Spit Take Saturday: Paula Poundstone

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poundstone-330x330Welcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.” 

Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!

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In February, Paula Poundstone performed for nearly two hours in front of a crowd of 1200 at the Wilbur Theatre for her new album, “I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston.” At 57 minutes, the CD is a good mix of Poundstone’s predilection for crowd work and her quirky personal observations, and hits on a lot of the funnier bits of the evening. There are some less-inspired riffs about labels on food, drugs and personal care products, but Poundstone is much more affecting when she’s drawing from her personal life or just talking to people.


Her relationship with her kids makes up a lot of the material, and it’s some of her best stuff. She has three adopted children, two daughters and a son, and they do not represent the typical American family from a Norman Rockwell painting. Instead they are “proud atheists,” though that sometimes upsets the kids when they don’t get to celebrate cool holidays like Easter. Odd, Poundstone says, because they don’t like to look for anything. If they want the Easter experience, she tells them, “Go find your socks.” Poundstone wonders why atheists get such a bad rap. After all, her people have no mandate to convert anyone. “You’re never going to find me on your doorstep on a Saturday morning,” she promises. “’Just stopped by to tell you there is no word!’”

One of her daughters used to lie about her grades, once changing a D to a D+ on her report card. Poundstone told her to have more pride and showed her how to change that to a B. She also obliquely references her highly-publicized 2001 legal troubles, driving while intoxicated with her kids in the car. “I was court-ordered to AA on television,” she says. “Pretty much blows the hell out of the second ‘A,’ wouldn’t you say?”

Her crowd work has always been unusual—her natural disposition, curious and ever-perplexed, allows Poundstone to aggressively question audience members without ever seeming threatening. And no one does the callback better. She fully integrates five participants into the material without ever losing her flow; granted, that might be easier to do when you happen upon a couple made up of a weaver and a former bookseller. “Did you pay for tickets tonight?” Poundstone asks. “And I thought I was broke.”

As smooth as Poundstone is as a performer, there is an abiding agitation in her outlook, a dissatisfaction with the world and the place she occupies in it. That unease is more evident now than even a few years ago. She’d be happy if the NSA were monitoring her phone calls; it would help to have a trained professional listening in. Her lack of technological prowess goes beyond the normal “I hate Twitter” stuff—she wouldn’t allow her daughter to text on her phone plan because she didn’t know what it was. Material about Pop Tarts and warning labels aside, it’s that undercurrent that makes Poundstone a compelling comedian, now more than ever.

By Nick A. Zaino III

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Boston boasts a long history of producing quality comedy. Check out some upcoming Beantown offerings:

Friday, April 19 I Mass Laughs, The Comedy BuffetNorthampton, Massachusetts  Featuring Hilary Gardner, Jay Are Adams, Tom Attila Lewis, and more!

Saturday, April 27 I Roy ZimmermanBoston, Massachusetts  Original, satirical songs about class warfare, creationism, same-sex marriage, guns, marijuana, abstinence, Republicans (a lot of songs about Republicans), ignorance, war and greed.

Saturday, June 1 I Lenny ClarkeFoxboro, Massachusetts  Comedian and actor famous for his thick Boston accent and role as Uncle Teddy on the series “Rescue Me.” Also appearing: Dave Russo & Sean Sullivan.