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Poking fun at 12 step groups

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  • Donna Gore
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101040913- 692890,00.html Standing Back Up Paula Poundstone can t make audiences forget her past, so she s
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 6, 2004
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      Standing Back Up
      Paula Poundstone can't make audiences forget her past, so she's
      making them laugh about it

      Monday, Sep. 13, 2004

      No matter what you may have heard about her parenting skills, Paula
      Poundstone considers

      herself a fairly typical single mother. She helps with homework,
      reads bedtime stories and

      spends endless hours chauffeuring her three kids, ages 13, 10 and 6.
      But she does

      acknowledge certain aberrations. In her current act, the comedian
      jokes that one of the

      videos they all watch together is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
      Nest. "Against that backdrop,"

      she says, "Mom looks pretty good."

      The line scores well, in part because it helps dispel the tension of
      audience members, few

      of whom could have missed the fact that three years ago, Poundstone,
      44, was embroiled in a

      lurid scandal. In 2001 her children, all of whom are adopted, were
      removed from her custody

      when she was arrested on a felony charge of child endangerment for
      driving under the

      influence with her kids in the car. However disturbing the
      conviction, it paled next to

      allegations that she had sexually abused two of the children, or, in
      the unforgettable words

      of the court, "committed a lewd act upon a minor," charges that, with
      little fanfare, were

      later dropped. Poundstone regained custody of her children after a
      court-ordered six-month

      stay in a rehab center, but she remains on probation and is required
      to attend Alcoholics

      Anonymous (A.A.).

      As career enders go, her transgressions dwarfed the infractions of
      stars like the

      shoplifting Winona Ryder or the philandering Hugh Grant. But unlike
      Grant, who publicly —

      and effectively — offered contrition, Poundstone refuses to pander to
      win back her audience.

      "I was sentenced to A.A. on national television," she says during her
      routine. "That pretty

      much blows the hell out of the second A." She refers to rehab
      as "stupid" and argues that

      not only have A.A. meetings proved ineffective, but it was
      unconstitutional for a judge to

      compel her to attend. "I'm an atheist," she says. "Everyone tries to
      say that God is not a

      part of A.A., but the third step states pretty clearly that you have
      to turn yourself over

      to a higher power."

      Still, she doesn't deny her role in events. "I see now there were
      signs," she says, "but I

      was drunk, so they were kind of blurry and went by really fast." If
      her show sounds like a

      downer, it's not. Though she has never been the kind of comic to
      stack up one-liners, she

      manages, over two rambling hours, to take aim at the standard fodder —
      politicians, pets,

      audience members — in the same slightly exasperated and self-mocking
      tone that made her such

      a success in the 1990s when she played large auditoriums and had two
      HBO specials and (

      briefly) her own talk show on ABC.

      The venues are smaller now, but the bookings are picking up. Most of
      the 54 dates on her

      current tour are sold out, and she scored what seemed like the
      ultimate absolution in July

      when she was invited to perform on the Late Show with David

      Though Poundstone denies doing so intentionally, she manages to wring
      considerable humor out

      of being a felon (one of her best-received jokes is a line about
      being an important element

      of her Neighborhood Watch). "All I want is to be entertaining," she
      says. "I don't have any

      great lessons to share, except this: get your criminal attorney now.
      Should something go

      south, you won't have the luxury of shopping around."

      From the Sep. 13, 2004 issue of TIME magazine
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