As America's misunderstood lesbian, Paula Poundstone chiseled away an (almost) bankable niche in the national consciousness, deadpanning in bangs and a tie to the delight of game-show and comedy-club audiences alike. Never really funny, but always kind of funny looking in a girl-who-should-have-been-a-guy way, Poundstone's observations on middle-brow meanderings assured her audiences that their lives weren't as boring as they thought. And that's funny, right?
But Paula's furrowed-brow glory days came to a screeching halt when she was discovered to have transported her foster children to the ice cream shop hopped up on a gallon of cheap wine. Allegations ensued regarding inappropriate parenting -- some even of the sexual variety -- and Paula found herself interrupted and "voluntarily" locked in rehab.
Hoo hoooo, that's funny.
Two years later Paula's back, toiling away on the improv scene, and, well, incorporating child abuse into her comedy act. I'm scheduled to talk to her at 6 a.m., which is kind of funny itself.
"You know, I'm sort of confused as to why they made it at this time," she grogs from bed. "I think they got sort of confused, because usually, when it's drive-time radio on the East Coast, then I say, it's OK to make it in the morning. But then I saw that this is a print interview."
A drive-time print interview.
"Wanna reschedule? I might be better when I'm a little more awake."
Unlikely. A few hours and a litany of sweet dreams later, Paula's ready to talk, unfortunately.
"Yeah, well you know, I do some theaters, I do some nightclubs, I've been writing a book for like four years. I've come to refer to it as a real-time autobiography. It's taken me so goddamn long," she doodles. "And, uh, ya'know, I don't know what else. Raising my kids?"
"Is it hard to be funny now?" I quiz, knowing damn well that it's hard to be funny whenever.
"Not particularly, no," she isn't funny. "Unless you're planning in the war, or protesting the war, or bringing food supplies to the people in the war, you may as well just go about their businesses. People come to be entertained and that's that."
No, "that" is amazing. Off to the history of "that" then. "However did you come to this profession, dear?"
"I started when I was 19. I was so lucky. Thank goodness that I never sort of nursed the concept that I could have had some sort of career."
She has no career.
"I used to meet these guys at open-mike nights that would talk about how they had gone to law school to try and not disappoint their parents. Thank God I never thought of anything else."
"God has nothing to do with it. Did you (or God) every have any second thoughts?"
"I used to bus tables for a living; it's not hard to turn your back on that," she drops my drink. "And I must say, I'm really good at it!"
"Bussing tables or (not) being a comedienne?"
"Bussing tables!" she quacks. "I do a little part-time work at a homeless shelter, and I wash dishes. I am good. They've probably never seen someone who washes dishes like me."
And for a moment this sounds oddly sexual: thoughts of licking plates, lifting aprons, noxious girl-smells of wet garbage. Enough visceral disgust, then.
"What exactly is your look?"
"My hair's my hair cuz I can't stop it," she shears. "People usually ask me about the necktie, because I do enjoy wearing the necktie. I just happened to stumble into a store one day, and they had a green tie with cream-colored polka dots on it. I don't know why men complain about ties."
Ties are funny.
"This was sort of pre-, I can't even think, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, something. She made really neat bags."
"Yeah, thank you. Just prior to Nicole Miller springing onto the scene with all these really great fabrics. I dunno," she doesn't know. "I must have gotten in the ground floor of, you know, the entertaining tie! Ha ha! Because, you know, some other stuff that you look at at that airport kiosk that sells ties is pretty deadly."
Yeah. Deadly. Whatever. "So, you've had something of a renaissance lately, thanks to your troubled times. You've been talking about the babies and the booze?"
"I actually have, but you know, that's what you're supposed to do. You know, with everything, you find the part that kinda gets you through. I didn't invent that concept, that's for sure."
You didn't invent anything, dear. "Do you find the media unfair?"
"It's pretty slimy, sure. But I always knew that existed. It doesn't make it any better. People like that stuff. I'd prefer to let my personal misery be played out privately. But I guess it isn't, so that's that."
Oh "that"' again. "Speaking of 'that,' you don't talk about your sexuality? Do you have a sexuality?"
"Heh, heh. I just can't imagine how people have time for that sort of thing. I'm sooo busy," she lies. "And I love to vacuum so much."