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Comedian Paula Poundstone attends the premiere of Sony Pictures Classics’ “Boundries” at American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre on June 19, 2018, in Hollywood, Calif. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images/TNS

Paula Poundstone is one of the most popular celebrity panelists on the weekly National Public Radio staple news quiz show “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!” and is well-versed on what’s going on in the world. She has a knack for making off-the-cuff wisecracks, sometimes veering in weird directions.

But when she’s doing her stand-up act, she steers clear of anything remotely political, preferring subjects like junk food and pets. “I’m a big advocate of silly,” said Poundstone, in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Silly is important.”

Poundstone, a veteran comic who has been in the public eye for more than four decades, began hitting the road again in recent weeks, even with the uncertainty of the delta variant and differing seating arrangements. “Some have distanced seating, which is a bit of a heavy lift for a comic,” she said. “In happier times, if there were empty seats in the front, the emcee would ask folks to move up so you could gather up more energy. Now, it’s the opposite. It’s the best we can do right now so I’ll take it.”

Regardless, she said the audiences seem grateful just to be there. “They’re happy, even in this modified fashion,” she said. “You never laugh the same on your phone or on TV as when you’re in an audience. That communal experience is so important. It sure beats being stuck at home.”

Poundstone’s shows are more free-form than most. “My memory sucks so bad. I’ll take notes and tell myself to do this and do that. Then I go on stage and do something entirely different. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Sometimes, I’m kicking myself. Even when I’m talking, I’m thinking, ‘Why the [expletive] am I saying this?’”

Her favorite part of her show is interacting with the audience. “I get little biographies from the audience members,” she said. “Honestly, it’s like a pinball machine. I just use that to launch into the next topic and the next topic.”

She said she is vaccinated and believes in doctor’s orders. “My children have had pretty egregious health problems and any time they gave them medication or an injection, I never once asked what was in it. I’m a terrible mom. But I’m certain even if they explained it, I wouldn’t understand it. I just believe the doctors want to help my kids. And so far, they have saved my children’s lives a couple of times!”

Not to say she isn’t gullible. In the 1990s, she received a Christmas card from the Clintons and she was so thrilled, she stuck it on her fridge. Then one day, she took a closer look at the signatures and realized they were “auto-penned.”

“In my head,” she said, “I imagined Bill and Hillary sitting at teeny desks, just signing away!’

Poundstone has been a contributor to “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!” since its early days and she still enjoys it. She is also notorious for making the live tapings go long, often very long, when the show itself is an hour long. “They end up editing out a lot of me,” she said. “The audience in the room I like to think have a pretty good time. I’m happy I give them stuff to choose from.”

Her news diet consists of Twitter and MSNBC but her favorite option is “PBS NewsHour.”

“They follow the rule of old-fashioned journalism,” Poundstone said. “If they make a mistake, they come back to tell you so. That alone makes me love them.”

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