Paula Poundstone’s comedy originates mostly from her home life: raising three adopted children on her own while cleaning waste from 16 cats and two dogs.
When she is not performing her stand-up act Poundstone usually spends her evenings helping her children with homework.
She also takes three trips to the grocery store per week because she forgot to buy something. Or she drives back and forth to a sporting goods store because her son’s feet grew overnight and don’t fit in the shoes she bought him.
Although she uses her family as the subject of her jokes, she believes her teenage children do not find her funny.
“I think I’m probably just as embarrassing as most parents,” Poundstone said. “Because that’s what parents do to teenage children.”
Poundstone became famous for her stand-up routines in the late 1980s and was a political correspondent for “The Tonight Show” during the 1992 presidential campaign and for “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” in 1996.
She said this year’s presidential election was funny only during the Republican primary election.
“You had all those colorful characters,” she said. “Watching the Republican field was like watching a tumble dryer. It was like watching each one having a few minutes when they were on top and then they were knocked off by some jeans and a T-shirt.”
Poundstone’s career was shaken by a 2001 arrest for driving her children while drunk. She lost custody of them temporarily and spent time in rehabilitation for alcoholism.
She can be heard nowadays on NPR’s weekly news panel game show “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!” She holds the show’s record for not answering a single right question. She said she is too busy doing her house chores to follow the news sometimes. She spends a lot of time cleaning up after her cats.
“It’s like I’m a very unprofitable farmer,” Poundstone said. “Taking care of them is a huge project. Plus, it’s disgusting.”
She got her first cat from the owner of a club where she used to perform in Virginia. The cat lived 19 years. In the meantime, she acquired others. She has a webcam on her website -- www.paulapoundstone.com --where viewers can see them eating.
Whether her jokes are about her children, politics or cats, Poundstone said her shows are improvised and even include asking the audience questions.
“It’s just how we have conversations,” she said. “I think it’s a matter of becoming comfortable enough and setting an atmosphere where that’s likely to happen. Start with a group of people who want to laugh and already that is a pretty wonderful circumstance.”