Q & A: Paula Poundstone

By: Lindsay Tucker

Looking for something to do this Saturday? If you’re a fan of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, NPR’s “oddly informative news quiz” show, head to the Wilbur Theatre at 7 p.m. to see regular panelist Paula Poundstone unleash her standup act. Boston Daily caught up with the Mass. native to get her dish on the city, Charlie Sheen, and the petting zoo she calls her home.

After growing up in Sudbury and living in Boston for so long, what’s it like coming back to the East Coast?

I can’t wait to go to Boston! When I take my [tour] dates I just mindlessly write them in my calendar without thinking about it. So I looked at my calendar last week and I realized I’m going to Boston. I had no idea, even though I wrote it down. I’m thrilled!

Do you have any favorite local spots you’ll be visiting while you’re in town?

Well I don’t know how much time I’m going to have, but I can tell you this: Newbury Street Pizza. One time I was connecting through Boston and I had a layover, and I actually took a cab from the airport to Newbury Street Pizza just to get a cheesesteak.

You’re a regular on NPR’s Wait…Wait…Don’t Tell Mewhat can you tell us about being on the show?

It’s so much fun. I always say that I deserve a college credit just for sitting with those guys, ’cause they’re very, very brilliant. As one of three panelists [I] have no script. We do know, of course, that the questions are based on the week’s news. If somebody were clever enough I supposed they could think of jokes about it ahead of time. I know I don’t, and as far as I know no one does. It’s sort of like being a batter in a batting cage. We get lobbed these topics, and sometimes I just watch it go by me, and other times I get a piece of it.

A good portion of last week’s show was spent joking about Charlie Sheen. What’s your take on Sheen’s very public…well…masochism?

I’m glad I wasn’t there, to be honest. I feel bad for the guy. He was very nice to me once. I got no stones to throw. I Twitter, and the other day I said, “Gee, the tragedy in Japan has caused CNN to disrupt their Charlie Sheen coverage.” And then I put, “Until the end of the hour.” And a couple people wrote to me, “It’s too soon!” And I wrote back, “No, no, no. The joke is about CNN.” The idea that this falls into anyone’s news category is just absurd.

NPR has also come under fire lately, particularly from conservatives who don’t want to pay for it. Are you worried about the future of NPR or public service in general?

Yeah I am, actually. And I’m going to increase my own personal contributions to my public radio station and to public television. But the thing that’s really of concern to me is that we need good journalists. It’s impossible for anything to be totally unbiased, but I think [public radio] probably comes closer to it than most sources. And we need that. I think the loss will weaken us in more ways than we know.

Does having a household which is comparable to a small zoo help with your comedy act?

Well, I’ve got three kids, and all these animals, and I live in the year 2011. I always feel that I don’t so much write as I take notes. My favorite thing about my bearded dragon is that his life is limited because he lives in a tank and he’s by himself. But when he puffs up his beards it’s a sexual thing. He’s spent much of his life bonking his face into his reflection on the tank because he thinks it’s another lizard. And he puffs up his beard. And I think, here’s a guy who looks at himself and becomes excited. I admire the self-confidence. I go to see myself naked in the mirror and I get a little bit nauseated.

So he might be a little bit of a narcissist.

Yeah, but I think it’s in a good way. I see it as inner strength.

$25$45, Saturday, 7 p.m., The Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St., Boston, 617-248-9700, thewilburtheatre.com; buy tickets here.