Standup comic Paula Poundstone brings laughs to Santa Rosa

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If You Go

Who: Paula Poundstone

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $29-$45

Information: 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

Paula Poundstone — comedian, author and perennial panelist on the National Public Radio news quiz show “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me” — loves her work.

“I have the best job ever. If people only did what they loved, a lot of stuff wouldn’t get done, but I am really lucky,” she said by phone from her Santa Monica home.

Among other reasons, she loves her career because she’s basically her own boss: “One good thing: No suits. I don’t have to explain myself to corporate.”

The veteran comic, 59, estimates she plays 90 tour dates a year, including her upcoming performance Saturday, May 18, at Santa Rosa’s Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.

“In a couple of months, it’ll be 40 years that I’ve been touring,” she said. “That’s quite a stretch. That’s a long run. No wonder I feel tired. My goal in life is to outlive my debt, but I do love what I do.”

Spending at least a fourth of her time on the road hasn’t slowed her down much. In addition to live performances, radio work and her “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone” podcast series, Poundstone has written two books that combine her monolgue style with memoirs — “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness,” published in 2017, and “There Is Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say” from 2006.

“I’m trying now to write a novel,” Poundstone said. “I have no skills for that and no time, so that has gotten in my way. I’m writing it in sections.”

The downside to performing on tour, of course, is the travel itself.

“I rarely drive myself because the major part of my time would be spent with me being lost,” she said. “If it didn’t take so long, I love trains, but nobody helps you with your luggage, and I carry about 150 pounds with me everywhere I go. Last time I took the train, my suitcases were one 16th of an inch wider than the aisle and I got stuck with a line of people behind me. No one felt the need to offer any assistance or do anything other than look annoyed.”

So Poundstone has spent a lot of time in airports, particularly during the severe storms in the Eastern U.S. earlier this year.

“The planes were delayed at Boston Logan Airport. I got there on Sunday and didn’t get out until Tuesday. There were no cots, no offer of amenities, nothing in the terminal open after hours,” she said.

But none of that will keep her from taking planes to performance dates all over the country. “I’m more at home at Los Angeles airport than I am in my car.”

The trip to Santa Rosa should be an easy one for Poundstone, who has history in Northern California. Born in Alabama, Poundstone started doing stand-up comedy at open-mic nights in Boston in 1979. In the early 1980s, she traveled across the United States, performing at open-mic nights at comedy clubs along the way.

She ended up in San Francisco, where she won fans for her improvisational sets at Holy City Zoo and The Other Cafe comedy club in the Haight-Ashbury. In 1984, Robin Williams saw her act and urged her to move to Los Angeles.

If You Go

Who: Paula Poundstone

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $29-$45

Information: 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

Poundstone has performed for the past 17 years on NPR’s “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me,” which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

“It’s so much fun to do, because it’s like being in a batting cage and you’re lobbed topics. You swing and you miss, and once in a while you get a hit,” she said.

If a question stumps her on the show, she has long had three stock answers ready: (1) “Syria,” (2) “Iraq” and (3) “Lemurs down his pants.”

And now there’s a fourth. “I still have the same three, but I added new one: ‘Trump.’”

The raucous, sometimes hostile nature of current public discourse these days can be a sore spot, even for an experienced comic like Poundstone.

“I was a scrappy little kid, the youngest in my family,” she explained. “I was easily provoked. The one thing that could make me cry and run home was when someone said, ‘I’m rubber and you’re glue.’ That means insults bounce off and stick to the other person.”

That’s her analogy for the nature of current political debate in the United States, a bewildering era from her point of view.

“I’m not sure we’re not in some giant Marvel Universe movie right now,” she concluded.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

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