Comedian Colin Quinn skewers constitutional calamities
December 3, 2013
By Sherry Grindeland
Being the son of two teachers didn’t affect comedian Colin Quinn’s behavior in the classroom. He was always the wise kid sitting in the back of the classroom.
“I was the cliché of that kid,” Quinn said in a telephone interview from Manhattan last week. “At first, they would think I was funny, but after a week or two, they didn’t like me because of my loud mouth.”
Now, at age 54, Quinn shows more empathy for his teachers than he did when he was growing up in Brooklyn.
“Who the hell needs heckling when teaching? Teachers have enough problems without students like me in their classroom,” he said.
Smart aleck behavior aside, it becomes apparent to anyone following the comic’s career that he absorbed a lot in and out of the classroom. He’s a passionate reader who makes his living by writing jokes for others and for his own shows. Quinn knows a great deal about history — both humankind’s and the world.
His latest show, “Unconstitutional,” based on the U.S. Constitution and American history, has earned rave reviews. Quinn will perform this one-man, 75-minute show Dec. 6 in the ballroom at Snoqualmie Casino.
This show follows his previous hit, “Long Story Short,” a 75-minute, one-man play about the history of the world.
If anyone can make people laugh about the Constitution, it is Quinn. He got Americans to see the humor in the President Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal when he had “Saturday Night Live” audiences roaring with his take on the news from 1998 to 2000. His trademark was his sign-off, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” In 2004, he made the Comedy Central’s list of 100 greatest stand-up comedians.
Since then, he has done a lot of stand-up comedy, been in a number of television shows and some movies, and worked in radio on the East Coast.
Quinn was dubbed the “joke fairy” by a New York radio personality. Quinn would call during the show, reel off a joke in his voice that sounds like he has had too many Scotch and sodas and cigars and then quickly hang-up.
He doesn’t drink Scotch or any other alcohol and hasn’t for several decades, after winning a battle with alcoholism. Instead, he likes Diet Coke and tea.
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Colin Quinn: ‘Unconstitutional’
“Tea says everything about my life,” Quinn said. “I go into a Starbucks, which is known for coffee, and order tea. That’s a metaphor for my life.”
His stand-up comedy career is a million laughs away from his childhood fantasies.
“When I was a real little kid, I wanted to be a fireman,” Quinn said. “Then, I wanted to be a pro basketball player, but when I was 13, I realized that was not going to be.”
Part of the self-realization was awareness of his height — he’s 5 feet, 8 inches tall.
Instead of sports, he began to think about show business.
“With my loud mouth, I thought I could be on a sit-com or something,” he said.
He dropped out of Stony Brook University after the first year, eventually becoming a bartender. Quinn quit bartending so he could work on his comedy routines. His first big break was when he became co-host on MTV’s comedy show “Remote Control” in 1987. He’s been, as they say, in the biz ever since.
Why do a show about the Constitution?
The U.S. Constitution, he said, is a group of laws that created the U.S. personality, and where we feel entitled to look out for No. 1, ourselves.
“With the Constitution, we’re also the ones that gave people hope and free will,” Quinn said. “But at this point, we can also make fun of ourselves, we can abuse ourselves like the model who says that she has pimples.”
This will be Quinn’s first local performance. He’s traveled the world — Africa, China, the Middle East and Europe — and visited most the states in this country but never Washington.
He recently discovered the joy of Twitter.
“I torture other people on Twitter,” Quinn said. “I finally found my purpose in life — to antagonize everybody.”
After all, he said, that’s the beauty of our Constitution. It gives him the right to free will and to say what he wants. That, he noted, includes being obnoxious on things such as Twitter.
Follow Quinn on Twitter at https://twitter.com/iamcolinquinn.