Paula Poundstone offers a unique perspective on technology and data science.
Thirty-two years ago, Paula Poundstone climbed on a Greyhound bus and traveled across the country—stopping in at open mic nights at comedy clubs as she went. Today, she is one of our country’s foremost humorists. You can hear her through your laughter as a regular panelist on NPR’s #1 show, Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me, a rascal of a weekly news quiz show. Paula lent her unique voice to Disney Pixar’s critically acclaimed movie Inside Out, and she tours regularly, performing standup comedy across the country, causing the Boston Globe’s Bob Zany to write, “Poundstone can regale an audience for several hours with her distinctive brand of wry, intelligent and witty comedy.” Audience members may put it a little less elegantly: “I peed my pants.”
Paula’s ability to be spontaneous with a crowd is the stuff of legend, although her interchanges with the audience are never mean or done at a person’s expense. She even manages to handle politics without provoking the pall of disapproval less artful comics receive. Paula says, “No two shows I do are the same. It’s not that I don’t repeat material. I do. My shows, when they’re good, and I like to think they often are, are like a cocktail party. When you first get there, you talk about how badly you got lost and how hard it was to find parking. Then you tell a story about your kids or what you just saw on the news. You meet some new people and ask them about themselves. Then, someone says, “Tell that story you used to tell,” and then someone on the other side of the room spills a drink, and you mock them. No one ever applauds me when I leave a party, though. I think they high five.”
Paula excels off-stage too. She’s filed commentary on CBS Sunday Morning and editorial pieces for NPR’s All Things Considered. She’s recorded two albums, I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston and I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine. An accomplished writer, with national magazine articles as well as a back-page column for Mother Jones magazine for several years, Paula published her first hardcover book, There is Nothing In This Book That I Meant To Say, with a forward by Mary Tyler Moore, in November, 2006. She is an avid reader and since 2008 has been the American Library Association’s national spokesperson for United for Libraries, a grass-roots organization of volunteers who work to raise much-needed funds to support their local libraries.
It has been said of Paula that she not only shot through the glass ceiling, but never even acknowledged it was there. She was never one to stereotype herself as a “female comedian” or limit herself to comedy from a “female” point of view. Over the span of her career, Paula has amassed a list of awards and accolades that include the first woman to win the cable ACE Award for Best Standup Comedy Special (1992) and the first woman to perform standup at the White House Correspondents Dinner (1993). She has starred in her own comedy specials on HBO and Bravo. In fact, HBO’s Paula Poundstone Goes to Harvard was the only time the elite university has allowed its name to be used in the title of a television show. If it means anything to anyone, Paula is recognized as one of Comedy Central’s 100 greatest stand-ups of all time. She also won an American Comedy Award for Best Female Standup Comic, and in 2010, she was one of a select group voted into the Comedy Hall of Fame.