In her new autobiography, Paula Poundstone uses the lives of Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, and Beethoven as a frame to tell her own story. A more fitting comparison might be LL Cool J, who once rapped, "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years."
"There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say" hit the shelves this week, and Poundstone's stand-up special premieres Tuesday on Bravo. But like the rapper/actor, Poundstone insists she's not mounting a comeback, and that outside of a six-month stint in rehab for alcoholism, she has been working steadily.
"I never left. I hate that perception ," she says. "I realize that, yes, I haven't been on the 'Tonight Show' for years. But there are other places where people work."
Poundstone, who grew up in Sudbury and began her comedy career in Boston in 1979, took nearly a decade to write her book . She spent a lot of time staring at a blank page until it struck her that if she wanted to talk about herself, all she had to do was start writing about someone else.
"All of a sudden it dawned on me that if I wrote about Abraham Lincoln I would not be able to shut up about myself," she says. "My whole life is that, just one thought after the other in that air hockey kind of way, bouncing off my head."
Poundstone has had her share of real drama in the past few years. She pleaded guilty to felony child endangerment and misdemeanor child abuse in 2001, after driving drunk with her kids in the car. She admits those charges were true in the first chapter of her book, but she also had to endure public ridicule from child molestation claims that were later dropped.
She realizes she'll never be able to wipe those allegations from the public consciousness. She couldn't wage a PR campaign and still function as a parent to Toshia, 15, Alley, 12, and Thomas E., 8 . "I've long since stopped hoping to meet with the approval of absolutely everyone," she says. "I work hard taking care of my kids, and I think that most people who are around me see that and are aware of that."
Her probation and court-ordered AA meetings ended three weeks ago, but even before that Poundstone says she found a new appreciation for her life, personal and professional. "I am absolutely sure that I want to be doing every single thing that I'm doing, including chasing my son around to make him brush his teeth and listening to him say that he doesn't get his homework," she says.
"I'm happiest as I've ever been," she adds. "I'm thrilled to have written a book; I think it actually is a good book." Comedy, too, is going well . "[I] did this Bravo special where I told my jokes and people laughed, and that was exactly the dynamic I was looking for."