It doesn’t take much but let tell you about someone my whole family finds hilarious: Paula Poundstone.
Jesse has adored her for decades and my kids have loved her comedy since they were tiny. We all love Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me and have listened to numerous episodes of her podcasts Live from the Poundstone Institute and later, Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone.
In 2018, three of my kids and I were on a literary tour in Waukegan, Illinois; the birthplace of Ray Bradbury. We had just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes so we went to the town that Bradbury said inspired some of his writing.
We walked quite a bit that day and ended up downtown. Fern, then nine years old, saw a gigantic poster in a storefront and asked me to take a picture of her standing in front of it.
Mind you, Fern has never asked to have her picture taken before or since. Another thing about Fern is she rarely asks for anything but that day she asked for tickets to see Poundstone’s show. The late night show wouldn’t have been appropriate for Fern, but we were able to do something that was.
Over spring break, Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me offered Wait, Wait, Jr. at the Athenaeum in Chicago. It was the news quiz show, but the guests were all kids. We had tickets way up in the balcony but could still see and hear her and the rest of the Wait Wait talent. It was a blast. The audience was filled with NPR nerd-kids and their parents. It was so much fun. We all laughed and clapped like idiots.
Some months later, I read Poundstone’s book “The Totally Unscientific Search for Happiness.” Then I learned that she was performing her stand-up in Crystal Lake’s Raue Center for the Arts. I had tickets through my old radio job and was helping my work friend Alex do some WNIJ outreach in the lobby. As we set up our table, I told Alex I brought my road recorder with me just in case I could interview her. He disappeared for a few minutes, came back and told me he cleared it with the house manager and I was able to very quickly interview her before her performance. Swoon!
She spoke about her stand-up process and the challenges of writing. She had the room laughing and I nearly fainted from the joy of it all. You can listen to it here:
After I interviewed her, it was showtime. I rushed to my seat and proceeded to laugh (again like an idiot) for the next hour. My only sadness was that Jesse and the kids were in Chicago and couldn’t be there.
Paula Poundstone is weird and smart and direct and present and kind. And funny. We should all be so lucky. And much like our Ray Bradbury trip, we often seek Poundstone’s work expecting one thing but always end up get something completely different and totally valuable.
Thanks for reading. Who makes you laugh? -Connie