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Poundstone untied

Comedy’s resident cat lady comes to the Guthrie.
Comedys resident cat lady comes to the Guthrie.
Image by Photo courtesy Paula Poundstone
Comedy’s resident cat lady comes to the Guthrie.

WHAT: Paula Poundstone

WHERE: Guthrie TheaterâÄôs Wurtele Thrust Stage
818 S. Second St.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 28

COST: $29

SheâÄôs starred in several HBO specials, won an Emmy and, in 1992, became the first woman to perform at the White House CorrespondentâÄôs Dinner, but comedian Paula Poundstone, playing the Guthrie next Monday âÄî signature tie in tow âÄî only came out with her first comedy album in 2009.

âÄúI guess I never really felt that the world was reeling from the absence of a Paula Poundstone CD, but now I realize it was,âÄù Poundstone said.

Today, Poundstone is a long-running regular guest on National Public RadioâÄôs weekly quiz program âÄúWait Wait âĦ DonâÄôt Tell Me!âÄù and has been touring the country with her blend of loosely structured narrative commentary and tangential improvisation.

Her East Coast upbringing manifests itself not only through her thick accent but her tendency to confront audience members and engage them in a spontaneous conversation as part of her performance. âÄúIâÄôm highly distractible,âÄù Poundstone said.

Since starting stand-up in âÄô79, Poundstone has covered everything from Pop-Tarts to politics and has distinguished herself as an irreverent social commentator. She may be rooted in a style of observational humor that typifies âÄô90s stand-up, but she is clearly comfortable with recycling her own material if it works.

âÄúNothing is too old for me. IâÄôve been doing my International House of Pancakes joke since I first started,âÄù Poundstone said.

However, that isnâÄôt to say she doesnâÄôt tailor her act with the times. SheâÄôll pepper it with stories of her own experience and relay the material as she sees fit.

âÄúMost of my act is autobiographical,âÄù Poundstone said. âÄúThe nights where I feel the best itâÄôs as if IâÄôm returning home from a trip and so many things happened that IâÄôm spilling over with things to say.âÄù

The tirelessly sarcastic comedianâÄôs deadpan delivery grounds her forays into quasi-surrealistic visions for punch lines. On her only comedy CD, âÄúI Heart Jokes,âÄù Poundstone pauses to take a sip from her Diet Pepsi and calmly notes, âÄúI drink over 16 diet sodas a day.âÄù

Like her quip that high school âÄúsuperâÄù seniors wear capes, PoundstoneâÄôs jokes take on a forehead slap-inducing, âÄúso bad itâÄôs possibly goodâÄù quality. She holds a running monologue in which punch lines are almost casually slipped into the setup as part of a storyâÄôs details. ItâÄôs a style that lends itself to a more effortless immersion into her humor rather than a concern with a prescribed structure.

Personal, candid and brash, Poundstone often draws from life experience to craft anecdotes for her sets. Aside from the requisite spins on lifeâÄôs daily minutiae, she still includes a few self-deprecating bits about her run-in with the tabloids in 2001 after a DWI and felony for child endangerment. In 2006, she published a book, âÄúThereâÄôs Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say,âÄù an autobiography-cum-humor read that Poundstone described as âÄúmemoir-ish.âÄù

âÄú[The] book is a series of biographies of towering historic figures and in the telling of their story, I tell my own,âÄù she said. âÄúLincoln was my first test chapter. His mother died of milk disease before I thought to myself, âÄòMy mother had a headache for a really long time.âÄô**********âÄù

Though her humor might resonate mostly with members of her own generation, Poundstone has an unhinged, conversational performance style that buoys the recitations of her more classic material.

She has been both praised as one of the best comedians of all time and likewise listed as one of the worst. Her ceaselessly sarcastic delivery removes the possibility of offending, which may ward off fans of more provocative humor, but PoundstoneâÄôs status as the comedic equivalent of an improvisational jazz musician can be an incentive to go see what she cooks up, depending on how one feels about jazz.

As Poundstone warns, âÄúmy drumming is not as good.âÄù Buh-dum-ch.

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