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Paula Poundstone returns to Santa Cruz (unless she wakes up in Portland)

Comedian Paula Poundstone Hangs Out at the Rio Theater this Saturday
Shannon Greer
Comedian Paula Poundstone hangs out at the Rio Theater this Saturday

Paula Poundstone is a comedian and occasional panelist on "Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me," which you can hear weekends on KAZU. She’s performing at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz this Saturday.

KAZU's Dylan Music recently talked to Poundstone, who began by describing a traveling mishap ahead of one of her recent performances at the Rio.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Paula Poundstone: One time I was flying there or flying near there, I don't know, I was going to Oakland or San Jose or somewhere to get driven there, and it was a Southwest flight, and I fell asleep on the flight, and I woke up in Portland.

Dylan Music: Wow. That's a ways away.

PP: Yeah, I got off there, and so I ended up being, like, I don't know, was I an hour and a half late or something like that for the show? But I was able to communicate with the theater, let them know what happened. And so they went out on stage, told the audience, "she fell asleep, but she'll be here in like, an hour and a half or something." And the majority of the crowd went out, got some coffee, came back. I don't think that would have been the response, in any [other] place. I think that was a very Santa Cruz response.

But, you know, every show that I do is different because of the way that I work. For one thing, I'm always working on new stuff. I'm always folding in new stuff for another thing. I've been doing this for 45 years, and so somewhere in my head, I have 45 years of material rattling around. I always tell people I think my brain is sort of like one of those arcade games where you step into a glass booth and they blow paper money around, and whatever you catch, you can keep it.

But the other thing is, my favorite part of the night is just talking to the audience. I do the time-honored "Where are you from? What do you do for a living?" And little biographies emerge of audience members. And I use that to set my sails. So the truth is, I obviously don't know who I'm going to talk to, and therefore I don't know what direction the conversation is going to take.

DM: We carry a lot of NPR programs — one of them, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." So among our audience, you are beloved wait for being a panelist. How many years have you worked on "Wait, Wait"?

PP: I think it's 23 (years). I still consider myself new because I wasn't in the original group that started there. It's really, really fun to do. I'm very, very lucky to get to do it. People often ask me if we're having as much fun as it sounds like we're having. And the answer is yes.

DM: You're a voice also in a popular, recent animated cartoon. I think there's a sequel coming out. Can you tell us anything about that?

PP: Yeah, I haven't seen the sequel yet. I think it just came out. I was in "Inside Out," the first one, and I play a part of the brain [because the majority of the story takes place in the brain], I play a part of the brain that does the forgetting. Which, by the way, is right up my alley. I was fortunate enough to be in "Inside Out 1." And now again, I was in "Inside Out 2." You know, if you blink, you miss it. So, you've got to really stay attentive. It was really fun to do.

And, as I say, I haven't seen the second one yet, but I think that the first "Inside Out" film was absolutely brilliant. It presents the idea of emotional well-being and the whole concept of mental health to kids. Adults need help with that, too…but for kids to have some understanding of that part of how their bodies and brains work is a great idea. And it was done with contributions from professionals. It's not made up. It's actual science, modified to be something that a kid could take in. It's a great idea and very, very funny.

Comedian Paula Poundstone performs at the Rio Theater this Saturday at 8 p.m. sharp — if she doesn’t fall asleep on the plane again.

You can also hear Poundstone from time-to-time as a panelist on NPR’s "Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me," weekends here on KAZU, and you can catch Paula’s voice in the new animated feature "Inside Out 2," coming to theaters this Friday.

The Rio Theater is one of KAZU's many business underwriters.