With the world on lockdown, what are we all watching? I posed that question to comedienne, author and podcaster Paula Poundstone.
IT: How are you?
PP: I’m okay. I have no idea what the future will bring, but as of now, I’m fine. Mostly, I’m home. I went to the grocery store yesterday, that was pretty exciting.
IT: It is amazing how one little excursion like that can perk up your day.
PP: [laughs] Actually, I still hate grocery shopping. I do it, but it puts such a big dent in the day. I buy too much sh**.
IT: I always worry when people get too big for their britches to do their own shopping.
PP: You know, for both safety reasons and economic reasons, I don’t have a housekeeper anymore, and man, I cannot keep up with everything there is to do. The dust broom is enough to kill me. Everything’s covered in dust, and it’s a lot of work. I do it, and I always do some of it, but take an employee out of that equation, and boy, it’s hard to keep up.
IT: And you gotta name all those cats.
PP: Yeah. Well, that alone, too, is…taking care of pets is, I dunno, cumulatively four hours a day, maybe? Something like that? No more free time, just taking care of the pets, between walking the dog and feeding everybody and sifting the litter boxes and cleaning the dog waste in the backyard and training! I do train my dogs at night. You wouldn’t know it to talk to the dogs, but I do, I train them every night.
IT: I’ll have to talk to those dogs. Let’s schedule an interview.
PP: Yeah, I don’t know why they haven’t picked up on my excellent training.
PP: Clearly, I’m not the dog whisperer, but I do training every day.
IT: I want to get a male dog so I can call him Bob Barker.
PP: Oh, wow, that is a great dog name.
IT: So I’ve been calling people up and asking them what they’re watching in quarantine.
PP: Well, I hardly ever watch movies because it takes too much time. Because when I watch a movie, I wanna sit down and watch the whole movie and not be doing chores. However, having said that, I did, a couple of weeks ago, it was part of a birthday celebration for my daughter; we did a night of watching a movie and having dinner. And we watched – I had never seen it before – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017).
IT: With Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand.
PP: That…their performances were great, but I wasn’t sure what to make of the movie. I wasn’t sorry that I watched it. And one day, I was doing something for PBS, they were celebrating 50 years of Monty Python. And because it was work-related, I gave myself permission to watch “The Meaning of Life” (1983) and “Life of Brian” (1979).
PP: Oh, my gosh. You know, I quote those movies a lot, I remember a lot of stuff from them, but what I had forgotten was that there are no unfunny moments. It’s just one funny thing after another funny thing. I bet you could watch it over and over again probably, and just focus on just one section of the screen, and find funny stuff. And for a brief moment, it made me happy that I have this job.
IT: “Meaning of Life,” of course, is a sketch film, and a great musical, but “Life of Brian,” even though it’s also sketchy, it has a real story. It’s the one movie of theirs that you can follow, and it has a real narrative. And Graham Chapman was such a great actor as Brian. He really grounds that movie and gives it a weird dignity.
PP: I didn’t realize that the company that was supposed to make that movie bailed, I think because they made a deal with them and then got the script and were like “Uh uh!” But George Harrison ended up getting them at least the majority of their funding.
IT: Yeah, he mortgaged his castle.
PP: Yes, yes, he did! Yeah!
IT: Because he wanted to see the movie. “I’ll get you the money because I wanna see it!”
PP: Really. Aren’t you glad that we don’t all have to do that?
IT: He’s definitely my favorite Beatle for that.
PP: Yeah, I always liked him but it increased my love for him.
IT: My mom loved “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975), and then we found the TV series on PBS, so she really gets the credit for turning me onto Python, and one of her teaching assistants gave me my first Firesign Theatre album, so thanks, Mom.
PP: Well, of course I’m older than you, but my parents wouldn’t have even understood it, let alone liked it.
IT: All of the Python stuff – the whole TV series, the movies and the documentaries – it’s all on Netflix.
PP: You know, I don’t even know how to do Netflix. If it’s something you have to pay for, you know. I don’t have an income [laughs], so I just mostly watch…I’ve been watching “Breaking Bad” on DVD for years now. I watch the whole thing. It’s on when I sleep, even. And I’ll just replay the same disc over and over again, and eventually I switch to another disc. And originally, I watched it straight through, but in the last two and three quarters years, I just watch it over and over again. I know when they’re gonna inhale.
PP: And there was one other movie that I watched in the last year, because I was working on a Dolly Parton impression. And so I gave myself permission to watch “9 to 5” [A 1980 comedy in which Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton play secretaries who get revenge on their boss, played by Dabney Coleman.] And you know what? Still great.
IT: You know, there was a time when I knew every line of dialogue in that picture.
PP: Oh, it’s so much fun. And I think it holds up really well. In fact, the sad undertone of the film is that, what do [women] make, 85 cents to the dollar that men make? You did sort of watch it, like, ‘Wow, we’ve gotten nowhere.’ [laughs] That kind of feeling. But still, nonetheless, comedically it holds up really well.
IT: I loved this one, and another Jane Fonda movie with George Segal, who just passed away, called “Fun With Dick and Jane” (1977). Someone wrote that in the great Jane Fonda movies, her character started out as something less and became something more. There was always good empowerment underneath the entertainment. And of course, I adore Lily Tomlin.
PP: And the surprise of Dolly Parton in that movie. It was her first acting job. In fact, she memorized all of the lines of the script for the first rehearsal, because she thought that she had to. It sure didn’t do her any harm. Because I was working on my bad Dolly Parton impression, I was watching a lot of stuff on her, and oh my God, the interviews are funny.