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Poundstone and the PTA


Courtesy of Paula Poundstone


Comedian Paula Poundstone was an East Bay regular during the comedy boom of the late 1980s, headlining Fubar’s in Pleasant Hill and the Punchline in Walnut Creek. Those venues are long gone, and Poundstone moved on to classier engagements: headlining theater shows and appearing as a political correspondent for Jay Leno. Poundstone made news in 2001 when she was arrested for driving children around while drunk—for which she was court-ordered on television to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. (“That pretty much blows the hell out of the second A,” she says.) These days, Poundstone drinks Diet Pepsi—and this month, she will perform a parent-teacher association benefit show in Benicia.

You’ve worked as a quiz-show panelist (NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!), a columnist for a political magazine (Mother Jones), a stand-up comic, and a waitress in a pancake house. Which job was your favorite?
I was a gifted table-busser. I was really good—better than a person should be. I found out years later that I had obsessive-compulsive disorder, which, it turns out, is the perfect disorder for a table-busser. When I quit, they had to hire two people to do what I would do.

In addition to last year’s bestseller, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, you recently published several math workbooks for students.
It started when my kids would get stuck on word problems and would try to get me to figure the problems out for them. I would rewrite the problems and personalize them, and make them kind of funny. It got to the point where my kids would ask me for another problem. So I called my high school math teacher, whom I keep in touch with, and she wrote some problems. I added the stories—and an educational publisher in New Hampshire agreed to publish them.

Why are you doing a benefit for the Benicia High School parent-teacher group?
I think communication between parents and teachers is really challenging—they are very busy people. I’m very involved in my kids’ educations and try to keep an especially close eye on my 16-year-old daughter, because she gives evasive, Alberto Gonzalez–type answers to everything unless you pin her down.

Poundstone performs at Haley Horn Auditorium on October 13, $30; (707) 771-0140, www.reddragonflyproductions.com.   

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