Paula Poundstone has had her fill of Zoom, virtual performances and is glad to be back in front of live audiences.
“It’s great, I missed the audience,” she said. “They’re my best friend, which I’m sure is a sign of poor mental health, but it’s where we’re at.”
Poundstone performs Sept. 23 at the Mayo Civic Center.
Having a live audience is not something Poundstone, comedian and panelist on NPR’s “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me,” is taking for granted. Things can change quickly, she said.
“Who knows, maybe the anti-vaxxers will drive us to a new variant of COVID,” she said. “For now, here we are.”
The comedian said she needs an audience to read how her jokes are landing, prompt her directions for the next joke or build off ideas she’s sharing on stage.
“I think that collective experience of seeing something together, reacting to something together, is so powerful,” she said. “When you’re on a stupid Zoom, you can’t measure a response.”
Some bold comedians did routines for the camera, she said.
“If you’re bold enough, you can just say it to the camera, it’s out there and you call it a win,” she said. “I’m not that bold."
Musicians were able to perform remotely, but their performances are different.
“In music, there are so many emotional chords you can hit and be successful,” she said.
A comedian is soliciting one response — laughter. For someone who doesn’t script her shows, laughter is her helpful prompt.
“I’m a terrible memorizer,” she said. “I have memory problems caused by stress.”
That makes her shows spontaneous, unique and her comedy a stream of consciousness, or, as she describes it, “half-baked ideas.”
“You know that arcade game where someone goes into a booth and the person has to grab as much money flying around in there as they can,” she said. “That’s sort of what my act is — me grabbing any joke I can grab hold of in my brain.”
Performing that way in front of a camera doesn’t work as well, she said.
During 2020, she continued recording her podcast, “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone,” recorded character skits, started an online gameshow and held other virtual events.
Aside from messages that she would read later, Poundstone mostly hated it.
“Years from now … the words ‘unmute yourself’ are going to give us all PTSD,” she said.
Her early involvement with “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” helped prepare her for some of the virtual projects, she said. She and other panelists and the host all recorded their parts remotely.
It was later the show was recorded in front of a studio audience.
“We have fantastic live audiences,” she said. “But the truth is we don’t play to them, we play to each other.”
On Sept. 23, people attending the show will have her full attention.
“I love the audience,” she said. “Maybe I’m just a poorly socially acclimated human being that I need the attention, but whatever it is, I love them.”
If you go
What: Paula Poundstone
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23
Where: Presentation Hall, Mayo Civic Center
Tickets: $74 to $105, www.mayociviccenter.com/events.