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YPR speaks with Paula Pounstone

Paula Poundstone speaks with YPR in advance of her Montana performance
Orlinda Worthington
Paula Poundstone speaks with YPR in advance of her Montana performance

YPR visits with Poundstone ahead of her Bozeman performance about why she likes playing for Montana audiences, her favorite part of the Ellen Theater and her worm farm.

Paula Poundstone is known to YPR listeners as a panelist on the Saturday morning game show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell me.”
She’s known nationwide as a longtime standup comedian.
Yellowstone Public Radio’s Orlinda Worthington visited with Poundstone on Zoom ahead of her Bozeman performance this weekend, about why she likes playing for Montana audiences, her favorite part of the Ellen Theater and her worm farm.

My name is Orlinda.

Paula Poundstone: So nice to meet you.

The first time I saw you live was actually in Billings many years ago. And I still remember a line. I think your kids were little at the time and you were having trouble getting them to go to sleep. And you said, do you ever remember not wanting to take a nap?  And I started hosting Morning Edition last year and it's very early and now I need a nap and that line came to me. I thought, I know what Paula Poundstone was talking about now. I mentioned that for a couple of reasons. Obviously you played Montana many times and do you ever think, oh gee, I've got to change my whole set because I've been here before. People will remember this. Or is that even a concern?

Paula Poundstone

Paula Poundstone: It really isn't anymore because. First of all, no two nights are ever entirely the same. Uh, because my favorite part of my show is just talking to the audience. I talked to individuals. I do the time honored. Where are you from? What do you do for a living?  And in this way, little biographies emerge, and I use that from which to set my sails. So partly because of the fact that I do these conversations with individual audience members that often sort of kick me off in a particular direction. The other reason no shows are the same is because I sort of I'm continually folding things in.

You know, I always have ideas for this or that, and it gets sort of folded in, so, uh, you know, so a few months later, there's probably a good deal of stuff that's different, uh, from the first time that somebody saw me. Very, very rarely, I do two shows in a row in the same place. And to my delight, occasionally people will come up to me after the show and say that they came to both shows and my first question to them is, did I do a lot of the same stuff? I don't know if they're just being polite, but generally speaking, they're like, no, it was a whole different thing. Well, there's some stuff that people like you to do again. They, because they remember it and they liked it or because they brought a friend and they've tried to tell that friend that joke before, but they can't.

And so sometimes there's that, um, there are nights where I'll do a set that I feel like it's very relevant. You know, it's got a lot of, uh, it articulates the struggle that we're in right now as a country, uh, very well, but comedically. And I'll feel like, boy, that just, you know, that's, and someone will come up to me and go, you didn't talk about your cats. There is a certain amount of repetition that I think people like.

That is the same night after night because I just couldn't memorize it.

Plus, you'd probably get bored.

Paula Poundstone: I would definitely get bored. I would always have like a look on my face like really struggling to remember my memory is just not my strength.

What is it you like about playing in Montana?

Paula Poundstone: I've worked the Ellen many, many times. I love it there for a bunch of reasons. One being just the, well, it has a great audience. That's the number one reason. Um, very fun to talk to. But also, you know, that building is so cool. Like there's a slide, uh, like a wooden slide in the, in the dressing room.

The train used to come through and they would use like big hooks to lift the trunk of the, for, you know, with the costumes of the performers. And they'd just drop it onto that slide, and it would, it'd slide down into the dressing room. They also, when they first got in there, they found behind a, like behind a wall, bunch of old playbills.

And among those old playbills, there was one that was from a show that Vivian Vance had been in. Vivian Vance's Ethel. Yeah, from Lucy, yeah. Yeah, I'm not an aficionado of the Vivian Vance story, but I, I do remember reading somewhere that she had You know, run away to be an actress as a young girl and I just picture that being one of the places that, you know, she performs probably came in on the train. Probably they dropped that trunk down there. I love that.

Do you know about the ghosts at the Ellen? Have they told you about that?

Paula Poundstone: Probably, you know most theaters believe that they have ghosts. In fact, one of my favorite things, you know, when the show is over, it's got a little bit of that, the party's over feel to it, you know, but at the end, whenever, when the audience is cleared out, most theaters put a single solitary stand on stage, but on top of it, there's a light bulb. It's called the ghost light. And I'm not sure what it's supposed to do. I'm assuming that ghosts can see in the dark, but that's just a guess. So, I don't know if it's to ward off ghosts, comfort the ghosts, or make it so that they can see carefully without bumping into stuff. My favorite part of the night is looking at the ghost light.

Are there things that Montana audiences will laugh at or not laugh at versus, say an audience in Chicago?

Paula Poundstone: I think that A, we have more in common than we have differences. No matter where you are in the country. B, we're all exposed to the same media. It's not like any place in the country is so remote that they're not familiar with an idea that you would share in it. I think that in recent years, divisions are far more ideological than they are geographical. And so, I may go to a place that is notoriously red, but in fact, the people that I'm playing to, uh, aren't. And so we have the best time. A lot of times people can't even share with their neighbors their political affiliation because temperatures are running so hot right now. But they can certainly come to a show and laugh at stuff.

You know, you've been interviewed zillions of times. Same old questions. Any question nobody's asked you or anything you want to answer that you haven't had a chance to right here on YPR?

Paula Poundstone: I'll tell you something. Very few people talk to me about my worm farm. I do have a worm farm.

Yeah, and what breed of worms would those be?

Paula Poundstone: Uh, they're red wrigglers. And people can write to me at Paula, and for 4 dollars a pound plus shipping, I'm happy to send, uh, worm waste. Some people I guess would sell the worms. I'm selling the, the worm waste.

The worm waste.  It's a good fertilizer?

Paula Poundstone: Yeah. Yeah. I feed my worms. vegetable and fruit. So, I just love the idea that, you know, I'm not throwing stuff away and I'm not putting it down and despite it, it makes me feel one with the earth or certainly one with the worms.

Paula Poundstone. It has been so much fun speaking with you. Thank you for taking your time to visit with us at Yellowstone Public Radio.

Paula Poundstone: Thank you. Can't wait to come to Montana.

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.