Paula Poundstone (born December 29, 1959) is an American stand-up comedian.

Early life

Poundstone was born in Huntsville, Alabama, and her family moved to Sudbury, Massachusetts. Poundstone attended Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, but dropped out to pursue a show business career. Her jobs have included busing tables and working as a bicycle messenger.


Paula Poundstone started doing stand-up comedy at open-mic nights in Boston in 1979. She characteristically performs dressed in a suit and tie. In 1984, Poundstone was cast in the movie Hyperspace but she did not further pursue an acting career. Instead, she continued as a comedian and began appearing on several talk shows. In 1989, she won the American Comedy Award for "Best Female Stand-Up Comic." In 1990, she wrote and starred in an HBO special called Cats, Cops and Stuff, for which she won a CableACE Award. She worked as a political correspondent for the Tonight Show during the 1992 US Presidential campaign and did the same for The Rosie O'Donnell Show in 1996. In 1993, Poundstone won a second CableACE Award, and began writing the column, "Hey, Paula!" for Mother Jones (1993-1998). Paula featured in her own variety show, The Paula Poundstone Show, on ABC (which lasted only two episodes). She was also a regular panelist for the game shows Hollywood Squares and To Tell the Truth.

Poundstone has also worked as a voice actress. She voiced Judge Stone on Science Court (also known as Squigglevision), an edutainment cartoon series done in the Squigglevision style that aired on Saturday mornings on ABC Kids in 1997. Staying with the makers of Science Court, Tom Snyder Productions, she was the voice of the mom, Paula Small, in the cartoon series Home Movies for the show's first five episodes, which aired on UPN. Between the show's 1999 UPN cancellation and 2000 revival on Cartoon Network, Paula chose to leave the show. The show's character, Paula Small, was named and loosely modeled around Poundstone.

Paula is #88 on Comedy Central's 2004 list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time, and #7 on Maxim magazine's list of "Worst Comedians of All Time."

She had her own Bravo special as part of their three-part Funny Girls series, along with Caroline Rhea and Joan Rivers, titled "Look What the Cat Dragged In."

Around the same time as her Bravo special, Poundstone released her first book, There Is Nothing in this Book That I Meant to Say. Described as an autobiography that is "part memoir, part monologue," the book intertwines historical biographies with anecdotes from her own life.

Poundstone currently works as a panelist on the radio news quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! on National Public Radio. She is also a regular guest on A Prairie Home Companion, appearing in Los Angeles shows and at joke shows.

Poundstone released her first comedy CD, "I Heart Jokes," in 2009.

Personal life

Poundstone began serving as a foster parent in the 1990s, eventually adopting two daughters and a son.

Poundstone stated her asexuality in an interview with the Dallas Voice in June 2007, saying "I'm totally an asexual human being. I haven't dated anyone". In her memoirs she wrote,

I am not, at this time, a virgin myself, but I don't like sex, so I abstain, which should certainly be at least a cousin to virgin, perhaps deserving something in an honorary title. Should I become a beloved hero in my time, my followers could refer to me as "virginish." ...The idea that I'd get to my bed and there'd be someone in there with whom I was supposed to have an activity is horrifying to me. It's a safe bet that I'm not good at sex, that I do it wrong.

Poundstone frequently refers to cats in her comedy and on her website. She shares her home with numerous cats and supports Alley Cat Allies, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to transforming communities to protect and improve the lives of cats.

In 2001, Poundstone was charged as a result of an incident in which she was driving her children while intoxicated. She pleaded "no contest" to felony child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of inflicting injury on a child. Poundstone was sentenced to five years' probation and 180 days in an alcohol rehabilitation program. Following completion of the program, she was granted full custody of her adopted children.