Paula Poundstone rises above typical comic bits on HBO special


November 17, 1990|By STEVE MCKERROW

Imagine that! A female comic who doesn't do a routine about what pigs men are, doesn't use much bad language and doesn't -- not even once -- complain she can't program her VCR.

Nope, Paula Poundstone merely does what the best comics of any gender do: look at the world around her and make clever comments that make people laugh.

For instance, she says she traded in her old '75 Mustang (which she named Dave) for a convertible, but now has a problem eating powdered doughnuts while driving: "I'm eating a bald doughnut with white junk on my face."

The lanky comic is engagingly low-key in tonight's latest HBO Comedy Hour, "Paula Poundstone: Cats, Cops and Stuff" (at 10 on the premium service, with repeats Nov. 21, 25, 27 and 30).

The show was taped live at San Francisco's Bimbo's 365 Club. Amazingly, Poundstone doesn't even do any material of that staple of so many of today's yuksters, namely, the trials of the male/female relationship.

As the title implies, she's more interested in her cats. One died recently after she neglected to take him to the vet's because, "I wanted to make sure he wasn't fakin' it." Earlier, the same cat fell off a mantle and broke his hip, causing her to complain, "I thought they were supposed to land on their feet."

She loves to discipline her felines with a squirt gun because, "they have no idea where it comes from" but know that getting wet denotes bad behavior. So when she took a shower, she found the cats all staring in amazement, thinking, "you must have really messed up."

She's also observant about the ants which congregate on a single throat lozenge in her medicine cabinet, speculating "they have these little tiny coughs."

Unlike some HBO comedy shows, there is no taped material here, and Poundstone uses no props other than a stool upon which she perches, often with one leg tucked up like a sleeping sea gull. At other times she strolls the stage, dressed in cowboy boots, jeans, a white shirt with black vest and a loud, wide tie, awkwardly toying with a rebellious forelock.

A funny sequence in tonight's premiere seemingly develops ad lib from audience by-play. It would be wrong to spoil the joke, but it involves an audience member's disclosure of a "lube rack accident," and Poundstone pounces on the terminology and strings it along for a good 15 minutes. Like all good comics, she understands that language alone can be amusing.

For instance, she complains about those signs that say "don't even think of parking here." Encountering one, she once stood in front of it, threw pebbles at the home's window to attract attention then sneered, "I'm thinking about it. What are you going to do, arrest me?"

And the show closes with an original variation upon another comic staple, the airline bit, in which a pilot plays favorites with passengers on the left side, purposely flying crooked so that those on the right have nothing to see.

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