Paula Poundstone talks about what to do with 35 pounds of catnip

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When you call to interview comedian Paula Poundstone, you don’t expect the first topic of discussion to be catnip. But with a woman who owns 15 cats, you know that you really shouldn’t be surprised.

“I’m selling cat toys,” says Poundstone. When a celebrity sells a product, it’s usually after they are approached by a company, come up with an idea, and weigh in on the design. Not with Poundstone.

She got into it after she received a gift of 35 pounds of catnip—all for doing a good deed.

“I did a free job for NPR and PBS. They had a conference in Dallas a couple of months ago, and I was asked to go entertain, which I did. As a thank-you gift, my boss sent me 35 pounds of catnip,” she quips. But even with her 13 cats, she couldn’t go through that much.

So she did what anyone else in her situation might do. She took a pound out, double bagged the other 34 pounds of it, and put it in her storage unit.

Until the cats in the area found out.

“My assistant, Wendell, told me ‘There’s cats hanging around the storage building. The whole building smells like catnip, and eventually, they’re going to figure out that it’s our unit, and they’re going to throw us out,” Poundstone explains.

“We had to figure out something to do with this catnip, and I can’t just get rid of it,” she says. “So that’s why I’m selling cat toys.”

Poundstone has designed these cat toys that are little pillows of catnip, with a cat joke on one side. She says she will sign the other side, making it out to your cat. It has a gromet on it so people can tie a string to it and play with it with their cats.

Oh, and Wendell’s the one sewing them. She’s only selling them at her gigs right now, though, because she knows that if Wendell had to go to the post office to mail a lot out during the holiday season, that might be the last straw. They’ve worked together for more than 20 years, and she doesn’t want to lose him. At least not over cat toys.

Why She Returns Each December to Annapolis

For years, Poundstone has performed two shows in early December at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis. (She brings her comic stylings to town again, performing two shows on Friday, December 6.) This completely goes against her usual rule, which is that she only performs in theatres.

“But I make the rare exceptions to the rule for Rams Head because it’s just so damn much fun,” says Poundstone. “First of all, three-quarters of the audience works for the CIA, and when I ask them what they do, they just make something up, and I enjoy that part of it. There’s something really fun about talking to people that are sort of ‘in the know,’ and it’s such a funny little room.”

Poundstone gets serious for a moment—but it’s just a quick moment—and she waxes philosophically about how she loves performing at Rams Head because she knows that she’s standing where some extremely successful performers once stood. Poundstone equates it to people seeing Bruce Springsteen in little clubs before he made it big.

“As a comic, I feel like I can brag that I get to stand that close to people in Annapolis and saw them when no one knew who they were,” she says.

Her Podcast and Her Followers 

Poundstone has joined many other comics and hosts her own weekly podcast “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone” with her friend, Adam Felber. Her original idea for the podcast was “It was how to move out of your parents’ house, and we were going to give people the information they needed to function as adults. My partners immediately rejected the idea,” she says. “They said it was too narrow.”

When asked to describe it, Poundstone says, “I am the sh*ttiest describer. We have a contest on our Facebook page so that the listener who can come up with the most compelling, brief description of the show can receive a fresh bar of hotel soap. There are some really funny descriptions!”

She adds that it’s funny; they have guests, and there are even appearances of hand puppets she does (yeah, she knows it’s audio only), as well as a favorite character known as “French Trump.”

“It’s an hour of fun and always a bit of information as well,” says Poundstone. “For me, I think it makes the way of the world a little lighter.”

As for her followers, Poundstone reveals that there is a solid core of about 50 people who are cat enthusiasts, and they follow everything she does—social media, shows, newsletters, her podcast. They know what she’s doing. After she began the podcast, her followers coined the term “Nobodies” to describe themselves.

“I was doing ‘Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,’ and some people came up after, and they’ll like whisper to me: ‘We’re nobodies,’” she says.

Another Claim to Fame

Poundstone has achieved a great deal in her career, and one honor is having been featured as a clue in the New York Times Crossword puzzle.

“My name, oddly, has been in a number of different crossword puzzles in the past. I think maybe the fact that it was in the New York Times is a pinnacle for sure. Years ago, I met Paula Prentiss, and we spontaneously hugged. We’d not met before, but it was based on the connection that we felt from having been clues in crossword puzzles. The clue would be ‘Prentiss or Poundstone,’” she says. “I feel very proud.”

Paula Poundstone appears at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis for two shows on December 6. For more info, check out Rams Head’s website.

Feature photo credit: Michael Schwartz