Celebrated comedian and author Paula Poundstone will entertain audience members at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center on Sunday, August 19, at 8 pm. Tickets can be purchased on the M.V. Concert Series website and range in price from $58 to $68. Poundstone has long been a beloved staple of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!,” and her podcast, “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone,” launched just last month. After releasing her second book in 2017, “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness,” Poundstone is currently in the midst of a national tour. She recently corresponded with The Times by email to discuss her upcoming performance, Twitter, and the appeal of the podcasting format.
I know you performed at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown in 2016. Did you have a chance to enjoy the Island during that visit, or any subsequent visits?
I’m sorry to say, I didn’t. I rarely get time to go out, even in the towns that I perform in.
What can fans expect from your upcoming performance at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center?
I talk about raising a house full of animals and kids. I talk about trying to keep up with the news well enough to cast a halfway decent vote. My favorite part of the night is talking to the audience. I do the time-honored, “Where are you from? What do you do for a living?” In this way, little biographies of audience members emerge, and I use them from which to set my sails. Therefore, for the most part, I don’t know what we’ll talk about.
You recently ventured into the world of podcasting with “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone.” How are you liking the process so far, and what motivated you to take your comedy to this new format?
Among the few things that all human beings have in common is that we breathe oxygen, don’t eat our young, and we have a podcast. Part of the fun of the podcast is that you can make your own rules. You put up your own walls, instead of trying to wedge yourself into someone else’s house.
I love saying stuff that I think is funny. I love making people laugh. It’s simple as that. My co-podcaster, Adam Felber, and I get a kick out of working off of one another. Our guests are people knowledgeable on different topics. If you don’t find the show hysterically funny, at least you go away with some real information on a subject that likely will touch your life. I hope people do laugh, though. It’s the best thing for you. I consider myself a proud member of the endorphin production industry.
Are there any guests that you’re particularly excited about?
“Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone” has only been up and running for a few weeks. We’ve talked to an expert on feral cats, an audiologist, a sports psychologist, an auto mechanic, an applied psychologist, a grammarian, and a pest-control guy. I’m hoping to talk to an expert on penis piercing, to ask the obvious question, “Why?”
The podcast as well as your 2017 book, “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness,” both seem to explore the question of how a person ought to live. What about this topic do you find inspiring from a comedy perspective?
I’m pretty certain that no one has said it better than Dr. Seuss, when he wrote, in “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Everything is fodder for laughs. In “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness” I performed authentic experiments — doing things that either I or someone else believed would make me happy. I was genuinely seeking answers, and I also knew that the experiments themselves would be great playgrounds for humor. I think what surprised me, as the writer, and many of my readers, was how many years it took to complete, and the range of issues that became tangled up in such a seemingly simple idea.
You’re an active Twitter user, and many public figures have expressed that it’s difficult to manage the negative elements of the platform, like trolling and harassment –– Is that an issue in your experience? If so, how do you manage it?
I don’t generally engage in arguments with Twitter followers. Fortunately, only occasionally do people tweet mean stuff to me. I generally ignore it, or just block them right away. I’m lucky. I have the best fans in the business. I enjoy the immediacy of posting jokes on Twitter right when I think of them. It is to my brain what storm drains are to the streets.
Poundstone concluded our conversation saying, “I’m looking forward to telling my little jokes in Martha’s Vineyard. I had a great time the last time, and this time, I’m planning on being much funnier.” There’s no doubt she’ll have audience members howling when she takes the stage next Sunday, August 19, at 8 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center.