"I don't have a bank account, because I don't know my mother's maiden name."
Born December 29, 1959 in Huntsville, Alabama and raised in Sudbury, Massachusetts, Paula Poundstone is best known as a stand up comedian and humor writer. Her observational style of comedy falls in line with that of George Carlin
, but her wit is not quite as acidic and filled with less profanity. She shone most brightly in the 1980s.
Poundstone's very dry sense of humor coupled with her liberal minded political convictions make her an acquired taste. Like a rare fine wine with an initial bite but a delicious afterglow. Her wit is simultaneously girl next door
charming and eccectric
, off the beaten path
disarming. She defies categorization. Her chosen style of dress consists of slightly masculine appearing suits with a colorful ladies' touch. Whereas most stand up comedians stood up, she prefers to bring a stool on the stage with her and lean in towards her audience as if she is just as interested in them as she hopes they are of her. Her slouched posture is all part of her charm.
"I hope to someday bend completely over and become an O."
She began performing at Open Mike
nights in Boston comedy club
s when she was a teenager
. She had been at stand up comedy for over a decade, running the circuit of comedy clubs and colleges first regionally and then nationally, before she was seemingly "discovered" overnight in the 1980s. She'd certainly paid her dues. Poundstone has made numerous appearances on The Tonight Show
, The Rosie O'Donnell Show
and others. She's performed in HBO
Comedy Specials including Cats, Cops, and Stuff
, and in 1989 she won an American Comedy Award
in the category of Female Comedy Club Stand-Up Comic. She's won two CableAce Award
s in 1992 and 1993. The latter was for her work on the short-lived ABC program, The Paula Poundstone Show
. She's also received an Emmy
"I'm just amazed that what I got thrown out of class for, I now get paid to do. The same thing could be said by criminals, I suppose."
Paula Poundstone has also written books and was a regular contributor to Mother Jones
from March of 1993 to June of 1998, writing a column called The Poundstone Report. It was around this time that she became known as The Pop-Tart Lady
. Poundstone covered a wide range of topics from politics
. She's also written for Buzz Magazine
, Entertainment Weekly
and the Los Angeles Times
Sunday Calendar. Poundstone has participated in Comic Relief
performance benefits for the homeless
, and has participated in many projects intended to improve children's education and livelihood. She works both on camera and off camera in a wide variety of fund-raisers and benefits in a seemingly endless effort to do her small part to use her talents to make the world a better place. I'm sure there's a shrink
out there who would suggest that Poundstone's diligence in trying to make the world a better place may somehow have to do with something missing in her ability to improve her own self. Not being a shrink, I would not be someone who would suggest such a foolish thing.
"I'll probably never have children because I don't believe in touching people for any reason."
The week of May 19, 2001, Poundstone was accused of commiting a "lewd act upon a child... under the age of fourteen years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, and gratifying the lust, passions, and sexual desires of said defendent and the said child."
Those were the words of the arrest warrant. This began two years of turmoil and personal struggle. Poundstone loved her children, and because of a mistake on her part coupled with confused misunderstandings, she was threatened with the fate of losing her five adopted and foster children, whom she loved dearly. She denied the harshest accusations of course, but ultimately accepted the responsibility of the most obvious issue. Though all formal documentation refers to the children involved as "John Doe
" and "Jane Doe
," it was assumed by the mass media
that the police were referring to Poundstone's own foster and adopted children. She had been driving while intoxicated with her children in the car at the time.
However the accusations themselves, made public by the press
, were enough to make her guilty in the eyes of her audience before a proper trial could be enacted. Ironically, Poundstone was cut down by the very kind of antiquated, illogical thinking among the public that she had sought with her talent throughout her career to discourage.
On June 27th, the Los Angeles District Attorney
filed a formal complaint against her. Overall she was initially accused of three counts of lascivous behavior with a minor, and one act of child abuse. What started as a reckless joy ride
became a blown out of proportion nightmare. Poundstone was arrested in June of 2001 and released from Santa Monica
jail on $200,000.00 bail
. She pleaded no contest to felony endangerment and misdemeanor charges.
In August of 2001, Jay Leno
said to the press in her defense, "I am baffled by this... She takes in kids that are physically and emotionally challenged, the ones others won't take, and gives them a place to live." In late September of 2002, Judge Bernard Kamins, who presided over her case applauded her and said in open court, "By golly, you've been a real trooper … done everything I’ve asked." He allowed Poundstone monitored visitation of her adopted children for the duration of her probationary period, and insisted she participate actively in her own drug rehabilitation, which she did to his satisfaction.
Poundstone's motivation was clear: she had a sincere and steadfast determination to get her children back. The District Attorney dropped the lewd act charges, which could not be proven in court. In October of 2002, Poundstone was sentenced to five years' probation and six months of drug treatment. Her lawyer, Rich Pfeiffer, challenged the court's jurisdiction in child custody matters when compared to blatant attempts on the part of the prosecutors to stall the proceedings. This angered the judge and threatened to make it impossible for Poundstone to ever retrieve her children at all, so her lawyer withdrew the appeal. Poundstone struggled through the legal gauntlet and continued abiding by the terms of her probation and drug abuse rehabilitation. Her Alcoholics Anonymous
meetings were lessened, and the judge did not require any more progress hearings. Having completed her six months of work in an alcohol rehabilitation facility, she has also favorably responded to psychological counseling, a child abuse treatment program, 200 hours of community service
and a $1,000 fine, plus penalty assessments.
In late January of 2003 her lawyer reported to the press that the judge was relaxing the terms in response to Poundstone's good behavior. She has been granted full custody of her three adopted children, who were taken away from her in connection with her arrest, but she lost custody of her two foster children.
"They say that the wages of sin is death. But after taxes it's just a tired feeling really."
Now in her forties, the ending of Poundstone's life is far from over, so the rest of this node is yet to be written
. She's proven a steadfast belief that it is possible for one person to make a difference. She's proven that laughter can be the best medicine
. She's proven that she can see weakness within her self and make bold and daring efforts to change for the better. It has been an uphill battle, from that teenager in Boston bringing laughter to whomever would dare to listen, to the woman she is now. Her family comes first, but she still regularly makes public appearances
and continues to entertain audiences whenever she can. We have not heard the last of her, and here's hoping that when this node does get finished, it will be, for her and those she loves, a happy ending