An Update on Human History from Colin Quinn

by | April 8, 2011 at 8:53 AM | Interviews

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short (HBO)

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short (HBO)

Here’s a weekend update on Colin Quinn: He’s starring on HBO Saturday night (April 9) in a new, one-man comedy special in which he basically reviews the history of the world in a little under an hour and a half.

Quinn, 52, was once the “Weekend Update” anchor on “Saturday Night Live” (1998-2000), but for most of the ensuing years, the New York City native flew largely under the radar doing standup until a few years ago. That was when an old friend, Jerry Seinfeld, offered to produce and direct Quinn in a one-man show he called “Long Story Short,” which Quinn performed about 150 times in a small theater in Greenwich Village and then moved to Broadway, where he did it more than 170 times.

It’s the same show Quinn’s bringing to HBO this weekend, although the TV version was directed by John Moffit (though it differs very little from the one Quinn and Seinfeld did on stage).

Go Behind The Scenes Of “Long Story Short”:

Xfinity.tv caught up with Quinn at the offices of HBO in Manhattan, where he told us about his long friendship with Seinfeld, and explained his fascination with human history. Here’s what he had to say:

What is your relationship with Jerry Seinfeld?
It’s sexual in nature. Um, no, he’s an old friend of mine from comedy and we just eat breakfast all the time together. So I was doing my show and with Jerry, it’s like, you don’t wanna ask him to do things because all people do is ask him for [bleep] all day. But then when he saw [Quinn's show], he goes, ‘I’ll produce it.’ I was like, ‘[Bleep!],’ and I said I need a director, so he goes, ‘I’ll direct it.’ So I mean, it’s sort of just him being such a good friend that he’s just trying to help me out.

It sounds like a great favor.
It’s a [bleepin’] giant favor!

Where was your career before he came along to produce this show? What had you been doing?
Standup. I mean I was in [Adam] Sandler’s movie “Grown Ups,” but other than that, not a lot.

What will this HBO special do for your career? What does a showcase like this do for anyone’s career?
I think it makes people realize that, ‘Oh, no, this guy’s not going away, we’d better give him something.’ I think it just helps you get another shot at something, hopefully. I mean, we’ll see what happens, but I feel like it makes people go, ‘Oh, this guy’s a [bleepin’] player in some way. We can’t just dismiss him.’

In the show, you do a lot of dialects and accents. Is that a skill that developed over the years or did you work hard on them just for this show?
I feel like I always had, like, that thing to be able to do accents, but I never did it before. It’s supposed to be ethnic. I’m so fascinated by ethnicity too.

Is that from living all over New York City?
Yeah, I feel like it is, [but] every place is like this now. I mean, you go to Durham, N.C., it doesn’t matter, it’s all multicultural. But New York’s so packed in with all these cultures.

Have you always done this kind of examination of history in your standup act?
I’ve always liked it. I do a bit once in a while. I was always fascinated by, not history, but humanity, human behavior, so whenever I see human behavior, I’m just like, Wow. Like right now, I’m doing a thing about Qaddafi’s two sons ’cause he’s got those two sons that are like Charlie [Sheen] and Emilio [Estevez], you know, one’s like a playboy and one’s like daddy’s boy. And all the dictators have those two sons – everybody has them, I guess – so I’m just interested in the interaction of people in every situation.

Certainly, one of the themes in your show is how basic human behavior hasn’t really changed down the centuries.
Right, because it hasn’t. All the technology changed. So like if you read a Shakespearean play, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, they’re doing blood draining, so primitive, for medical stuff. We’d never do that.’ But then the jealousy and the infighting and the backbiting – you’re laughing because that’s like us. So it’s just amazing [how that] never changed.

Generally speaking, do you read a lot of history? I mean, did you have to go to the library or something to put this thing together?
No. Most of it’s general knowledge of history. Like I said, it starts out with some vague historical thing, but the beauty of today is you don’t have to go to the library, you just Google anything and then you’re right there.

Who are your favorite comics? Who influenced your comedy?
I hate to be the cliché, but it was Richard Pryor, George Carlin. I mean, those are the big influences. And then I remember David Brenner. When I was probably in my early teens, David Brenner was on ‘The Tonight Show’ and he had a brown leather jacket, open shirt down to here, gold chains and a shag haircut and I was like, Wow, a comedian can be like a sexy, cool dude and still be funny. I was fascinated by so many comedians.

When you were writing the material for “Long Story Short” and you got to the part where you wanted to talk about Islam, did you pause and perhaps consider avoiding Islam altogether because of how some Muslims might react?
That kind of thing just drives me crazy. No, like all true comedians I [bleepin’] hate, hate, hate political correctness. I hate it. So to me, it’s never a consideration. I mean, would I do that in front of a mosque? No! Maybe I’m talking tough now, but [in front of a mosque], it’s a different ballgame. But like every comedian – we’re like angry 12 year-old kids. Hey man, don’t tell us what the [bleep] to say!

In “Long Story Short,” you make reference to some of today’s most eye-catching TV shows, including “Jersey Shore” and “Ice Road Truckers.” Do you watch these shows, or are you more of a grazer who watches a little bit of everything?
I would say that I graze. I love prison shows. I watch all that prison [bleep] all the time.

Which prison series do you like better – “Lockdown” [on NatGeo] or “Lockup” [on MSNBC]?
“Hard Time,” the new one [on NatGeo]! “Lockdown” or “Lockup” – that’s so funny. You should do a whole thing on prison shows!

“Colin Quinn: Long Story Short” premieres Saturday, April 9, at 10/9c on HBO.

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