Comedian and author Paula Poundstone is performing in Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday, February 10th at the Wilson Center downtown at 8:00pm. WHQR's Gina Gambony spoke with Paula on the telephone about her cats, happiness, and her new book. Listen above or read below.
GG: Paula Poundstone's new book is titled The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness. The book will be released on May 9th. Paula offered herself up as a guinea pig to research that topic.
PP: Several years ago I began doing experiments with things that I or other people thought might make me happy. My experiments included not just, say, for example, if I went up in a Ferris Wheel that I enjoy it, because the truth is I really do enjoy it. I like being up high, I like the view. I'm sure I would enjoy a Ferris Wheel but that's not the question. The question is: will the feeling that I had from doing the Ferris Wheel-right-that if you call it happiness perhaps it was-how does that happiness...what's the shelf life. When I return to the slings and arrows of the rest of my life, how well does that hold up? You know, that's really the question.
So every chapter in my book is written as a science experiment including, you know, the hypothesis of what it was I thought would make me happy and then analysis of returning to my regular life. So it's a story of raising my children and doing my job. And, you know, cleaning up after a house full of animals.
I do have a tremendous- I have 14 cats and I'm used to a certain judgmental moan that comes from people when I tell them I have 14 cats. I don't disagree. A lot of times people say to me, they say, well how did you get 14 cats? Sort of dripping with judgment. And I can tell them exactly how I got 14 cats, which is I had 16 and 2 died.
It is a lot of cats. It's a tremendous amount of sifting. Sometimes when I'm walking down the street- because all my cats are indoor cats- sometimes I'm walking down the street and I'll see tacked up on a telephone pole, like, a little handmade sign saying, with a picture of a cat on it, saying that, you know, somebody's cat is missing and I feel a little jealous. I think maybe some of my cats could be missing.
GG: But you know you say people are judgmental about this. You certainly meet people who don't like cats. What do you think about those people?
PP: It's funny, I had a friend over last night. And cats are funny. They really antagonize people who don't like them. My cats seem to be drawn to people who are either allergic to them or just plain don't like them. Last night I must have gotten up and gotten this cat out of my friend's chair, no exaggeration, like 30 times. And every time the cat would sort of, you know, go back up and sit in that chair and eventually the guy just relinquished the chair to him and I kept going, no get rid of the cat and I'd not knock the cat off again. Seconds later it jump up again. I can't think of any other time that cat was so determined
to be in one particular place.
GG: That's what's admirable about them.
PP: That they're antagonistic.
GG: Yeah, that they're going to take that chair from that person who doesn't like them. Like, we're not like that as people.
PP: No. Well. Some of us are. I think my guess is soon ... a cat will have a secretary position in this administration. That's my guess. It's going to be really—really galling--- to be like, Secretary of Dogs. So they go where they don't belong. They know nothing about it and they're not even in support of that group. Surely some cat will be Secretary of Dogs.
GG: That was comedian and author Paula Poundstone. Her book The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness comes out on May 9th. I'm Gina Gambony for WHQR.