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Paula Poundstone talks Maine and the search for happiness

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Comedian talks about her new book and upcoming stand-up performances

Always skeptical, always funny and no stranger to the state of Maine, comedian Paula Poundstone says she spends as much time as possible in our state and is looking forward to at least five Maine standup concerts this summer.

“Maine is different than other places,” Poundstone told me during a phone interview. “There is really no other place quite like Maine. You drive over the state line into Maine and you just breathe better. It’s a wonderful place. Plus if I’m looking for a painting of a lobster on a rock, there’s no better place to get that.”

In her new book, “The Totally Unscientific Study of The Search For Human Happiness” (Algonquin Books), Poundstone asks if there is a secret to being happy. Her conclusions are based on a series of experiments where set out to pinpoint potential sources of contentment.

“I thought that doing these experiments around the search for happiness would be a fun exercise,” Poundstone says of her new book. The author of “There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say” and the “Math With a Laugh” series for children says her latest read is memoir-ish in nature.

“I can continue to write memoirs because I’m not dead,” she said with a classic deadpan delivery. “Every chapter was written as an experiment and it has the hypothesis and the conditions and the qualitative and quantitative observations and hopefully the funniest field notes ever written.”

Health experts will tell you that people who exercise regularly are generally happier than people who don’t. Poundstone says she wanted to find out if that is actually true.

“In the get fit experiment, I took between two and four Taekwondo and self-defense classes per week for several months. I actually got up to about 500 rope-jumps in a row. By the way, when an attacker comes, don’t take out your rope and jump. It’s not gonna help.”

There is a difference, Poundstone says, between doing things that are enjoyable and finding something that will give us lasting happiness.

“What thing could I do that would give me a bounce? Is there something that would leave me an umbrella, so to speak, for the inevitable rainstorms of one’s daily life?”

Poundstone says that running a household full of children and cats (she has fostered eight children and adopted three; she has a dozen felines) has provided her with an endless source of comedy, some of which made it into her new book.

“The analysis part of each chapter tells you about me and my regular life. I talk about raising a house full of kids and animals, being a stand-up comic and what it’s like being stuck being me 24 hours a day.”

With a busy standup schedule and her regular appearances on NPR’s popular current events quiz show ‘Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me,’ Poundstone says her life is a busy one but that she tries to schedule regular visits to Maine. She has a show scheduled for July 1at The Strand in Rockland and July 2 at Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield (where she recorded her 2009 CD “I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine”). She’s also scheduled for a weekend of shows at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit on July 15 and 16, as well an August 19 date at the Waterville Opera House.

“I love it at Jonathan’s,” she says. “I’ve been working there for years – usually in the summer but sometimes again in the fall. It’s probably the smallest place that I work. The reason why I continue to work there is because the audiences are great and I do it for myself. I love my job but there are some venues where I’m there because it’s my job. I go to Jonathan’s for me.”

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