Social media give comic Poundstone a boost

Comedian Paula Poundstone’s material has always been autobiographical.

But, as her life changed over the years, so did the influences on her writing. While she still tells jokes today about some of the same topics she did 20 years ago, the viewpoint is slightly different.

Take her joke about baby-free airline flights.

"I hated being on flights where there were babies," Poundstone says. "I used to do this joke, if you had smoking and nonsmoking flights, you should be able to have babies and no-babies flights."

Then she adopted four children and became the punch line of her own joke.

"I think my kids were always good (on flights) but there’s no such thing as a good flier, it really depends more on what time of day you’re traveling with your kids," Poundstone says. "I think we were colossally annoying to people even without crying."

Poundstone, who has been on the comedy circuit since 1979, is scheduled to perform at the Orleans showroom, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave., Saturday and Sunday . Las Vegas has become a frequent stop for the comic who has built a long-lasting career on her wry, observational humor.

When she’s not on the road, Poundstone, who lives in Malibu, Calif., takes care of her children and her 16 cats. For the past 10 years, she has been a panelist on the NPR quiz show "Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!" Compared to her other celebrity panelists, she doesn’t win very often.

"The others cheat," she says, joking. "It’s awfully fun to do. It has to be for me to lose so often."

Her win/loss record has nothing to do with preparation or lack of knowledge; she can usually answer the other guy’s questions, Poundstone says. But when it comes to her turn, "for some odd reason, I go totally blank."

To be fair, some of the questions she’s asked are a bit esoteric. Recently she had to name a disorder discovered by German researchers: Witzelsucht, a supposed brain disease that makes people tell bad jokes.

"They asked me that as if I was supposed to know it," Poundstone says, sounding dismayed.

She prepares for the quiz show by brushing up on current events; Twitter keeps her informed about obscure topics.

"I follow thousands of people and I scroll through it a lot," Poundstone says. "It’s not that I take someone’s 140 character word for it but Twitter is often how I get turned on to something going on in the world."

The micro-blogging site has become a major resource and tool for the comedian since she first signed on. She was even in the running for a Twitter shorty award in humor, an honor that would have rewarded her entire body of work on Twitter.

"Ever since I discovered it, I’m rather driven by it," Poundstone says. "I pride myself on sort of generating material to keep my show fresh. And yet, having said that, I’ve never been the sort of person who can sit down and write jokes. Because of the Twitter thing, I sort of force myself."

The close bond that social media allows entertainers to form with fans often can backfire, too, as Poundstone learned the hard way.

Once, she tweeted a joke about vacuuming up her cat. It caused an uproar from some people who thought Poundstone was really going to vacuum up her cat. She had to make a YouTube video demonstrating that the cat was too big for the vacuum hose.

"Sometimes, it’s scary to be on the same planet with everybody else," she says.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@review journal.com or 702-380-4564.

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