Hey, hey, hey, Paula

IN FOR A PAULA, IN FOR A POUNDSTONE | The queermedian plays the Majestic Theater Friday, Feb. 25.

After 30 years, comedian Paula Poundstone still keeps ’em rolling in the aisles

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Paula Poundstone celebrates her middlebrow tastes. It’s probably what has kept her a popular comedian for more than 30 years. While others have crashed and burned with edgy, sometimes alienating humor, Poundstone represents the everyman. Or everywoman.

Take, for instance, that quintessential high-brow cultural undertaking: The opera.

“Just talking to you is the closest I’ve ever been to the opera,” Poundstone says on the phone from her home. “I’m glad it’s there and I feel uplifted by knowing someone likes it, but have no interest in it myself. Like, I find it sad to see a folk art museum close down, but will I go to a folk art museum? I will not. ‘Ooh, look! An entire village constructed of broom straw!’ Not my thing. So, opera is on my list of things I haven’t experienced that I’m not sure I’d like to do — like butter sculpture.”

Butter sculpture? You mean, like what you see every year at the State Fair of Texas? That’s exactly what she is referring to.

“I was just talking to my kids about it yesterday,” says the fair-going veteran. “It’s hard for me to understand why someone would learn that skill. You can’t give it as a gift. How do you make a living doing butter sculpture? With ice sculpture, at least there’s an event and there’s a charm watching it melt.” But who would stick a knife into a gigantic dairy version of Elvis? Not Paula.

These observations are hardly earth-shattering insights into the human condition … but then again, maybe they are. Poundstone’s organic, randomly quaint stream-of-consciousness sense of humor is ticklishly grounded in every life. She talks about being the single gay mom of three kids, ages 12 to 20 — and one with limited domestic skills at that. (“I’m not much of a cook. I can heat water and make salad and it pretty much ends there. I once called my math teacher to ask how to make a baked potato,” she says.) Her jokes are sometimes about the bizarre daily occurrences that make up her life, but they could just as easily make up yours. And there are no gimmicks — it’s just her personality peeking through, a befuddled but optimistic take on life.

“I’m lucky in that everywhere I’ve been, I have a good time,” she says. She even likes coming to Texas, despite its conservative rep. She always seems to find an audience.

“There’s no area that’s entirely one thing,” she says. “Whatever the size of the city, the people who would be amused by my point of view tend to gather on that night.”

That night in Dallas will be Feb. 25, when she returns for a show at the Majestic Theatre.

But Dallas isn’t even a hard market for her. Heck, even in Utah — often regarded as the most conservative state in the union — you can find the gay-friendly crowds. And you don’t even have to look that hard.

“I did an outdoor festival [in Salt Lake City] and they were wild,” she recalls. “A man dressed as a woman presented me with a gold purse filled with items they thought I’d need to survive there. This guy was so flamboyant, it was kinda jaw-dropping. But [the crowd] couldn’t have loved it more.”

Likewise, Poundstone says even gay-accepting communities like Provincetown, Mass., have their pockets of closed-mindedness.

“P’town has an enormous gay community — its like you’re in some sort of a production when you’re there. But it’s still old New England, and there are people who have been there forever but still haven’t caught on, these fisherman who think it’s a coincidence or something gay that a man walking down the street looks like a lady. They don’t seem to realize what’s risen up all around them.”

Poundstone herself is aware of what has risen up around her. She started in standup in 1979 or 1980 (she can’t even recall which), in the heyday of comedy clubs like The Improv. She weathered the circuit, building up a fan base enthusiastic about the observational style of comedy she and others of her era (Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, etc.) pioneered.

“It was so much about time and place and had nothing to do with me,” she modestly claims. “The fact I did it there and then made a huge difference in what I was able to do. I worked really hard and I still work really hard, but I didn’t plan and make decisions that led me on a certain path. I worry that my kids don’t get that, that my formula won’t work again.”

Maybe not. But as long as it worked once, we’re good.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Game for the day: Let’s make the State Fair dirty

OK, so my FB (Facebook, you perv) friend Daniel Cates statused himself from the State Fair: “Fed a yak” he said. That sounded like sex code to me, like choking the chicken or strangling the weasel. So, I vandalized his profile page and started a game: Things you can actually do at the fair that sound like sex code. For instance: “Licking the mustard off a footlong.”

But then I figured, why let Daniel’s friends (and his stat counter) steal all the best gay gags? So I put it to you, our readers who can’t get out of the office this beautiful Friday, to come up with dirty sounding (but completely legit) activities at the fair.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Thankfully someone took it upon themselves to declare Gay Day at the State Fair — Oct. 9

Big Tex loves his gays.

Last year, people were asking us about gay day at the State Fair, but we were as much in the dark. When Big Tex started rolling around this year, we were bracing ourselves for the inquiries. And then Facebook saved the day — or rather, Mike Weaver did.

Weaver, who hails from Watauga, started the Gay Day at the State Fair Facebook event to begin getting a consensus on when it should be. Of course, one date wasn’t going to make everyone happy, but he made the final decision to say that Saturday, Oct. 9 is the day. I say it’s not such a bad day to pick. It doesn’t compete with LifeWalk on Sunday and is two days shy of National Coming Out Day on Monday. He proposes that LGBT peeps wear colors of the rainbow and meet at noon at Big Tex.

Although he didn’t make it out last year, Weaver wanted to be part of the community coming together. “We can show people who are GLBT that it is OK to step out of the box and be with your fellow GLBTs and supporters. Maybe this could be a day for people who stay in because there scared to get them to come have fun.”

I’m there. That is if I can break away from the just close-enough Belgian waffle stand.

—  Rich Lopez

Lord, have mercy

David Vaughn got on his knees to nab a primo role in ‘Shrek’

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Shrek the Musical
MINI ME | One of the comic highlights of ‘Shrek the Musical’ is the diminutive villain Lord Farquaad, played by recent tour addition David Vaughn.

SHREK THE MUSICAL
Fair Park Music Hall, 909 First Ave. Sept. 28–Oct. 17. Evenings 8 p.m., matinees at 2 p.m. 214-631-2787.
DallasSummerMusicals.org.

……………………………………

The most evil villains ever created are typically compensating for one shortcoming or another. For Shrek the Musical’s Lord Farquaad, the diminutive tyrant’s inadequacies are quite literal: His tiny legs are about as spindly as a sock monkey’s.
But for David F.M. Vaughn, it’s one of the greatest roles he’s ever played. And in Shrek alone, he’s played more than his fair share.

“I was a swing in the original Broadway company, so I understudied 19 different tracks in the show. It was a lot of work. I had to be able to go on in any role at any second. But I also understudied Lord Farquaad, which is the role I play now. It’s a new look at a show I’ve been playing for over two years,” he says.

Performing on Broadway is wonderful, according to Vaughn, but touring also has its perks.

“You get to kind of explore each of these great cities. You also get to perform as an actor for different audiences. They vary greatly by region. It’s fun to see which audiences like what, play that up and adjust the show for each audience,” he says. “Plus, there’s something to be said about having your room cleaned every day. Fresh towels, clean sheets … you really can’t beat that.”

This will be the actor’s first visit to Dallas and he’s excited to have family members in the audience, but almost equally thrilled to be performing at the State Fair of Texas.

“I live in New Jersey and I love, love, love the State Fair. The fried awfulness, the people watching. The touring company is so excited to go explore.”

Eating his way around Fair Park and seeing all the attractions will be a welcome break from the demanding schedule and an even more difficult role.

“The biggest challenge is the obvious physicality of playing an entire show on my knees. Not just performing it, but making it realistic and funny and making the whole joke work,” Vaughn says. “There’s also a section where I have a puppeteer controlling my legs for me. I have to trust that he will do what he was choreographed to do and I will do what I’m choreographed to do.”

Once on Broadway, in a different Shrek role, things didn’t work out so well. There’s proof in a backstage photo on his website where he can be seen sitting with an ice pack on his ankle and a tissue up his nose to stop the bleeding. Harrowing stuff.

“The set was so big and so complicated. There were so many lifts and turntables and flying things. It was very dangerous.

We’re all very safe, but anything can happen. And unfortunately, that’s one of those things that happened. I had to run really fast around the corner and one of the guys who runs props forgot that I was there and he slammed his forehead right into my nose. We were both knocked over.”

The touring set is just as complex, even if it is scaled back to accommodate various stage setups.

“It looks just as full and lush, even sometimes more saturated and colorful than I remember it. The show’s completely reconceived not only as a tour, but as a new production. They trimmed it and added stuff,” he says, “but the story’s more focused.”

The new dragon puppet is better than the one on Broadway. “Finally, DreamWorks’ commitment to getting it right paid off and they figured it out. Now it’s a full dragon from head to tail. His wings flap, it’s just wonderful. I can’t wait for you to see it.”

Everyone who’s seen the show or performed in the show seems to agree that gay audiences love the “Freak Flag” number, and Vaughn is no different.

“All the fairy tale creatures have been shunned and forced from their home because Lord Farquaad says they’re freaks.

They’re not like everyone else and everyone should be perfection and all the same. But the pigs are fat, and the wolf is hairy, and Pinocchio is not a real boy,” he says. “They all question themselves until Gingy, the gingerbread man, sets them straight and kind of says what makes us special makes us strong. It’s kind of an anthem of individuality and community and strength and celebrating differences, but using this platform they all gather together and nothing can stop them.”

“It’s that same old story,” Vaughn continues. “We may have been ashamed of ourselves because we were gay, until we finally banded together and realized that we’re awesome and we can do anything together. And, oh, there’s power in that. This number is almost like a Pride parade on stage.”

And if that’s not enough, he quickly jumps back in and exclaims, “We have a transsexual wolf in the show, too!”

Now you’re talking.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 09.24.10

Friday 09.24

Corny dogs, here we come
The State Fair of Texas is upon us once again and that means fried foods, dizzying rides and emptied wallets — and it’s totally worth it. We’re still making up our mind on the new fried beer on the menu, but the Texas Fried Frito Pie sounds like a dream and a nightmare for any personal trainer. But who cares? It’s the Fair!

DEETS: Fair Park, 1300 Robert B Cullum Blvd. Through Oct. 17. $15. BigTex.com.

Sunday 09.26

Classic lit without the reading
This image from the cover of “The Great Gatsby” instilled dread among middle and high school students. But AIDS Interfaith Network turns the classic novel about the roaring ’20s into fab times with “The Great Gatsby…Get Your Flap On.” Complete with jazz, bubbly and fundraising, it almost makes you want to read it again. Almost.

DEETS: Union Station, 400 S. Houston St. 2 p.m. $75–$125. AIDSInterfaithNetwork.org

Wednesday 09.29

WaterTower is getting Wilder
Terry Martin does double duty as director and actor in “Our Town,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Thornton Wilder. The tales of the ordinary folk of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire come alive in this season opener for WaterTower.

DEETS: WTT, 15650 Addison Road. Through Oct. 24. $25–$40. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Don't forget Oprah comes to the Fair Monday

The big O is about to meet Big Tex.
The big O is about to meet Big Tex.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Oprah brings her show to the State Fair Monday. It should probably attract a few people. They are saying 4,000. Personally, I’d say a gajillion people but what do I know. Oprah seems to have that kind of drawing power. To top it off, Martina McBride will be performing as well. The deets on the event sound surprisingly easy considering the magnitude of her appearance in an already crowded place. However,  you need to know this now in case you have full intention of seeing her live.

The information follows the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Gay top 10 reasons to head to the State Fair

bigtex

In case you hadn’t heard, the State Fair opens today. We can understand if you’re on the fence about going. Even though the new DART Green Line makes it easier to get there, we hear some of the prices have gone up. It’s a tough balance.

But it’s the Fair! Come on!

That didn’t work? Well, some colleagues and I mulled over reasons why you should head over there between now and Oct. 18. Behold our gay top 10 reasons to go to the State Fair of Texas.

—  Rich Lopez

State Fair fried foods duke it out

Fried Nutter Butters = yes! Fried Butter = EEK!
Fried Nutter Butters = yes! Fried Butter = EEK!

I’m a State Fair fanatic and all the gay gym gods can be damned because I’m looking forward to my corn dog days and Belgian waffle nights. Although I stick with my usual Fair food treats, I’ll attempt to try the up and comers destined for fried culinary  greatness. I do, however, firmly regret tasting Fried Coke.

Now we have a slew of newbies vying for the best fried food for this year’s Fair and I swear my blood pressure just went up reading about them. A press release is floating around somewhere but I found out about the finalists on the Fair’s Twitter feed. Who knew Big Tex tweeted? Judges will decide Monday which makes the cut. And the finalists, as read on Twitter, are:

—  Rich Lopez