest things? Well, Poundstone can attest that hers – or at least her 16-year-old daughter, Toshia – do the darndest things. While dwelling on New Year’s resolutions, she recalls explaining to Toshia, who was in elementary school at the time, what they are. “This is a thing that people do to change something to improve their lives,” she told her. “Some people quit smoking; some people decide to lose weight – so this would be a really good time to think about, you know, changing this lying thing.”
Two days later, Toshia came home from school with a note that revealed what her third-grade teacher asked the students to do: Write down their resolutions. “Toshia’s resolution was to not play basketball in the living room anymore, and I said, ‘Well, Toshia, have you ever played basketball in the living room?’ Her answer: ‘Well, no.’
“I’ll tell ya, it’s improved our lives immeasurably,” Poundstone jokes. “I just thought it was so great that not only was she not going to quit lying, but she took the opportunity for her New Year’s resolution to sorta make another lie.”
When it came to making her own this year, Poundstone, well, just didn’t. And it wasn’t because she’s a perfect by-choice single mother. Her poor frozen pizzas – and kids – would know that. Last time the comedian chatted with us, she baked the cardboard to the bottom of one – and then almost served it: “Had I been able to salvage it, I would’ve just had them eat it, because I feel it’s a good lesson that things just can’t be perfect,” she says, looking back on the fiasco. Now, either her 13-year-old daughter Allison takes on the cooking – uh, er – heating-up (“She’s certainly learning to thaw quickly – far more better than I’ll ever do”), or they head to a restaurant, like IHOP, where they went the evening before our interview. Poundstone admits a $43 meal (without tip!) nearly burned a hole in her wallet, and considers blaming the extra bacon. Or was it the Belgian waffle with strawberries?
“I don’t think it was actually Belgium-made; I don’t think there’s shipping charges there,” she quips.
Cooking aside, Poundstone really does try. In between work – like the nine years it took to finish her book, in which she addresses her past booze bust – she is a dedicated mom, making sure that when the kids return from school, she gives them the impression she’s been sitting in a chair waiting for them (“So far, I think I have created that person”). Still, even if she’s retired to less-damaging addictions, like watching “Perry Mason” videotapes and binging on Diet Pepsi, she wouldn’t suggest anyone live by her example.
“The truth is: My life is in no way exemplary. I wouldn’t suggest that anybody – I wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, do it like this.’ … What am I gonna say? Go get a bunch of cats, a dog and three kids? Or remove yourself from the world of what everyone else seems to know about?”
Everyone has to start somewhere.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.