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Colin Quinn Talks 'Long Story Short,' Seinfeld & 'SNL,' Plus Exclusive Poster Art

by Nick Zaino, posted Apr 1st 2011 9:00AM
Colin Quinn Long Story ShortThere is a bit in Colin Quinn's new one-man show, 'Long Story Short,' that sums up Quinn's view of the world, where he compares the global political climate to a bar at 3:30 in the morning. America is the loudmouth guy in a bad mood looking for a fight. North Korea is outside leaning on South Korea's car, waiting for them to come out. Iran is the scary guy everyone thinks is really drunk, but even scarier, he's sober.

This is the worldview of a guy who probably reads the newspaper in the early afternoon nursing a steady stream of pints at the pub. "I like to run the bigger picture of the world," Quinn told AOL TV. "Then of course, just being around bars so much, I guess it's the first thing I think about."

Quinn is no stranger to one-man shows. While he was the Weekend Update anchor on 'Saturday Night Live' in 1998, he drew great reviews for his 'Irish Wake,' something he hopes to revive if 'Long Story Short' does well on HBO (premieres Sat., April 9, 10PM ET).

We've got an exclusive first look at the special's poster -- click the image (right) to see it larger.

It has a lot going for it: It's Quinn's best, most coherent work, taking a pessimistic view of most of recorded history, peppered with his more personal observations. It was also directed by Quinn's longtime friend, Jerry Seinfeld (he helmed the HBO version and the Broadway run). Plus, he mentions Snooki, which will always draw a few curious people these days.

Keep reading for Quinn's thoughts about the show, working with old friends and whether or not he misses his 'SNL' days.

You talk about how human nature never changes in the show, so when you look at, say Voltaire's 'Candide' and 'Jersey Shore,' do you draw a straight line from one to the other?
Yeah. I mean, let's face it, human nature can never seem to change whatsoever. It's like, no matter what we do, it's still the same behavior. In all of us, you know? The ultimate thing is you find out, one of life's great mysteries is, you find out at the end, "Oh yeah, I'm the asshole in this." That's the punchline.

Do you see any glimmer of hope or change when you look at the timeline?
The hope is, well, technologically, we keep advancing. And the hope is that we haven't really totally destroyed each other completely. It's a miracle when you think of all the idiots running around and all the madness, that we still manage to build these buildings and computers. Not that I've done any of that. But it's just a miracle that life works on the level it does work almost. But having said that, 80 percent of the people on the planet are like, "Really, life works to a certain degree? Is that why I'm eating garbage every day from a garbage dump? Life works?"

Do you have a love of history?
No. I love people, I love studying people more than history. So whatever situation I see, then I look at, what were the people like, more than history itself.

Colin QuinnDo you see any conflict in the statement that you love people and how pessimistic you are about them?
No. I'm one of them. It's just how we are. There's nothing you can do about it. It's like I love people and hate people. It is a weird contradiction. Humanity is a crazy contradiction. I accept us for who we are. We're not that great. Every time we take a step forward we go back to the same primitive behavior. We're meant to be this way. It's not our fault, it's just who we are.

Does that influence how you act in the world and treat other people?
Sure. I act with a vague, patronizing attitude like I'm talking to little kids. No, I'm just kidding. I treat everybody like they're about to either hug me or stab me. And either one they did, I wouldn't be surprised. Like, yeah, that figures.

How do you judge that? What's your tell?
[Laughs] My tell is usually that little flash in the eyes. You see that, you go, "Oh, this person's really not insane in a way that's tolerable."

But there is tolerable insanity?
Oh yeah. Most of it is tolerable.

Do you identify more with the smart guy or the tough guy in the dichotomy you discuss?
I think I identify more with the smart guy, but most people might take umbrage at that. I like to think of myself as a real thinker, but I suppose people might beg to differ.

How was your working relationship with Jerry Seinfeld? Was it easier or tougher to work with a friend?
It's demoralizing. If I ever see him again, it'll be too soon. No, it was great -- he was really into the process. Obviously he was making no money. He was not doing it for any reason other than to help me and to do something he was interested in. You can't ask for less ulterior motives, you know?

Jerry Seinfeld & Colin Quinn

How did that work out practically?
He really worked hard. He came in shaping all the material, shaping all the structural stuff, coming up with concepts for the set. Everything.

Being another comedian directing, how did that work with the writing?
Of course, he wanted to add a few of his [things], but ultimately let me have the final say on that stuff. He's like, yeah, it's your show, you know. If we had any arguments about stuff, I mean.

Was there anything of his you want to point out?
Nothing I want to point out, but I will point out. My favorite thing was "pursuit of happiness," about how no other country put that in the constitution: To make people happy. No other government ever made it their mandate, you know.

I wouldn't necessarily have thought of you and Seinfeld as similar comedians, but a few of the reviews pointed out that there's a similar outlook.
I know. I wouldn't necessarily call us similar comedians at all. But I would say most comedians have a very cynical worldview of the way the world can work. It's almost like if you didn't, you couldn't be a comedian. If you went up onstage and said, "Hello, folks, you know, things are pretty good, all told. I went to the store, the guy behind the counter was pretty rude, but basically he was a good person." That's not funny.



Do you follow Weekend Update on 'Saturday Night Live' anymore? Do you have any strong opinions about it?
Yeah. I feel like this whole cast for the last seven years is as good as any cast they've ever had. Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader -- I mean, these people are just great. A lot of the sketch writing is still bad, like it always was. Sometimes you'll watch and be like, "How is that the first sketch? That's horrible." But the cast is great.

I'm assuming you're not making friends with Lorne Michaels by saying that.
No, he knows. I mean, it's not every week. They've done some of the greatest sketches, too. All the stuff that's funny has to be written by somebody. They've got great stuff, too, but they've still got the same problem we've always had. I don't feel like I'm removed from it, I feel like I'm still part of it in the sense that, sometimes it will be, "Uh, what happened?" You have a bad week, you know? That's part of the excitement of the show, though. That's what keeps it fresh.

People always hold up those first five years. Do you feel that those five years had the same sort of problems?
Yeah, they did. I know they did. Even I held up those first five years but then 10 years ago when I saw the show in those first five years, it's like, yeah, there's a lot of bombs in here, too.

From when you started to right now, do you think comedy has changed a lot? Do you fit better or worse, are you happier in comedy today than say 20 years ago?
I definitely feel like I'm being able to articulate more what I'm talking about. But I feel like it is a different time in a certain way. People take stand-up more seriously or they listen better now. But 20 years ago, I was 20 years younger, so I like those times better.

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whitepants52

SNL started in 1975 ! Over the years since then there have been new cast members, new writers, and a new producer (since Lorne Michaels left). So,really, no one should expect the same kind of quality they got used to from different people on the job ! And I agree that the quality HAS gone down but then, my AGE has gone UP ! Perhaps my sense of humor has aged as well. But, sadly, the SNL concept as a whole just might be winding down.

April 05 2011 at 1:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
manmi1

Mad T.V. was much funnier. Sad that it's gone and we're stuck with what passes for Saturday night entertainment.

April 05 2011 at 10:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dada4080

Mad TV was much funnier - LOL hilarious. Don't know who's writing SNL's material, but I agree: it's unwatchable.

April 04 2011 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
boopgreek

Colin Quinn is being portrayed as some sort of comedic genious. I've never seen it. Any successes he has enjoyed are really a mystery. I put him in the same class as Andy Kaufman; appealing to a very narrow audience. Neither of these people, but Colin in particular, could make me laugh on a bet.

April 04 2011 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mikerat42

SNL is unwatchable... I'm embarassed for them...

April 04 2011 at 3:03 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
crrpeake

Yup, they really do suck. No originality, nothing clever or imaginative, no humor. Just silly stuff.

April 04 2011 at 11:56 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Leo

It is not necessary to have been on SNL to know the skethes are NOT funny! They are terrible!

April 04 2011 at 11:27 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
bildaws

"Was there anything of his you want to point out?
Nothing I want to point out, but I will point out. My favorite thing was "pursuit of happiness," about how no other country put that in the constitution: To make people happy. No other government ever made it their mandate, you know."
Where do you get "To make people happy? No other government ever made it their mandate, you know."
There is no mandate to make people happy. Everyone misses the point, "pursuit, pursuit, pursuit", no guarantees.

April 04 2011 at 11:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bildaws's comment
pbc444

mmm..perhaps meaning that as a mandate that we BE 'free" to pursue the pursuit of happiness..ie, fewer restictions in that pursueing thingy/etc....course, all with a regard to the greater common good of ALL , NOT just the few is where we severely have gone off track (yeah, IS tiresome to have rules/regulations while NO good oversight which is needed for we ALL are but 'human" and some have perversionary inclinations that jepordize the well being of others while having such little regard to others and ONLY concerned with their OWN best interests/etc....but along we continue roll ,clinging to our preferred 'myths/interpratives/etc. counting on some personal luck to hit our OWN riches/happiness/etc.Tis indeed a rather long tuff slog, but thats reality/life and thensome and we ALL want to be free to make OUR choices/etc unimpeded and for better OR worse. We consider it our inherent 'right' and thensome !!

April 04 2011 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
taerodmoon

there's the pot calling the kettle black

April 04 2011 at 8:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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