5 Questions: Colin Quinn Proposes an “Unconstitutional” Act

The flaming Quinn of comedy. Photo by Mike Lavoie.
The flaming Quinn of comedy. Photo by Mike Lavoie.
The flaming Quinn of comedy
Photo by Mike Lavoie

Colin Quinn seems like maybe he’s sort of really a nice guy underneath that gruff and anguished exterior, so it’s possible that the trenchant social commentary in Colin Quinn Unconstitutional, his latest monologue-as-theatre show, is a kind of act act. After all, audiences who took in Quinn’s last theatrical foray, Long Story Short, which ran nearly five months on Broadway and earned no less a fan than Jerry Seinfeld a directing credit, couldn’t help but be impressed by the guy — by the range of his topics and the brilliance of his insights. The world as Quinn sees it may be coming to crap — to insanity, to stupidity, to moronic idiocy — but goddamn it if he isn’t going to celebrate with some good old-fashioned outrage.

But then you start to do a little research and think, no, that’s really not an act act. The guy sees the world coming to crap and he’s got the blame for it well assigned. Looking at the world today — hypocrisy, greed, endless self-involvement and total political dysfunction — you can’t blame Quinn for calling out crap for what it is. A part of you knows he’s right.

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But then you research more and think, no, there’s a fine line between trenchant social commentary that is entertaining and brilliant and one that’s just mean. For Quinn, a public figure, also sells social media fury like no one else.

Here’s an example. In late 2011, Quinn decided to go after Will Ferrell on Twitter. In what the media eagerly called a “feud” between the men, who knows why and what was true and not true, but it was high-profile enough to get New York magazine to ask about it — and Quinn deftly, perhaps unsurprisingly, blamed it all on the media. How do you blame the media for what you write on Twitter?

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But once a big, screaming Quinn, apparently always a big, screaming Quinn. In spring 2012, Quinn ranted on Twitter about race and homosexuality. The truth is in his tweets:

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In the summer of 2012, the Huffington Post got into the action, publishing an post that referenced another “sarcastic rant” and then ran a 16-image slideshow of Quinn tweets that read, bizarrely, like some sort of vanilla apology tour. From the HuffPo:

If you’re not following Colin Quinn (@iamcolinquinn) on Twitter, you really, really should be. If you know him only as a Weekend Update anchor — or that guy from ‘Remote Control’ (oh, hi, the ’80s) — you’re missing out, because he’s found his true calling in 140-characters-or-less.

Monday morning, Quinn went on a sarcastic rant reminding his followers that good comedy is never controversial, and that comedians who push boundaries onstage are seriously lacking in good taste. He then proceeded to retweet pretty much every negative comment anyone fired back at him, mostly those who didn’t get the joke.

Sometimes you just get the feeling that social progress — civil rights, equal rights, any rights — make Quinn deeply discomfitted. Dude could probably sit down and sing the All in the Family opening number solo, doing one part Edith and one part Archie:

Poor guy is so funny that maybe he’s not funny at all. Or maybe — here’s an idea — it’s really all a ruse. Maybe he’s got a brilliant agent whispering in his ear: “Hey Colin, use Twitter to gin up new material.” It’s all very confusing. It doesn’t make Quinn less funny, maybe, but it does make him less likable. Caveat emptor.

In fact, we think you should check out Colin Quinn Unconstitutional, which runs through June 3 at the Barrow Street Theatre and see what you think. Maybe tweet him during the show and add your own outrage to the stew. The show is described like this:

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On May 25th, 1787, fifty-five delegates in wigs and tights sat down to create a country from scratch. In 2013, Colin Quinn offers his unique comedic perspective on our national character. From predator drones to the Kardashians, he pulls no punches in asking if this is what the founding fathers planned.

And now, 5 questions Colin Quinn has never been asked:

1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
They asked me if I liked to aggravate people.

2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
They asked if comedians all want attention they never got as kids. (Who got attention as kids other than the Biebs?)

3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Some guy asked me if I had a fear of stalkers shooting or stabbing me while I was performing.

4) You’ve stated in interviews that comedy for you doesn’t come from pain but anger. Are you angry all the time? How tiring does that get?
I’m not any angrier than most people, but I’m privileged to be able to be allowed to release it.

5) If someone put a gun in your head and made you choose who to throw out of Congress first — the Republicans or Democrats — who would you pick?
If someone put a gun to my head and asked if I was Democrat or Republican, then that would mean they were Republican? I guess I would have to say that I’d tell them to go kiss my grits and take it from there.

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Bonus question:

6) Based on some tweets of yours from last year, we’re guessing our national progress toward marriage equality has you apoplectic, right?
Yes. In my opinion, marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman. It’s not supposed to be Adam and Steve. It’s supposed to be a man and a woman. Kim and Kris. Laci and Scott. Or Ike and Tina.