Paula Poundstone, a regular to Bay Street Theater, is kicking off the Sag Harbor venue’s 2015 Comedy Club season with a stand-up performance Memorial Day weekend.
This Saturday will be the acclaimed comedian and author’s third consecutive annual appearance at Bay Street.
“The Bay Street Theater’s great, and I get to be in the Roddy McDowell-themed dressing room,” Poundstone says with excitement.
The late Roddy McDowall, known for his many roles in the Planet of the Apes franchise, was a patron of the nonprofit theater. Photos of McDowall grace the walls of the Bay Street green room, and Poundstone gets a kick out of it. “It’s really the only one of its kind in the country that I know of,” Poundstone says from her home in Santa Monica.
In addition to traveling all over the country for stand-up gigs, Poundstone is a regular panelist for Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the Chicago-based news quiz show that’s the most listened to NPR program.
Wherever she is performing, Poundstone stands out with her colorful, bold suits and ties, a style choice that she’s stuck with for a quarter century.
“I think I was on some sort of drugs at the time,” she says of the first occasion a tie caught her eye. “I had laryngitis and I was about to tape a show, and I totally lost my voice. I had to go to an ear nose and throat person and I must have gotten some sort of a shot. Maybe it made the tie look better to me—I don’t know.”
She also considers the time period the heyday of ties. “I happened to stumble onto the accessory of neckties in years when they were really sort of cool and adventurous fabrics,” Poundstone says. “And now when I go into a tie store, I don’t see anything that falls into that category.”
She likes wearing suits because it’s easy. It’s like putting on a uniform; there’s no need to mix and match.
“I had a few made, because you don’t find just what I like on the rack anymore. I like a long jacket to cover up my big butt for one thing. I like big baggy pants.” She quips that she never feels at risk of outgrowing her clothes.
She admits her wardrobe requests are perplexing for tailors. She recalls before one show, “I wanted a jacket the length that Moe often wore them on The Three Stooges. And I’m fairly certain, at least for this wardrobe person, that I’m the only person who ever turned to the Stooges as fashion models.”
Not only does she like to dress like a Stooge, she a fan, “I like silly, silly’s good. They’re giants in the world of silly.”
“Silly” is apropos to describe Poundstone’s act. She aims for the experience to be joyful and fun, and never puts on the same show twice. Between jokes and storytelling she interviews audience members and riffs—in a good-natured way. She’s never mean-spirited, and never tries to embarrass anyone.
“That’s not what the night’s about,” she says. “My goal is for everyone to have a good time. Honestly, my goal is for everyone to—at least once during the evening—fear incontinence. That’s my real goal.”
Most lists of the greatest stand-up comics include Poundstone, and she holds the distinction of being the first solo woman to host the White House Correspondents Dinner. She emceed in 1992, which was President George Bush’s last dinner, and she twice performed for President Bill Clinton during A Gala for the President at Ford’s Theatre.
Poundstone is also an occasional voice actress, and will be in the upcoming Disney Pixar film Inside Out, about the personified emotions and traits inside a girl’s head.
“Me and another guy play the forgetters,” Poundstone explains. “We’re the parts of the brain that do the forgetting, And, honestly, it’s typecasting. My kids thought it was so funny, because my short-term memory is pretty much shot and had been for years.”
Poundstone believes humor, especially in a group setting like a theater, is healing. She calls it, “The happy chemical release of being among other people, and people caught up in waves of laughter,” and that’s what she plans on delivering at Bay Street Theater.
“It’s the most mentally healthy thing that, certainly, one will do all Memorial Day Weekend,” she says.
Paula Poundstone performs Saturday, May 23, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater on the Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Tickets are $69, $79 and $129. Premium tickets include a meet-and-greet with Poundstone. Call 631-725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.
For more with Paula Poundstone, read our rapid-fire 10 Questions bonus round.