Comedian Paula Poundstone performs at the Vilar, Feb. 16 | VailDaily.com

Comedian Paula Poundstone performs at the Vilar, Feb. 16

Life is for laughing, especially if you're comedian Paula Poundstone.

"It's pretty cool that nature gave us this way to cope. I don't know how many other animals have that. Maybe dogs or raccoons, maybe elephants. Pigs seem pretty smart," she said.

Poundstone's many talents extend beyond stand-up comedy, but stop short of yodeling. She'll display them all when she performs at the Vilar Performing Arts Center today.

She really does have three kids, 14 cats, two badly outnumbered dogs and one ant in her ant farm that has been feeling poorly of late.

"I'd be happy to make up jokes about any number of things," she said.

Make stuff up

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When she was a struggling up-and-coming comedian, she owned a 1965 Mustang that devoured all of her extra money as she tried to keep it on the road. Her roommate at the time in Boston was listening to yet another tale of auto woes, and said, "It's good for material."

"I'm happy to make stuff up. I don't need my life to suck," Poundstone said.

She got her start on a regional comedy circuit around Boston, where she was supporting herself bussing tables for a living.

"It's not like I turned my back on a law career," she said.

Buy this book

Those three kids are all college age, so she'd really appreciate it if you bought her new book, "The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness" (Algonquin Books).

The book took seven years to write. She writes slowly and by hand, the same way Mark Twain did.

"I'm so OCD, I wouldn't send in the pages unless they were neat enough," she said.

When she started writing, it would have been one of the original happiness books. But like she said, she writes slowly.

"There's now a happiness section in the bookstore," she said.

You need some reserve happiness to see you through the silliness.

"It's a soaking rain of happiness to bolster you up for the slings and arrows of the rest of your life," she said.

Another American Treasure

Garrison Keillor asked Poundstone to meet him in New York for his show, "A Prairie Home Companion." She was working in New York and they were broadcasting from New York, so she said "sure."

"I'm not sure I'd ever heard the show," she said.

When she walked in, Keillor was on stage rehearsing with the rest of the cast. Sound effects man Tom Keith was in the corner making squashy noises.

"Prairie Home Companion" has all kinds of fake sponsors. Because that week's show was originating from a Broadway theater, the fake sponsor was the Broadway musical "Squash." Keillor wanted a signature squash sound to go with the bit and tasked Keith with creating it.

"Garrison was on stage and Tom was over there in the corner making these squashy noises," Poundstone said. "Once in a while Garrison would turn and say, 'Almost!' I thought, 'Squashy noises?!? These are people I want to be around!'"

She's a semi-regular panelist on National Public Radio's screwball weekly news quiz show "Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me!" where she holds the record for game losses.

"The others cheat," she said magnanimously. "You wouldn't think NPR would put up with that."

Poundstone is the star of several HBO comedy specials and had her own series on HBO and ABC. She is recognized as one of Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comics of all Time and won an American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand-up Comic. She is the first woman to share the stage with a president and host the White House Correspondents dinner, a role not previously offered to a woman in its 72-year history.

What's in a name?

One of her daughters was in the hospital and Poundstone wandered down to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee and something to eat. The cashier laughed when she read Poundstone's name on the credit card.

"People are going to be make fun of your name for the rest of your life," she explained to her kids. "When I was in school, boys used to hit me on the head and yell 'Poundstone! Poundstone! Poundstone!" with the same cadence and tone as people who sing "Airball! Airball! Airball!" at basketball games.

Apparently for her kids it was a little like hearing grandparents talk about the Great Depression and trying to figure out what was so great about it. Her kids don't seem to have that problem.

"Their school was so multi-ethnic, there's no such thing as a weird name," Poundstone said.

Not like when she was in school.

"I was a melodramatic pain in the ass when I was in high school," Poundstone said.

A few years back, she was catching up with one of her old classmates, ruminating about life.

"You're doing just what you used to do in Judy Adams' office," Poundstone's friend told her.

Except for the ties.

She wears suits and performs in a wide variety of ties. She was in a store one day trying to cheer herself up and bought a jacket she still wears, and a Nicole Miller tie with green polka dots. She has been a sucker for neckwear ever since. She didn't break new ground, she said. Annie Hall wore ties. Lucille Ball in the "I Love Lucy" show was often in a tie.

Poundstone almost never does the same show twice. She works so seamlessly with the audience members that some wonder if those people were planted. They never are. She's just that funny.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

If you go …

What: Comedian Paula Poundstone.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16.

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.

Cost: $38.

More information: Tickets are available at the Vilar box office, by calling 888-920-2787 or online at vilarpac.org.

More about Paula

Paula Poundstone’s book “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness” (Algonquin Books) is available for preorder and on sale May 9. Her newest CD, “North By Northwest: Paula Poundstone Live!” (HighBridge), debuted at No. 1 on both Amazon’s “Hot New Releases — Non Fiction” and “Comedy CD” lists and on Billboard’s “Top Ten Comedy Albums” chart. In 2016, she voiced the character Forgetter Paula in Disney/Pixar’s Academy Award-winning animated feature film “Inside Out.”

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