Standup comedian Paula Poundstone is a postive thinker.
While working on a chapter in her newest book, “The Totally Unscientific Study for the Search of Human Happiness,” published last year, Poundstone wrote positive self-talk phrases she found on the Internet on pieces of poster board and put them all over her house.
Phrases such as “I choose joy” and “Today has limitless possibilities,” including some she penned herself, “I can handle whatever crap happens” and “I thought it was going to be a lot worse” adorned the walls throughout her home in Santa Monica. She then recorded a short virtual tour of the phrases placed in rooms at the house and posted the video on her website.
“The lengthier story of using positive self talk is in the book, and the book’s always better than the movie,” Poundstone laughs.
“My homegrown phrases were probably not as effective,” she says. “None of them were effective is the honest truth. Most of my dread seems to be totally justified by the end of the day.”
The problem is Poundstone can’t fool herself. When she takes stock of her life, she finds many good things to say about it.
“For example, how lucky I am to get to tour the country and tell my little jokes,” she says. “It’s the greatest job in the entire world, and I get to do it. I love doing it. I consider myself a proud member of the endorphine-production industry. And I get the benefit of the endorphines as well as the audience in front of me.
“I think there’s something to saying ‘You know, I got it really good’ that’s different than saying ‘I can stay strong under pressure.’ I can get behind the truth of the idea that I am an unbelievably lucky person to get to do my job. And I get to have all these goddamn cats I have to clean up after, and three kids that I get to raise. These are very lucky things.”
American Comedy Award-winning comedian Poundstone will take a turn at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets are $27, $30 or $33 and can be purchased at craterian.org, at the box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., or by calling 541-779-3000. The show will contain adult language and themes.
Poundstone has been a regular celebrity for 17 years on “Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!” the hour-long weekly news-based radio panel show produced by WBEZ and National Public Radio in Chicago.
“Talk about lucky,” she says. “I really am lucky to get to do that show. I’m on the show at least once or twice a month. It’s a fun show to do, a joyous free-for-all. I’ve enjoyed it from the first day I was on.”
Back at that time, Poundstone says, the show didn’t have a live audience. It was taped at different studios. The celebrities weren’t even in the same room together. Then another station sponsored the show on stage in front of a live audience.
“I think after you’ve tasted that drink, there’s no going back. It’s the elixir of life,” Poundstone says.
The show quickly found a home in an auditorium in downtown Chicago.
It’s in the basement auditorium of a bank,” Poundstone says. “You can easily picture some sort of dividend speech being given by a bank executive. The room doesn’t have a lot of ambience, but it seats a few hundred people.”
The show’s celebrities wear headsets in case there’s anything a director wants to say to them during a show.
“For the most part they don’t,” Poundstone says. “But on my first day, they kept telling me to ‘Jump in, jump in, anytime. Say whatever you want! I have to say that is rare in show business. Most people who are in charge like to have an iron grip on what’s being said. Even reality TV is scripted. It’s just scripted really badly.
“This show is a wonderful and unscripted thing. I think of something, and I say it. One of the joys is that somebody else will tag on a line, but no one is keeping score.”
Poundstone met writer and performer Adam Felber on “Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!” Along with appearances on the show, Felber worked for a decade as a writer on “Real Time with Bill Maher.” He’s also written for TV, movies, stage, and even a six-book miniseries for Marvel Comics.
“He’s my partner in my new podcast, ‘Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone.’ It’s the highlight of my week. We have such genuine fun,” Poundstone says.
“Just finding Adam as a friend and fellow performer has added so much to my life. When I started my ‘Live From the Poundstone Institute’ podcast, Adam joined in somewhere in the practice shows. It worked out so well, we didn’t want to stop.”
Without any backing and on a shoestring budget, Poundstone and Felber tape the podcasts in a “truly uninhabitable neighborhood in North Hollywood.”
“There are mattresses on the street, and I’ve seen drug deals right in front,” Poundstone says. “It’s a scary neighborhood. We have someone to walk the show’s guests in and out. I feel it adds to the show. There’s a certain dramatic tension. We’re always on edge, and that keeps us alive mentally.”
The podcast is a comedy field guide to life, offering advice on IKEA assembly instructions, how to keep friends, how to translate a Verizon bill, or even what to do in an encounter with a bear. It’s available at maximumfun.org.
The podcast has never settled on a theme song, and uses new songs sent in weekly by various musicians.
“So long as they keep sending them, we’ll keep listening to them,” Poundstone says. “It’s been so fun listening to musicians try to rhyme something with Poundstone.”