Wednesday September 19, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Emmy award-winning comedian Paula Poundstone has traveled from California to Great Bar rington to perform at a Fairview Hospital benefit at the Ma haiwe on Saturday, but in the Berkshires, she's never far from home.

As she explained by phone from her Santa Monica home in the wake of a back-to-school, off-to-college flurry, as a teen ager she lived for a year in Manchester with Rena and Guy (Guido) Masiero, whose sons Chris and Matt own the Guido's Fresh Marketplace stores. The Masieros provided the support and encouragement that set her on the road to becoming a successful stand-up comedian.

She now crisscrosses the country entertaining enthusiastic aud iences with the keenly observant brand of humor that makes her a favorite panelist on the weekly NPR news quiz show, "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!"

Poundstone still visits the Masieros in the Berkshires every year whenever she can with her own three children. "We consider them our family," she said.

"I remember coming there once when Allie was a baby. Matt [Masiero] put her on the produce-weighing machine --and she's the one I just took to college!"

"She was about the weight of a bag of potatoes back then. Now she's bigger."

Guy, she noted, was scared of public speaking "a long, long time ago. Since then he came out of his shell.


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At a benefit a friend of the Masieros put together on the North Shore, she recalled, "Guy introduced me on stage. It was one of the highlights of my life."

Always the welcoming face for customers at his sons' store, Guy passed away in 2006; still, Poundstone said, "I quote him almost every day."

Her ease with humor started early. In 1965, her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bump, wrote the observation, "I have enjoyed many of Paula's humorous comments about our activities."

"I loved it that an adult appreciated something that I said," Poundstone recalled. "And let me tell you, it was a long time before another one did!"

While she was living in Boston in 1979, a comedy renaissance in several cities, including Chicago, fueled her career, as "business-minded folks" started stand-up comedy in places that had only recently been discos.

Nowadays, she juggles her touring schedule with parenting three children.

"I've got one of those little trap doors that you use for a cat," she quipped; "they're able to come in and out at will."

Recently, her daughter's college president quoted her tweet: "We just drove 17 hours to get my daughter to school -- I'm not sure I can do that every day."

Poundstone's appearance caps a fundraising gala for Great Barrington's Fairview Hos pital, a small, rural critical-access facility that celebrates its centenary in 2013. She returns to the Mahaiwe by popular demand following her sold-out benefit for Fairview in 2008.

"I love it in the Berkshires, it's great," she said. "There's something about driving by the Price ‘Choppah' that just makes me happy."

"We're very excited to have her back," said Lauren Smith, Fairview's director of com munity relations. "She's just so smart and witty."

In 2008, Smith explained, the first gala's theme was "Laughter is the Best Medicine." Pound stone had performed in the area the year before for the Guido Masiero Scholarship Fund.

"She was a hit; she is perfect for the Berkshires," Smith said. "Her work very much reflects the audience that she is with --that's a big part of her success."

"My favorite part of the night is just talking to my audience," said Poundstone. "[They] seem really well informed and smart and fun."

Sometimes, in the midst of a story, she said, "I have no idea where I'm going, and they're willing to go along for the ride."

Poundstone is always happy to meet audience members after the show.

"It really feels great to get to know people a little bit."

This year's gala theme is "I am Fairview," Smith said, and reflects the strong community spirit and support for the hospital.

They hope to raise more than $175,000 from the gala, which will go toward new diagnostic radiology equipment. More than that, Smith said, the gala "brings the community together to focus on the hospital and the resource that it is."

What: Paula Poundstone, stand-up comedian

Where: Mahaiwe
Performing Arts Center

When: Saturday at 8 p.m.

Admission: Performance
alone, $52.

For gala packages
with pre-show reception,
call (413) 854-9609.

Information: www.mahaiwe.org, (413) 528-0100