As soon as comedian Paula Poundstone picks up the call, there’s a crackling energy on the other end of the line. She imparts a hearty, genuine greeting before launching into a conversation about masks that quickly leads her to wonder if it might be kind for society to start an “Awkward Chin Support Group” now that we’re all feeling so exposed. It’s easy to see how this woman has been charming her fans and relating to live audiences for 40 years. (I also begin to wonder if I should be self-conscious about my chin.)
Poundstone’s upcoming Aug. 21 comedy show at Key West Theater couldn’t arrive at a better moment — for our community, and for the artist herself. Over the course of the past 16 months, Poundstone has been working in a vacuum, creating her special brand of comedic content, which typically leans heavily into audience feedback. “My brain is a little like a Roomba,” says Poundstone, discussing how she would bounce around the rooms of her house, trying to pick up little bits of humor from household items. She was having a hard time and knew her fans were as well. “COVID was a slap in the face with the cold fish of reality,” she said. “I felt I was on a mission to help people get through it.”
Her response was to create “Rx Laughter,” an online comedy series that hit all the right notes in addressing both the emotional and the absurd sides of isolation.
More than anything, though, Poundstone is eager to return to performing for live audiences. “It’s a joyous experience to be back,” she said. “I had a friend who had a hugging party once we were all vaccinated. It all feels like we’re Munchkins — (breaks into song) Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
For Poundstone, the return to live shows also means new material. Every audience is different and Poundstone is known for meeting each at its own level, creating an unpredictable show every time.
“Unpredictable” may, in fact, be the best descriptor available for Poundstone, a woman who has spent four decades on stage, published two memoirs, was a panelist on NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and served as the first female host of the White House Correspondents Dinner. And still, she manages to devise new outlets for her comedic creativity. Recently she voiced a character in Pixar’s film, “Inside Out,” and penned a rap song. Yes, a rap song. It’s about social justice … and Butterfingers candy bars.
We do know, however, that her next move will bring Poundstone back to our little island for an August show. Eager to return to paradise for a few days, she’s undaunted by the brutal summer steam. “I like to go places when people really need me, when they need something fun on the calendar.” Of course, the Key lime pie is also a strong draw. “I love it,” she says adamantly, “but only with graham cracker crust. There’s a great restaurant in LA that gets close, but the crust is all wrong. I’ve considered picketing.”