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Paula Poundstone, hilarious as ever in 2024

I sat down and reunited with comedian and longtime friend, Paula Poundstone.

Paula Poundstone is known for her smart, observational humor and a spontaneous wit that has become the stuff of legend. Time magazine, in the March 2020 “Best of” issue, listed Paula’s HBO special, Cats, Cops and Stuff as one of The 5 Funniest Stand-Up Specials Ever. Paula can be heard weekly as the host of the comedy podcast, Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone and as a regular panelist on NPR’s comedy news quiz, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

Also an author, Poundstone’s second book, The Totally Unscientific Study Of The Search For Human Happiness (Algonquin 2017) was one of eight semi-finalists for The Thurber Prize for American Humor, the highest recognition of the art of humor writing in the United States. The audiobook was one of five finalists for the Audio Book of the Year AUDIE award.

Paula was the first female comic, in its then 73rd year, to perform at the White House Correspondents dinner. She was the first female standup, in its then 5th year, to win the ACE award for Best Comedy Special on Cable television. She is recognized in innumerable lists, documentaries and literary compendiums noting influential standup comedians of our time.

Check out our previous interviews with Paula Poundstone

Connect with Paula Poundstone

Connect with Comedian Jimmy Tingle

Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:06
Hey everybody, this is Jimmy. Welcome to another episode of our show. The best thing for me doing this show is I get to be reacquainted with friends, and fellow comics and people I’ve worked with over the years and meet a lot of new folks as well. Well, today, we’re being reacquainted with my buddy, Paula Poundstone. This is her third time on the Jimmy tingle show. I’m thrilled to have everybody knows that everybody loves her. She has an awesome podcast. That’s the name of witches. Nobody listens to Paula Poundstone. But I am here to verify that that is not true. That is not true. You can get it at Paula It’s one of the funniest two hours you’ll ever spend listening to her and her friends bento, especially her crack manager and co host Barney Barney is amazing. And Bonnie has her own segment about how to do management. I have to listen to that one by Paula. But first of all, please welcome Paula Poundstone to the show. Hey, Paula.

Paula Poundstone 1:00
Hey, Tingle, how are you?

Jimmy Tingle 1:02
Great. Great to see you again. Thanks again for making time for us. Nice to

Paula Poundstone 1:06
see you. You know, I wanted to tell you Okay, all right. So listeners during the stay at home order, Jimmy tingle kindly invited me to do some, like, you know, zoom, you know, online shows with them. We were all scrambling to figure out what to do. And we did them with a Barney Frank. And Barney, B, being an older gentleman, I think is part of the reason his husband would do the tech stuff for him. And you know, I mean, most people are familiar with stuff like zoom now as a result of the stay at home order. But keep in mind, none of us had any idea how to do that back then. And Bernie did not make himself responsible for knowing how to do stuff like that. He just passed it off to his husband. And you what room was he sitting in? Was it his office, I think

Jimmy Tingle 2:05
was a hallway, I think it was at the hall into his office.

Paula Poundstone 2:11
So okay, and I don’t know if you all remember, like, this is something that comics know a lot about now, which is struggling with your background. You know what, right? But again, Bernie didn’t struggle with his background. Bernie didn’t care at all about his background, and an end, he also did that thing where and again, a lot of people still do this, which is they still don’t make the camera level with their head. And so you were just looking at Barney Frank’s nose while he was recording. And finally tingles said to him one day after we finished taping, he said Barney, Barney, you got to get rid of that suitcase behind you. So I want you to know that I can’t remember when that was last summer, maybe?

Jimmy Tingle 2:57
No, it was 20 I think what No, no,

Paula Poundstone 3:02
no, maybe last summer I was working in Maine. And, and Barney came to see me. And I hung out with him for a little while after the show. And he said, I want you to know, I move the suitcase was very proud of so excellent.

Jimmy Tingle 3:23
That was a Those were fun shows. Paula one thing about being on. I mean, the pandemic, the only bright side of it was we got to do a lot of shows get reacquainted with a lot of people. And you and I and Barney did a bunch of fundraisers in 2020. Do you remember? Yeah, it was it

Paula Poundstone 3:41
was really fun. Oh, yeah. I, I remember, I remember when I used to see, okay. In the beginning, when as a performer when the whole idea of doing like zoom shows first surfaced. And it’s not an easy trick. But I did back then go to the trouble of slapping on some lipstick, maybe fixing my hair, and at least putting on a shirt and tie. Regardless of what I had, you know, maybe with shorts didn’t matter because you were but now as you can see, I don’t even go to that much trouble. It was just like, Yeah, this is the this is the really this is how I usually that’s good. You know, for me, for me a mirror isn’t to fix my hair. It’s to accept

Jimmy Tingle 4:32
except it with love. Yeah,

Paula Poundstone 4:34
yeah. To just, you know, the truth is if another performer had the same, you know, like, if I don’t know what Billy L is sure, you know, or Lady Gaga or somebody, you know, somebody else wore the clothes that I did, then everybody would want to if if Taylor Swift took on my look, then everyone would be after it. It’s only not good because I have it

Jimmy Tingle 4:58
right. Well, you know what? What are the highlight of that? First of all 2020 election was great doing those fundraisers and, and helping the team with that and with Barney, but the but the Barry Crimmins the Dinho 40th reunion was a blast when we had, oh my gosh, 2027 or 28 comics all over 60 years old. Many of them nude is known for the first week, you know, first week or two in and that was a blast that was a tribute to Barry Crimmins. 40th anniversary for the ding hole and fundraiser for his wife, Helen, who was was ill at the time. And but that was a brand

Paula Poundstone 5:41
seen. I hadn’t seen any of those guys in, you know, at least 30 year. Yeah. And yeah, that really was yeah, we’ve learned a lot. I’m not usually okay. I was, like when you do is show like a zoom show or something. And they go like, Oh, and we’ll have the chat open for the audience. I would say that people will Why would you do that? Because what that means is they’re no longer listening to the show, because they’re busy typing. That’s just a stupid idea. That’s like giving old people candy just before they go into the theater. Just don’t do it up. But I have to confess that because there were so many of us. I did take to the chat at a certain point that night and and I was I was delighting myself mostly with her with a running commentary. On the whole. On the

Jimmy Tingle 6:33
whole I saw some of the commentary, and they were they were dragging me over the coals Paula, can you believe it? They were dragging young Jim tingle over the coals. It always says some funny comments in it. But that was great. We had Steven Wright and Bobby Goldthwaite Paula Poundstone. Dennis Leary, Lenny Clark, who else do we have? We had like 25 Tony V. Mike McDonald. It was just a blast to see everybody and get and be re reacquainted again,

Paula Poundstone 7:02
we with with a guy who’s make the cocktails behind the pie. I have. I have a theory about Massachusetts, which is where I’m from. I’m from Sudbury, Massachusetts. But I was raised by Southerners. And the thing about the thing about a New England accent is it’s a little bit like a tornado. It hits some houses and it doesn’t hit others. And there’s really no explanation for why that is. But I do. You know, like I We had neighbors that had a kid named Mark. And the mom, you know, because back then people just stuck their head out the front door and yelled for your kid. Right? So you know, Mrs. Pharaoh would stick her head out the door and go Mack and I’ve just long header. I feel that if you can’t pronounce a name, you shouldn’t be able to name your kid that is that too much government intrusion. I don’t know. Mac

Jimmy Tingle 8:04
hilarious. And, you know, we’re so used to it. We don’t even I mean, I’m sure growing up saying Oh, that sounded normal. But then you move away and you go someplace else. And everybody goes, Man, you got a thick accent? Oh, yeah. It’s just you know, and then you when you come back, you really hear it and you really notice it on people.

Paula Poundstone 8:23
don’t notice it at all. What’s up wasn’t Ben Affleck stern condotta commercials. So I knew Ben years ago, when he didn’t have that thicker Boston accent then what did he bring it back just for the Dunkin donut commercials? Like definitely. Yeah. Those are funny commercials. I have to say

Jimmy Tingle 8:40
the funny one. The best though. I think is the My cousin from wasn’t my cousin from Boston. Have you seen the Sam Adams commercials? Yeah, my cousin Boston. Hilarious.

Paula Poundstone 8:51
Yes. Okay. Remember when there was like the trend in television and movies to have the story set in Boston. And so you would have things like Sean Penn doing a Boston accent? Which is just not. Yeah. Yeah. Then again, this might be too much government intrusion. But there’s got to be a law just shouldn’t shouldn’t be done. Yeah. Well, and probably this, we’ll see what Yeah,

Jimmy Tingle 9:25
but there’s so many. There’s so much talented. You don’t have to go out and get somebody. There’s lots of actors here. They can do the accent properly and don’t have to embellish it. They can just do it. Yeah, I know that. I know that. Definitely. Affleck was embellishing it and all those guys, but that was a great commercial. Yeah,

Paula Poundstone 9:42
yeah. No, they’re very funny. I keep and by the way, I have Dunkin Donuts. Okay, this is like so I live in Santa Monica, California and I have for, I don’t know 30 Something years now. And you know it’s town It’s a small city in southern California, we’ve, we’ve experienced things before here. They actually had the nerve to open up a Dunkin Donuts and when we are in California, there’s a windshields donuts. It’s fine. I mean, it’s not Dunkin Donuts, but it’s a donut place. It’s fine. And what’s the other one Krispy Kreme? No, no, it’s fine. But they opened up a Dunkin Donuts. And here’s the embarrassing part. When it opened, television news crews went to the opening. And there were lines around the block. I mean, that’s just embarrassed. Me know. It’s like we joke around the block. It’s like Santa Monica ins had never tasted a doughnut before. It was, you know, it was as if, you know, an alien capsule had, you know, been driven through the pavement on Wilshire Boulevard? Yeah, it was very embarrassing. You have Starbucks? We do. We have. We have Starbucks. We have we, you know, we have cars and lightbulbs. We have all sorts of modern things. I have no idea why they reacted that way to it. But I refuse to go to that Dunkin Donuts, I feel you have to go to the ones in, in Boston and anything outside of that. Just you’d be you’d be 1000 pounds for heaven’s sakes. Right. You know, because if it’s a if it’s a treat that I have when I’m in Boston, well, all well and good. But if I but between the I go on vacation every summer in Manchester, Massachusetts for a week, between Logan Airport and Manchester, Massachusetts, which I don’t know how many miles that is as the crow flies, but I don’t know. It’s maybe a 45 minute drive, right? There are 12 Dunkin Donuts. Yeah, just and that’s not and if I were to go off, you know, a little bit like if I had to, you know, say there police blocked you know, part of 128 and I had to get off of it, there will probably be more Dunkin Donuts just off the ramp somewhere that I’m not familiar with. But the ones that I can see with my eyes from the road, going from Logan Airport to to Manchester, Massachusetts. 12. Yeah, see, if Jesus had been born now. And there was no room at the end. There’d be no problem. He could go to Dunkin.

Jimmy Tingle 12:40
So Paula, I have to ask you have you guys did you do a revamp of the website? Probably website looks. It looks all spiffed up. It looks new to me. Oh,

Paula Poundstone 12:51
no. Your contact lenses? Sure. Yeah, they have a new kind of contact? I don’t know, maybe.

Jimmy Tingle 13:00
Great. Lot of stuff up there.

Paula Poundstone 13:03
Well, thank you. It tell yourself it’s all going to make such a big difference. You know, I’ll tell you. We have in the course. My manager, Bonnie Burns, who you know, you know, she probably drinks too much coffee. And she just gets these ideas that she’s driven by. And she’ll come up with like, you know, I don’t know, something like, you know, if we had a website for the podcast, that could make all the difference. And you know, it doesn’t bus, we always end up hiring these tech. You know, what do you call them? Like, kind of, you know, internet? techie people, designers? Yes, exactly. And I’ll tell you what they’re good at, is telling you how great it would be to have them. Yeah, exactly. What once they’re up and running. Oh, boy, they’re there. You know what a lot of the drugs that get done in this country are being done by those guys. We’ve, we’ve had guys that just disappeared after we paid them. I don’t know it just that alone just seems like such a. You know, so if there’s people out there. If you have any listeners, and I’m sure, I’m sure you don’t have listeners that fall into this category, but if you have any listeners that are feeling kind of desperate, and we’re thinking of maybe knock on overbank don’t do that. Just become one of those web designer guys. You’ll be fine.

Jimmy Tingle 14:29
Yeah, they’re doing well. Paula, I love the I love the website. All your dates are up there, but the big date that we want to plug and we want everybody to know about it and tell all your friends in New York city, town hall, town hall, April 19. Paula Poundstone live Town Hall. And I tell you friends in New York because I mean, if you haven’t seen Paula live, I mean, she’s wonderful. And wait, wait, don’t tell me she’s awesome on the podcast. She’s great. Just been During like this, but when you see your life I mean, it’s it’s pretty amazing Paula and I know you got talent, you got tons of material, but you also do a lot of stuff with the audience in the moment that that night will you be doing that a town hall can’t

Paula Poundstone 15:15
help it? Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 15:18
All right. It’s

Paula Poundstone 15:20
the fun part. I remember when when you and I started out at the dining hall in in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Inman square, you know, the, especially on like, an open mic night, you know, you used to this was I started in 79. In fact, they hadn’t even started having open mic nights. Yet, in 79, they had a handful of comics that were the comics. And if, you know, if you, if you had, the way the Boston shows ran was different than the rest of the country, the way, the way they were, in the shows in the rest of the country was there was an emcee. And that was the lowest guy on the totem pole. And there was a middle act, who did maybe, you know, 30 minutes. And then there was a headliner that did like I don’t know 45 And, and the so the headliners name was, you know, in in more impressive size, chalk letters on the on the sandwich board, bigger magic Maka letters, right, exactly, was in the block font. And, but in Boston, when they started out, when the two guys who started the comedy connection there, they did, I guess, an advertisement in the paper to get, you know, people to come and say that they were comics. I mean, I don’t know who decides that you are, yeah, it’s sort of a strange process. But nobody had more than a couple of minutes of material, really, nobody had more than five minutes of, of, of material. So they would do shows that have what, like five, six guys. And and the emcee was sort of the star of the night, because they went on so many times in between the performers. Okay, the point being that the lineup was big, and the time on stage was small. So when I would do shows, because I decided I was coming, when I would do shows, you know, there were all these other people waiting to go on. And I would be told how many minutes and I would memorize my set, five minutes if I was going to do my five minutes. And you know, during the day, I was bussing tables for a living. And if you looked closely, you could see that my lips were moving because I was memorizing my five minutes, I would go over it and over and over. And then I would get on stage and get so nervous that I would forget everything that I meant to do. And now I would be forced to say you know, it talk to somebody in the audience. And and that’s sort of how that whole thing began. Not that I’m the first person who’s ever talked to anybody in the audience. I’m not but I Were You did it out of desperation. I did do it out of desperation. Yes, you could see the the clammy, the sweat coming down my face and the pale. be grabbing for a soda to restore myself. And at first, I felt like this was a really bad thing to do. Like, you know, this was some Mark, I used to tell myself that it was unprofessional, which is kind of funny looking back, because at what point did I become a professional? I’m not sure that I was. But at some point, when I was reflecting on how things were going over time, and this happened over and over again. And then by the way, all the other comics waiting to get on, because now I didn’t know what five minutes was. Because I didn’t know where I was in. Even if I could remember some of what I meant to say, Well, I have no idea how much time had already passed. So I could I could hear the knives sharpening in the back of the other comics that were gonna disemboweled me when I came offstage. And so often, I went really long because I was hiding on stage to protect myself from the angry comics. But anyways, that’s sort of how their opinion and then when I was sort of reflecting on, you know, how things were going, it dawned on me one day because I kept telling myself not to do that. And it dawned on me one day that that was really where the heart of the whole thing was that that usually just the conversations that you have not nothing terribly deep, I do the time honored, where are you from? What do you do for a living? And in this way, little biographies of audience members emerge and I use that from which to check my sales. Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 19:49
So and Paula, you develop a lot of material that way, talking to them off the top of your head, right?

Paula Poundstone 19:56
Yeah, although I have to say you I had these managers years ago before I had the great bony burns. I had, I had these managers, and we all okay, do you remember tingle that we all carried around our tape recorders? Yeah. Because the idea was, you’re gonna tape your set, because you’re gonna learn so much from it. Yeah, well, first of all, you know, I just, I never, I could not stand listening to myself, for one thing, I usually if I pushed the play button to listen to myself, and it was sort of like dusting, you know, you really had to, you really had to get it up and threaten yourself to even make yourself do the task of listening. But I would listen to the tape. And, and I would fall asleep like that. Just because I so hate listening to myself. Like, all the while the wiring, my brain would just shut off. Every time I tried, I would fall asleep again, I’m like, Okay, this is not so productive.

Jimmy Tingle 20:57
Um, most people can’t stand it, then. But the

Paula Poundstone 21:00
idea was that you are going to learn, you’re going to learn your mistakes. And you’re going to discover, like the stuff that you said, you know, in an impromptu fashion, you’d write it down, and then you’d repeat it some other time. It’s never worked for me. I bet somehow, when I would try to take something that I had done one night, in a just in conversation with somebody, and then I would try to wedge it in. It just never worked. So I gave up on that. Instead, I just have confidence that if I talk to anybody for a few minutes, and first of all, you find out they’re mad as a hatter. And second of all, you know, stuff, just stuff just flows, it’s just a matter of keeping them, you know, of keeping the system running more than clogging it up by trying to remember. And in terms of learning by see, you know, by noticing what I do wrong, guess what? I’m real familiar with what I do wrong. I don’t really need a tutorial and how badly I suck. I’m good with them. What? Okay, did you used to carry the tape recorder around?

Jimmy Tingle 22:09
I did. But I never listened to it either. I just went by memory of like, what worked. And if something really worked? Well, I always remember that. And I didn’t do a lot of ad lib. And I didn’t do a lot of talking to the audience. So I kind of always tried to create sets, I did practice all the time. And I tried to create the sets and I would listen to it, but not religiously. Like right now. Most of the younger comments, I see they’re all taping this on the phone. I think it’s very helpful. I mean, personally, I know it’s helpful to weed out words, especially when you’re trying to get a five minute bid, you know, for TV or something, you know, to weed out extra words and things and it is helpful, but I just didn’t do it in the formative years.

Paula Poundstone 22:56
Okay, so it was like a regular thing that we did, we’d have our, we’d have our notebook with us, we’d have, we’d have our, you know, back in the in the day. Excuse me, it was a Walkman like like, cassette player. Yeah. Walkman. And, and, you know, it’s sort of look around for where to put it before you went on. I might have told you the story before. But so, one night, at the Improv in Hollywood, there was a, just as you came through the door into the showroom, there was like a big stack of electronic equipment, you know, the sound is stuff. And there was like a, it was encased in a wooden shelf thing. And we were forever being told not to put our stuff up there. But everybody put their stuff up there. And so, Jimmy broken and I were standing. And we were also always being told not to stand just inside the doorway, because it blocked people. But we were standing just inside the doorway, and we’re watching a comic on stage. And, and, yeah, you know, I like to think that I’m not always like this. But on that particular night, I guess I was a little critical of the performer on stage. I forget. I don’t remember who it was. I’m sure by now they’re the executive producer of you know, Abbott elementary or something. But yeah, I’m watching this guy on stage and I felt he was a bit of a hack and I, I said something to that effect, I’m sure to my friend Jimmy Brogan and Jimmy Brogan being a nicest guy in the world, by the way would never say anything bad about anybody. I always felt like the Wicked Witch when I stood near Jimmy Brogan because the contrast was so severe. You know, I think I said like, ah, you know, it’s kind of generic with that guy’s doing or, you know, guys kind of a hack or whatever I said in progress notices that this guy’s tape recorder is on top of the equipment that we’re leaning right over Yeah, and you can see the red button on that says it’s recording. And now oh my gosh, shit totally busted, right? Because I would never tell that person that I said that. And so we’re trying to figure out what to do. So we pick up the tape recorder, and we push stop, and we rewind and push play. Another thing that we used to really enjoy doing was taking somebody’s notebook while they were onstage. Because usually all of us, we carried these notebooks, and we would write if you had an idea for something, like you might write just one or two words, you know, to explain what it was like, it might just write like, you know, I don’t know, like slippers, or golden sneakers set left, right, right, right, just just enough, you know, like, the performer knew what it meant, but nobody else knew what it meant, right? So we all delighted and opening one another’s notebooks, and writing down words in it. So that when the guy came back and looked at his notebook, he’d be like, What the hell was that thing that I did? You know, I often just wrote nipples. That’s why there was a big flood of middle X for years doing nipple jokes, because I kept writing that into their books. Right.

Jimmy Tingle 26:18
So Paula, I want to ask you, we’ve got a couple of minutes left, you’re touring all over the place, people can get the podcast at Paula He just started a Patreon page, which is great. All kinds of you got all kinds of videos up there merchandise, the website looks like it’s been upgraded. Since we talked before. You said, By the way, yeah, well, you

Paula Poundstone 26:44
know, the Patreon thing, which is a way that people can support, you know, a performer or in our case, it’s our website. We give additional content, we, you know, we do we record longer, and we do stuff for the Patreon participants, or contributors, however you want to say it. But the word, you know, Beethoven used to have patrons that, you know, gave to the arts and supported him. And he lived in their house. And then well, in the night in the evening, he would come play music for them. And my my point is that if you’re just paying like seven bucks a month for you to be supportive, by by joining our patreon for nobody listens to Paula Poundstone. Or to get that additional content, you know, just like longer shows, and, and some what do we call them? We have like chat room nights and stuff like that, and other things to come. But if you’re just doing that for like seven bucks a month, that is so much easier and better for you than having us come live in your house. That’s all I’m saying. You’re getting off easy.

Jimmy Tingle 28:02
That’s right. The migrants need that space in your house. Yes, there’s no room. There’s no room

Paula Poundstone 28:06
for Paula. It’s a deal. It’s an absolute deal. Paula, great to

Jimmy Tingle 28:11
see you again. Thanks so much for joining us, folks. Again, this is very important. April 19. Town Hall, New York City, Manhattan. It doesn’t get bigger, a better than Town Hall. And Paula Poundstone. certainly deserves to be there. Is this your first time there?

Paula Poundstone 28:28
Oh, no. I’ve been there a couple of times. But it’s been a long time. Us. Yeah. I am not sure that my fantasy of taking New York by storm is really playing out the way I thought of.

Jimmy Tingle 28:40
But listen, how many does it hold town hall? I

Paula Poundstone 28:43
don’t know. But fewer than live there. Yeah. Percentage

Jimmy Tingle 28:47
open anyway, isn’t it percentage wise?

Paula Poundstone 28:50
I’m not asking a lot. Right. I, you know, I? I would just like them to open up the balcony. That’s all I’m asking. Right.

Jimmy Tingle 28:59
Right. Well, hopefully, ideally, Kathy and I will be down there to see you. Because we love you. And we thank you so much for doing the show. And all the great work that you’re doing. Oh, listen, this as the campaign season heats up. Let’s get together and do some more. Some more fundraisers.

Paula Poundstone 29:15
I love that. Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 29:16
How’s that sound?

Paula Poundstone 29:18
Yeah, that sounds great. Frank.

Jimmy Tingle 29:20
He moved the suitcase. He’s ready. He is. He’s got a drum set.

Paula Poundstone 29:24
It’s got. It’s got about a ballet bar in there. It’s a whole performance space now.

Jimmy Tingle 29:31
All right, follow up. Good to see you. Paula, everybody. Thanks, Paula.

Paula Poundstone 29:36
Take care of Tingle. I love you. Love you back. Bye bye.

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