Perhaps the funniest woman in America today, Paula Poundstone, known for her quick wit and wry responses, right or wrong, on NPR’s popular news quiz show, “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” heard locally on WSHU-FM, is playing the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor next Saturday night.

She’s an award-winning humorist, who’s even performed standup at the White House Correspondents dinner sharing jokes with President Barack Obama. Last year, she joined Whoopi Goldberg, Joan Rivers and other prominent comediennes in a feature-length Showtime documentary called “Why We Laugh Too: Women of Comedy.” She’s also starred in one-woman comedy specials on HBO and Bravo, and won an Emmy Award.

As millions of public radio listeners can attest, Poundstone is a true show-stopper thanks to her unmatched improv skills. When she’s on a roll, nobody can keep up with her.

“They allow me to say whatever I want on ‘Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.’ The panelists are unscripted, so it’s perfect for me,” Poundstone says. “I feel like I’m a batter in a batting cage. I get lobbed topics. Sometimes I just watch them go by, but every now and then I get a piece of one. If the others didn’t cheat, it would be an almost perfect work experience.”

It’s true that she doesn’t routinely win the news quiz, but as “Wait, Wait” host Peter Sagal would readily admit, she deserves credit for almost always making the funniest points.

For her standup performances, she has a special ability to connect with audiences so intimately and live in the moment so spontaneously that no two shows she does are ever the same.

Hofstra University Transfer

“It’s not that I don’t repeat material. I do,” Poundstone says. “My shows, when they’re good, and I like to think they often are, are like a cocktail party. When you first get there, you talk about how badly you got lost and how hard it was to find parking. Then you tell a story about your kids or what you just saw on the news. You meet some new people and ask them about themselves. Then someone says, ‘Tell that story you used to tell,’ and then someone on the other side of the room spills a drink, and you mock them. No one ever applauds me when I leave a party, though. I think they high five.”

Her material is rarely blue and it’s never mean. What’s not to like?

The Bay Street Theatre is located at 1 Bay St., in Sag Harbor. Showtime is 8 p.m. on May 24. For more information, visit



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Spencer Rumsey, the Long Island Press’ senior editor, has worked on dailies, weeklies and monthlies, including New York Newsday and the New York Post, the East Village Eye and the supermarket tabloid Star Magazine. Starting at the Press in 2010, he’s written award-winning stories on planning, politics and policy, to name a few topics, and he’s taken on a wide range of targets in his Press blog, Rumsey Punch.