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Poundstone speaks her mind, on or off stage

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
<> at The Ice House Comedy Club on July 12, 2012 in Pasadena, California.

Paula Poundstone could possibly be one of the best stage names in the history of standup — right up there with Rodney Dangerfield or Groucho Marx.

In addition to great alliteration, Paula Poundstone conjures up images of a quick-witted, improvisational comedian.

When she is onstage, you get the distinct feeling that you might just be having this same conversation with her in Aisle 3 of your local supermarket. From the very first minutes of her show, there is no doubt the audience is in the hands of a master.

Poundstone brings her likable self to Pittsburgh to perform at the Carnegie Music Hall, Munhall, on Friday. We caught up via email when she answered some of my nagging questions.

Question: You have a new CD coming out April 1. What is your creative process and how do you find all that material?

Answer: My act is largely autobiographical. I have a house full of animals and kids, and I'm hanging on by a thread to understanding any of the news. It is just plain fun to laugh at stuff. My favorite thing to do is think of funny things as I go along and tell them to the crowd. I think of stuff and I try it out. My desk is covered in piles of bills and little papers with phrases like “God is busy with Justin Beiber's career,” “replaceable nipples” and “fondue pots” that I use to remind myself of bits.

The best part of the night, however, is always just talking to the crowd, which is never scripted in any way.

Q: What's next for Paula Poundstone?

A: I'm working on a book, unbelievably slowly. I work the road almost every weekend, and I am lucky enough to be on a terrific radio news-quiz show called “Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me” on NPR. I hope someday to go door to door and just tell my little jokes in person to people as they do their daily errands.

Q: Tell us about those crazy ties.

A: I might have 30 or so ties. I don't know how to tie a tie, by the way. I get a bellman, a guy in the front row, or a co-worker (Carl Kastel, Garrison Keillor) to tie my tie for me, and then I leave the knot in until I spill something on it and have to dry-clean it. My Nicole Miller tie has a snack-food theme. It has a pattern of Cracker Jacks, Oreos, Screaming Yellow Zonkers, and Tic-Tacs. It's quite glamorous.

Q: What caused you to be so passionate about libraries?

A: Libraries are important parts of our communities. They have people in them. They have magazines, newspaper, story time, DVDs, CDs, books on tape, some have lecture series, and some have book clubs. They have computers. They have librarians who can help you access all of those resources, and they have my favorite parts — books. What's not to love?

Q: What would your advice be to a woman who thinks she has the goods to be a stand-up comedian?

A: The best advice I can give to anyone on any subject is: Don't listen to my advice.

Q: Who are your comedy influences?

A: I stole my parent's 11 Bill Cosby albums when I moved away from home. I memorized a (George) Carlin album or two when I was in junior high. I spent many days, during my junior high career, speaking only in the voice of Lily Tomlin characters. Robin Williams reignited audience's interest in the form of stand-up comedy, so he influences most of my brethren. I love The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Bob and Ray, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, and, of course, I love Lucy. I love to laugh.

Pittsburgh comedian Matt Wohlfarth is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

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