Review by Craig Idlebrook
(Beverly) If a career coach ever did an aptitude test on a young Paula Poundstone and didn’t find she was cut out to be a comedian, that coach was a loser. Angular, socially awkward, and blessed and cursed with OCD that causes her to let loose a constant stream of sarcastic chatter, Poundstone found her calling on the comedy stage. She owned the North Shore Music Theatre for one night this past April and left the crowd feeling happy and confused.
While it was a treat to laugh at Poundstone’s straight-up jokes, it was just as fun to watch her mind work. Nearly half of her two-hour set at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly was improvisatory, and it was here that we could see what it must be like to bump into her in the supermarket. Poundstone seemingly had a way to make even the most boring job title seem like good fodder for comedy, while at the same time helping us laugh at how ridiculously small our lives are.
While her comedic bite is sharp, she tempers it by turning her sarcastic gaze inward at her own foibles, especially in parenthood. Currently, she is struggling with raising a 15-year-old who is explosively angry at the world, and whose frontal lobe doesn’t seem to be developing. Poundstone is unflinching in showing how flawed her family is, while at the same time conveying how much she loves them all. It gives one a weird sense of hope.
Poundstone’s humor, which can often be heard on the NPR show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, is not for everyone. That might be because at least for this show she refused, or was incapable, of building a cohesive theme that ties the whole routine together. It was clear that life was too interesting for her to stay focused on just one idea. What this technique loses by dissipating the show’s momentum, it makes up for in its honest edginess. You never knew what the hell she was going to say next, and that made for some gut-wrenchingly good comedy.