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Don't Call It a Comeback 

After three years on the road, Poundstone's on track.

Give Paula Poundstone a break. So she spent six months in detox after her "horrible debacle" four years ago. And so what, if she doesn't take her stand-up act to every comedy club in every city, every year? That doesn't mean she's fallen off the face of the earth.

"A photographer said to me recently something about reintroducing myself to my audience, and I said, 'Gee, that's funny you have that perception,'" says Poundstone, who's in town this weekend for a three-day run. "I was stuck in stupid rehab. Then I went back to work a couple days after I got sprung. So, I've been working the road steadily for three years. In anybody else's job, you'd get a ring or a watch."

Sure, Poundstone's not proud of her conviction on child-endangering charges for driving drunk with her three adopted children in the car. She's far from pleased that the judge put her on probation for five years. And she's still miffed that she temporarily lost custody of her kids. (She regained parental rights in late 2002.) But Poundstone's the first to admit that she created her own mess.

"Two or three times a day, I stop and smile at how much I enjoy getting the shit kicked out of me," she says. "I've assembled my life this way on purpose. I did it that way because I actually like stress. There's something about having a thousand things to do and sweating my balls off that I love."

Sober for nearly three years, Poundstone is loving the club circuit, despite the occasional audience member who's knocked back a few too many. "When I was working in Florida one time -- I swear, I'm not exaggerating -- on a second-show Friday night, there were three different women from three different parties stretched out on tables," she recalls. "It looked like the set of M*A*S*H! But you know what? I have a cool audience that never left. And it's never been funnier."

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