Catching her act on the Tonight Show or Letterman, I always thought stand-up comic Paula Poundstone was obviously smart, but I never found her very funny — her fidgety, rather defensive, locked-jaw delivery was kind of nerve-racking. So this assured half hour-the first of four variety shows Poundstone will host for HBO this month — was a pleasant surprise. Sitting on a stool in a pair of very cool blue cowboy boots, Poundstone is relaxed and charming — her jokes seem more like offhand remarks (”How did we come up with a concept like ‘the dysfunctional family’? Do you know anyone who even knows anyone who lives in a functional family?”), and there’s a lot of spontaneously amusing give-and-take with the audience.
Poundstone also brings guests onto these shows, and they aren’t the usual talk-show regulars. They range from a man who shows you how to write your own will (Poundstone manages to be funny with him without stepping on the information he’s giving us) to the earth-shaking gospel group the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. Anyone who puts the Five Blind Boys of Alabama on television deserves an award, even if it’s only one of those little cable-TV ACE awards. A-