Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

Next story: Dreaming of Grace

Life Can Be Funny

Life Can Be Funny
Paula Poundstone on the Pope, Donald Trump, and touring

It should be said right off the bat that humorist Paula Poundstone is a good sport. Squeezing in an interview with Artvoice on a busy day to promote her performance on Friday (10/2) at 8pm in Asbury Hall at Babeville, she played along with this interviewer who decided it might be fun to start things off with a one question quiz—mimicking those given to guests on NPR’s popular Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me radio show, where she is a frequent panelist. It went down like so...

This is a section of the interview I like to call “Hay, Hay Paula,” In which I ask you one question about HAY, the animal feed, and if you get it right, I’ll record a message on your home answering machine, if that doesn’t creep you out too much.

“Oh, lucky me!” Poundstone replies.

“Ready to play?”

“Sure, sure.”

In the late 1940s, what was the leading cause of hay bale fires in the U.S.?

Was it:

A: Farmer couples getting carried away with recreating the Jane Russell hay bale scene in the 1943 western THE OUTLAW? (In which she was famously depicted in a low cut blouse, clutching a revolver.)

B: A drought followed by a spate of heat lightning that ignited hay bales in parts of the Midwest in 1948?

C: A combination of heat, moisture and bacteria that provoked spontaneous combustion in unattended bales of hay.

“Umm...I’m gonna say B.”

“I’m sorry, the answer was A,” I reply, deadpan.

“The answer was the Jane Russell scene!?”

“No, I’m just messing with you,” I confess. “The answer was C.”

She relaxes into laughter, and asks: “Did you ever see the Jane Russell scene in the movie?”

“No, all I’ve ever seen is the movie poster.”

“Yeah, me too. Which doesn’t suggest to me that it was probably a very good movie,” she observes.

Icebraking over with, Artvoice asked her what she felt like talking about.

Paula Poundstone: Onstage I talk about lots of things. I talk about raising a house full of kids and animals. I talk about trying to pay attention to the news well enough to cast a halfway decent vote. I talk about, you know, the slings and arrows of the day, I suppose. I did a lot of Pope-watching over the last few days.

AV: What did you think about the Pope’s visit?

PP: Well, you know what? I thought it was lovely. I’m an atheist. On one level, it saddens me that the Congress needs anyone to come and tell them that we’re supposed to take care of one another, work together, and take care of the Earth, you know? Everyone is like ‘Oh, what a wonderful message!’ Well, yes it’s a wonderful message, but you’re kidding me that they didn’t know that already. Again, it was lovely but we may have set the bar kind of low.

I was watching David Brooks on PBS NEWSHOUR with Shields and Brooks, and he was saying, you know, that the people that went to the Mass—for many people it would change their life, it would be a life-changing moment. And, you know, I’m happy for them. [Laughs] So it’s good, I guess, in that regard. I did a lot of Pope watching on CNN, so part of my takeaway was through that filter. There was one lady there who kept saying ‘He’s an extraordinary Pope, he’s an extraordinary Pope.’ And Wolf Blitzer says—because she covers the Pope on a regular basis—he says ‘You’re a Pope-watcher, tell us what’s so extraordinary about this Pope.’ And she says ‘Well, when he got elected he came out on the balcony and he said: Good Evening.’ That’s how he opened. And for her, that made him extraordinary. And that’s setting the bar a bit low, I think.

AV: How about the Republican Presidential candidates? What do you think of Donald Trump?

PP: I think Donald Trump is very, very funny. [Laughs] He’s certainly found for himself another way to make money. He can tour, you know? I wonder if people—when, he’s not going to be elected President. He’s not appropriate in any way to be President. But I wonder when he’s done, you know, with this, if people would still go to see him talk. Could he still draw crowds?

The other night I was working in Massachusetts, and after the show I usually come out and sign, and meet people, and take pictures with people—it’s kind of nice. There was a guy in the line and he says to me ‘Well, tomorrow I’m going to see Donald Trump.’ And that’s pretty much the antithesis of someone who would come to see me, but he says ‘I would never vote for the guy and I certainly don’t want him to be President, but it’s a moment in history and I just wanted to go and be a part of it.’ And I think that’s what a lot of people are doing. It’s sort of, it’s a curiosity more than anything else.

AV: Kind of like rubber-necking at a car crash?

PP: [Laughs] Exactly. Exactly. But I wonder if he’ll be that interesting to people in that way when it’s all over with and he’s not President—if they’ll still want to know what Donald Trump thinks. I don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe he could tour with Sarah Palin or something. She still gets people to come see her, doesn’t she?

AV: I don’t know. Probably. How about you? Are you doing a number of live dates on this swing through town?

PP: I’m doing Buffalo and Ithaca. But you know, I’m constantly out. And there’s usually not much routing. It’s rare that the two dates are that close together. Usually it’s like, I don’t know, Wisconsin and then in Palm Springs. Generally there’s no relationship between the two places that I go. It’s not a tour that would be on, like the back of a sweatshirt. It’s just more dates and more dates and more dates. And I’m pretty lucky because I love my job, so that’s what I want are more dates and more dates and more dates.

AV: Do you have to tailor your shows to different places?

PP: Not deliberately in any way. I talk to people in the crowd. That’s my favorite part of the night. I do the time honored ‘Where are you from, what do you do for a living?’ And this way there are little biographies of audience members that emerge. And I use that from which to set my sails. So in that way it’s sort of naturally tailored, because people will usually wind up telling me something about the area. Then we get in a conversation that’s somehow local. That happens lots and lots and lots. But do I talk about certain things in one place, or do I not say some things because it might offend them, as opposed to something I would say in another place? No. Besides, all around the country we have a lot of common touchstones.

Poundstone, whose 32-year career began by hopping on a Greyhound bus, traveling across the country and stopping in at open mic nights at comedy clubs along the way, has become one of the great humorists of our time. Don’t miss her at Babeville, where you may become part of her hilarious routine.

For more info, visit

blog comments powered by Disqus