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Paula Poundstone Returns To In-person Performance


Humorist, author, and comedian Paula Poundstone returns to in-person performance with a show at Virginia Tech's Moss Arts Center.

All Things Considered host Luke Church spoke with her about her return to performance and how she spent her time during the pandemic lockdown.

How has it been for you during the lockdown?  You are an engaging performer, always having a conversation with your audience. How have coped with not having that interaction?


“Well, I tell you in the beginning I uh first of all I totally miscalculated. I came home the second weekend in March, my jobs were cancelled. And, so I flew home and my manager and agent were calling saying okay we’re moving these dates from March to May, because we had no sense how long this was going to go on. So, my original plan fell apart pretty quickly. But, I thought, well I’ll make these comedy videos to help get people through. Which I did for a pretty long time and then it was like I’m not sure this is going to be enough I started doing a goofy little homemade game show that’s available at my website paulapoundstone.com and YouTube. So I through myself into a variety of online projects and I kept a schedule because that was very important, making sure that I didn’t just sleep all day. But I have eight cats and two big dogs so it’s not possible to sleep all day. In fact, I have worked so hard throughout these 14 months I stunned sometimes. The other thing I thought in the beginning was I’ll read. I think I’ve read one book and I can’t remember that.”


Yeah, everyone thought they would have all the time in the world.


“Well, no, because in fact I haven’t ended up with time. You know, I’ve been out of work, so every little thing I could do to bring in income had some amount of value getting through this period.  And I’m well aware that I remain in the lucky category.

I did very early on apply for work at a couple of grocery stores. Because I thought you know what, a) I can use the money and b) I love people. And I’m a really hard worker and I thought you know, going to the grocery store is one of the most depressing things in the world especially during the pandemic. As we wear out masks and we have these sort of deer eyes of fear over top of our masks, it’s such an unfriendly environment. So, I thought at least I’ll be able to lift people’s spirits while I am making enough money to eat. So, I applied at this one grocery store, the one that I go to all the time.  And I asked the clerk if she could put in a word for me, she was like yeah, yeah, sure.  So, I feel out this online application, which by the way, I don’t do online applications very well. You go to fill it out and you push submit and it makes that doonk sound and it says you didn’t do it right. You didn’t put your name correctly.  Wait a minute, if you already know my name why am I bothering filling it out for heaven’s sake. So, I send off this online application. Honestly, my daughter had to help me with it. When it came to education, they’re like what year did you graduate from high school. Okay, if you want to call it graduating it was 1977. My guess that right away goes into some weird category of their computer. A few days later I go back to the grocery store, and I talk to the manager.  I go yeah, I applied for work, and I was wondering if you got my application. She said yeah, isn’t that too bad we just hired twelve people. And I said, okay, would it be okay if I check back another time. She said yeah sure. 

So maybe the next day I was there grocery shopping. And I’m pushing my grocery cart down the aisle and they’re playing bad music over the PA. And the music stops and the voice says would you like to have a career at the grocery store and it’s encouraging people to apply for work. Oh my god, she just told me they had no more hires.  And then I listened longer, and it said apply for work here, except for you Paula. Then I really understood. So, I applied to couple of places, and nobody wanted me.

Then I decide well, I am going to hunger down and just try to figure a way to generate a little bit of income for as long as I can. And that’s what I’ve been doing.”


Well, you also had your podcast Nobody Listens To Paula Poundstone.


“Let me tell you something about podcasting.  If you’re Mark Maron and you got in when nobody knew what a podcast was then you profit a lot from podcasting. There’s a handful of people that have millions and millions of followers that do profit a lot from podcasting and then there’s the rest of the human race all of whom have podcasts but don’t make money.  We’ve been doing Nobody Listens To Paula Poundstone over two years now.  We just did our maybe 152nd episode. And we have recently gone into profit so that has helped actually. They say if you wanted to make money in the Gold Rush you sell picks and shovels. The thing about podcast is that truly every human being has a podcast. In fact it’s how science now defines mammals si that we have hair, we breathe oxygen, we don’t eat our young, and we have a podcast. And by the way it is really fun to do and I think it has probably been one of the best things for my mental health during the pandemic. Let me just say, and It’s me Paul Poundstone talking I’m not an expert on anything at all, but you know what I firmly believe, mental health is health. And, without it, you’re screwed. That has been a conscious component of what I’ve focused on getting through the pandemic is just keeping myself moving forward. I’ve reached out a lot to other people on Twitter and stuff.  And I realize those are not entirely real connections but frankly it’s been kind of fun.”


And here you are getting back on stage, live performance, several shows scheduled, including the one at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech this Friday. How does it feel knowing you’re going to be before a live audience again?


“I can’t wait. You know the audience is my best friend. There’s a Munchkin feeling to this, you know come out come out, the flowers we’ve been sleeping in are unfolding and we’re coming out and looking around seeing how one another did during this period.  And you’re right, my act is very interactive. Sometimes what I’ve found throughout life is that, you know we walk around with this feeling that we’re the only one sometimes, you know like this happened to me and I don’t want to tell anybody cause I feel so stupid or I feel so embarrassed cause, jeez, that couldn’t have happened to anybody else. And then you say it out loud and people go oh that. I call it recognition laughter. There’s such joy in recognition laughter when you realize oh, I did that, too. Like how many of us overspent at the grocery store during the pandemic because our glasses fogged up with our masks on and we couldn’t even see what we were buying. I’m not the only one, I know I’m not the only one.

The audience really is my best friend which I’m sure every therapist listening right now is going ahh-haa.  But you know what, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”


So anyone coming to see you Friday night should be prepared to answer a question.


“No. You know I do talk to the audience a lot, but first of all, there are no wrong answers. No, I do the time honored where are you from what do you do for a living. Just connecting with people, you know. You get anybody talking for more than a few seconds and their just great. It’ll be nice to talk to real people again.”

***Editor's Note: Radio IQ is a service of Virginia Tech and is a sponsor of Friday night's performance.

Luke has been affiliated with WVTF for many years, with first contact in 1980 on assignment for the Virginia News Network. From the late 80s to the mid 90s he volunteered for Voice of the Blue Ridge and answered phones during fund drives. He was a station stringer reporter in Charlottesville in the early 00s, contributing to Studio Virginia and later working at the station's Water Street studio.