Music & Nightlife

Paula Poundstone is ‘hilariously funny friend you never knew you had’

Comedian Paula Poundstone will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Knight Theater.
Comedian Paula Poundstone will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Knight Theater. Personal Publicity

Paula Poundstone can’t wait to talk to you.

You may know her as a panelist on NPR’s show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” or as the purple blob in charge of forgetting a child’s old memories in Pixar’s latest film, “Inside Out.” But she doesn’t know you.

The comedian with more than 30 years of stand-up experience will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Knight Theater. In a phone interview with the Observer, Poundstone said her favorite part of stand-up is talking with the audience: “Little biographies emerge, and I use that from which to set my sails.”

Generally, comedians aren’t supposed to laugh at their own jokes. But when Poundstone has a funny, improvised exchange with an audience member, she can’t help but chuckle. “If I’m talking with an audience member, sometimes I think of stuff that everyone else thought of, too,” she said. “I just so happened to say it, you know, because I have the microphone and it’s my turn. But part of what makes it so funny is that we all kind of thought of it around about the same time.”

Laughter forms a camaraderie between Poundstone and her audience. “One night, a thousand years ago in San Francisco ... I couldn’t stop laughing when I was onstage, and eventually that sort of became the joke to the audience. They almost had to carry me off.” It was a sound that sparked her laughing attack – the clunk of a rubber trashcan onstage reminded her of dumping her plate after lunch in elementary school.

I don’t like anything better than doing stand-up. It’s the thing that I’ve done the longest and it’s great. Just me and the audience.

Paula Poundstone

Laughing is important – Poundstone is adamant. “You know, it does such great things for the brain,” she said. “I’m sure I’m an addict driven by chemical releases in my brain, no doubt. I’m driven by the joy of laughter and being in a room full of laughter.”

Poundstone considers nothing off limits, but there are topics she won’t mine for jokes. “I think anything could be funny,” she said. “It’s not like I’m a coward if I think there’s something that needs to be said, you know, sort of brought to light in a comedic way.”

Peter Sagal, Poundstone’s colleague and host of NPR’s “Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me!” said Poundstone is unlike any comedian he knows because she doesn’t exactly tell jokes. “She just tells stories about her life ... it’s like listening to a wonderful, hilariously funny friend you never knew you had.”

Maybe she’ll tell you how excited she was to learn a new term: cake toppers. There are miniature cake decorations of her character from Pixar’s new movie. Surprisingly, the purple blob resembles her. “After I recorded, they added the sticky-outy hair and the baseball cap because that’s how I look in regular life.... They may even have widened the eggplant shape of the character,” she said.

Maybe she’ll tell you what she’s reading: “I read mostly nonfiction because I read really slow and I figure... in my lifetime I don’t really have that many more books that I can read.”

Whatever she tells you, she’ll be expecting you to tell her something, too. Sagal confirms Poundstone never lets an audience get away with being passive, and her shows often go long because of it. “Be ready,” Sagal said. “She herself once called her own shows ‘hostage situations.’ Bring supplies.”

Capwell: 704-358-6194; Twitter: @jessicacapwell


Paula Poundstone

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.

TICKETS: $19.50-$54.50.

DETAILS: 704-372-1000;