Poundstone returns to the Englert Friday

BY ELLE WIGNALL | JULY 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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What is the key to a successful career in the entertainment business? Standup comedian, author, and NPR panelist Paula Poundstone just may have it figured out.

"I love the fact that I'm in the endorphin-production industry," she told The Daily Iowan. "Standup comedy has to be the greatest job in entire world."

Poundstone is in it for the laughs, she said, as well as the eye contact, the handshakes, and the hugs.

Her career in comedy started in Boston in 1979 at open-mike nights.

"They would introduce you saying, 'This is her first time on stage, just sort of make her feel welcome,' " she said. "The funny thing is after one's first time on stage, you were apparently considered a seasoned veteran. I remember it going very well the first time, and then the second time I remember bombing."

But Poundstone kept at it, creating standup material that allowed her to have flexibility and communication with the audience on stage.

"I have a different relationship with the audience than most comics," she said. "I encourage people to talk to me."

She said her routine isn't a set act, and audience participation is key.

"I just talk to the crowd," she said. "Little biographies of people emerge. A lot of it is just me talking, and there's a virtue of that. People love it when you recognize them."

Iowa City resident Jon Trouten looks forward to his front and center seat for the show on Friday at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St.

"She is somewhat self-depreciating," he said. "I kind of like her style of humor and her approach to the things around her."

Poundstone has performed all over the country, and she enjoys the challenge of a more conservative city.

"If there's a city that has a reputation of being more conservative, there are still, in that city, people who are less conservative, and when I go there and work, they come out," she said. "And usually I have a really great time as a result; it goes really, really well."

Poundstone has previously performed in Iowa City in 2007 and 2009, said Nathan Gould, the Englert marketing associate.

"She has a really unique perspective on the world we live in," Gould said. "It's a really funny perspective on things. It's always funny."

Gould noted that Poundstone has a huge following in Iowa City because of her appearances on NPR's "Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me."

In addition to her standup comedy and radio participation, Poundstone is an author.

"I'm not a writer for a living, so I really sort of have to fit it into the cracks of my life, and honestly, there aren't very many cracks," she said. "My first [book] took nine years. It was just agonizingly slow."

She said she isn't sure what the future holds, but she looks forward to continuing to make people laugh and connect through comedy.

"I get a great return crowd," she said. "What I hear from people is satisfying. They don't feel like they're hearing the same thing over and over again."

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