Comedian Paula Poundstone headlines Utah Pride Festival

Comedian uses observational humor, offbeat dress and self-deprecation to reach audiences.
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Comedian Paula Poundstone, noted for her working-class wit and the masculine suits she wears, will headline this year's Utah Pride Festival, a weekendlong celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their allies, capped by a massive Sunday morning parade.

Poundstone, who turns 50 later this year, is noted as a road warrior on the national stand-up circuit and well-known for her panelist stint on National Public Radio's news quiz show "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me."

Poundstone's humor, rather than overtly political or topical, often draws from her observations of raising children on her own. She has adopted children and was a foster mother until 2001, after a widely reported conviction of child endangerment for driving under the influence, which she often ruefully mentioned in public appearances.

In a Tribune interview, Poundstone answered some questions about her work.

On shows in front of GLBT people and their allies:

The shows that I've done, I think there's been a pretty strong "gay community presence." Oftentimes I find that states that would be considered red states, conservative states, I have really great shows in those states because the [audiences] that are there are a little more forward-thinking -- they're so happy to be together. It makes for really fun shows.

On her career:

I'm on the road mainly to pay the rent. It works out to a couple of days a week. Ideally, I'd go out two days a week and then be home for a whole weekend every month, but instead, it's like so many jobs where you'll have a couple of weeks where you go, "Uh-oh, we're not going to eat," and then there's other times when it's busier. It works out. Somehow we manage. People are losing jobs that weren't that much fun to begin with. I consider myself very lucky. When I'm on the road, I don't spend any money, besides food. Food and tips. When I'm home, I have to do all the errands, and you're just like anyone else on their weekends. Believe me, I'm being nothing but patriotic [by stimulating the economy].

On vacation plans this summer:

I'm taking some of my kids backpacking, you have to buy so much stuff and crap, like for a baby. When you have a baby and go somewhere, you basically bring the same amount of junk. It doesn't matter whether you're spending a week or one day, and darned if you don't have to feed the thing. So you still have to bring all the junk. And it's the same thing for backpacking. It takes a lot of stuff. And the truth is, we could stay at a fancy hotel for less than we pay to stay outside. I hope my daughter photo-documents me being eaten by a bear.

On recent projects:

I wrote a series of math workbooks with my high-school math teacher. Lord knows, I'm no mathematician, and now I suppose you're not supposed to brag about that. They say it's part of [women's] problem in the area of mathematics that we tend to brag that we don't know stuff, whereas no one would say, "Boy, I can't read."

On the glamour of Hollywood:

I think that I might have had a fantasy about that possibility [when I was younger]. There's an illusion created. When you go to something like "The Tonight Show," it's like you're in a warehouse. It's kind of dirty and gruffy and it's not fancy and nice at all. This little set kinds of looks that way, but it really is the magic [of Hollywood]. I can't tell you how many times I've done shows like that. Just before I ran out to go there, I was shifting the litterbox, and I would always think to myself, this is just not what I had in mind. I thought this would lift me above all that.


6 and 9 p.m. » Grand Marshal Reception and after-party with activist Cleve Jones, at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center; $75 for reception, $150 for after-party; available at

June 6

2 p.m. » Interfaith Service at the First United Methodist Church, followed by Interfaith march and rally at the Federal Building

3 p.m. » Dyke march at City Creek Park, ending at the Federal Building

4 p.m. » Pride opening ceremonies and rally at the Federal Building, 125 S. State St.; followed by march to festival at Washington Square, 450 S. State St.

5:30 p.m. » DJ:K on the north stage

5:30 p.m. » DJ Nick James on the south stage

7 p.m. » Comedian Paula Poundstone on the north stage

9 p.m. » Club music dance party: Voodoo Box @ North Stage

June 7

8:30 a.m. » Parade line-up begins

10 a.m. » Utah Pride Parade (see festival route)

10 a.m.-6 p.m. » Festival at Washington Square, with events including Xbox, karaoke and drag competitions, poetry readings, performances by comedian Karen Bayard and music sets by Otter Creek, Periodic Table of Funk, Cody Dew, Sister Wives, Debi Graham, Alicia Faith, Bronwen Beecher, Honey, Kid Madusa, DJ Pancho and the Saliva Sisters.

Paula Poundstone

When » June 6 at 7 p.m.

Where » Utah Pride Festival, Washington Square, 450 S. State St., Salt Lake City

Tickets » $10 at gate or at; includes admission to "Dance Party with Voodoo Box" afterward; all festival proceeds benefit the programs and services of the Utah Pride Center, 361 N. 300 West, Salt Lake City.