To seriously date myself, I have been watching Colin Quinn since the mid-eighties when he was the announcer/sidekick on MTV's inspired pop culture game show "Remote Control." In truth, while I like Quinn fine, I've never been a particularly enthusiastic fan. His irascible persona has served him well in stand-up and TV shows (Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, The Colin Quinn Show) and suitably on "Saturday Night Live," but he's never had the cross over success of fellow "Remote Control" alum Adam Sandler. It was of great interest to me, however, when it was announced that Jerry Seinfeld was backing and directing Quinn in a one man stage show. "Colin Quinn--Long Story Short" is a 2010 filmed presentation of that show performed at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theater, originally broadcast on HBO. The show's hook is that it is a satirical look at the history of the world in 75 minutes. Tying modern day phenomenon to ancient civilizations, Quinn journeys through different cultures and eras for a fitfully funny and surprisingly smart engagement.
To be fair, I wasn't sure what to expect when I sat down to watch this presentation. But Quinn acquits himself well in a routine that is thought provoking and insightful. This is NOT a stand-up comedy special. Those looking for traditional jokes might need to look elsewhere. This is an intricately constructed piece that is as much about history as it is about any punchline. While not always as laugh-out-loud funny as you might hope, it more than compensates by its ambition and scope. I've never given much thought to Quinn as an intellectual, but the sophistication in this piece has made me reevaluate that opinion.
Not all of the night's themes are particularly new to comedic interpretation. The main point seems to be that humans are their own worst enemies. Seeking proclaimed enlightenment, our follies and foibles lead us down the path to destruction every time. And history repeats--no matter the time or place. Some of the funniest bits have to do with frustrations in contemporary society as people relate to one another at the ATM or in an elevator. But Quinn is adept at relating the idiocies of the present to those of the past. He takes us through the historical settings of the ancient Greeks and Romans, through to the British Empire, all the way up to the Jersey Shore with lots of stops on the way. I absolutely loved Quinn's premise here. For sure, the material was a bit uneven (some even too expected)--but the success far outweighs any drawbacks. Smart and literate, this satiric romp through the ages is absolutely recommended to those who know what to expect. Once again, this is NOT stand-up but a fully realized one man show which is both funny and brainy--a winning combination. About 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 10/11.