This is from the Stephen Colbert show again, but that's not really what it is. He's really just a happy-to-be amused straightman for Paula Poundstone who goes off on her wonderful tangents, observations and stories.
I'm a big fan of Poundstone's, and am so glad she got over the horrible hump that seemed poised to derail her career, and life for that matter. (The short version was that she'd had a drinking problem, which isn't good but far better than the story that made the news. With time she was able to get her life moving forward again, and then her career. In fact, her talking about it is so open, self-effacing and -- being Poundstone -- incredibly funny) Among other things today, she's now a regular panelist on that Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! show that I post here. I only play the "Not My Job" segment which tends not to include the panelists much, but she's there on the other parts if you listen to the full broadcast.
I just find her smart, wildly funny and unique, generally flying without a net and going off into random ad-libbed lands that are sharp beyond measure. I know she isn't to everyone's taste, but she is to mind. One of the funniest things I've seen is from an HBO special she did years ago at a college campus -- at one point, she's talking with someone in the audience and finds out that the girl's roommate didn't come because she had to study. So, Poundstone gets the phone number and calls the roommate. All we hear is her end of the conversation, but that alone is a riot, and has the full-auditorium in hysterics. I've tried to find it online, and I hope it's there, but it's been hard to track down. I keep looking...
But what most impressed me was at the Consumer Electronics Show one year. At the event, companies on occasion have a celebrity at their booth to help draw attention. Usually they don't do much, just say hello and sign autographs. But as I was making my way through the convention, I noticed Paula Poundstone there, on behalf of some company. (I don't remember who at this point.) She wasn't just standing at a booth, though, but instead had a microphone and wandering around talking with the people who had gathered. No script, so structure, just totally ad-libbed, regular conversation that in her hands was anything but regular. It was all so unexpected, so hilarious, so fresh, so completely charming and goofy and smart, but I stood there for about 10 minutes in awe and laughing. Keep in mind that when I came upon, she had already been going on for a while and had attracted a big crowd. And when I left -- I didn't want to, but had places to be -- she was only just warming up and still going, as the crowd got bigger. So, this wasn't just some perfunctory glad-handing appearance, but rather her doing what she does. And it seemed effortless, just her being her. (Which in some ways it probably is. Her mind and personality appears to work that way.) It certainly wasn't effortless, but highly-skilled. And really something to admire.
If you think you saw this recent appearance below on Colbert's show, you didn't. Not exactly. It turns out that she went on so many tangents and stories that they had to trim a lot of it out for time, and so what got on the air was much less. But Colbert was clearly so amused by her that he pretty much just gave her the rope and said, "Okay, go wherever you want." And the show put it all online. And it even has a connection to one of my earlier Colbert posts here, since she references Jennifer Garner talking about having been a babystiter for the Colbert family. Here's the full, actual appearance.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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