Paula Pondstone photo. She is shown clutching an old style radio microphone.

Paula Poundstone. Photo courtesy of Paula Poundstone

"Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." So goes the old show business adage. An argument can be made that this is particularly true for stand-up comedy.  After all, authors write and rewrite in privacy, painters create in a studio, actors and dancers rehearse away from public scrutiny. Not the stand-up. The only way for a comic to know if a routine works is to perform it before an audience. And the feedback is immediate (a laugh, a chuckle of recognition, a groan, or dead silence). Stand-up comics dance on the edge of a knife with every performance. Their creating, editing and fine tuning takes place on a stage for the world to see. 

Paula Poundstone has been doing stand-up for thirty years. A long-time regular on NPR's most popular show, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me,  Paula performs some 75 one-woman shows a year throughout the country. In fact, she's currently on tour.  Since she is known for her spontaneity and her extensive interplay with the audience, she's pretty much flying without a net  every time she stands on a stage. She's thought a lot about failure and success, and she shares those reflections here. Her thoughts on her work are interspersed with riffs from her live shows in Maine, Massachusetts, and on HBO.