Friday, September 09, 2011

Quinn Offers Mighty Insights of Historical--and Often Hysterical--Import -- Theater/Comedy Review: Colin Quinn, Long Story Short

Theater/Comedy Review

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short
Broadway Playhouse, Chicago
Thru September 10, 2011

Not too long ago, if asked to list comedians I would hope to see live on stage, Colin Quinn wouldn't have made my list.

Which isn't to say I haven't found him funny. Although I rarely watched Remote Control back when the Brooklyn-born comic hosted it on MTV, I somewhat liked Quinn on Saturday Night Live, especially when hosting on Weekend Update, even if not as much as his predecessor, Norm Macdonald. And in recent years, Quinn has demonstrated great wit in guest appearances on Howard Stern's radio show and as a participant on various celebrity roasts. Still, I wasn't exactly seeking him out, on TV, let alone the local comedy club circuit.

But especially given that the tenor of his Stern appearances has often been about being down on his luck, personally and professionally, it's nice when a skilled comedian--or anyone for that matter--has friends in high places. Although I didn't see it--it was said to be awful--Quinn was included in the 2010 movie Grown Ups with his higher-profile SNL mates Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider.

Also in 2010, another of Quinn's friends, Jerry Seinfeld, convinced Colin to do a one-man show, offered to direct it and undoubtedly helped get backing for it to bow on Broadway last fall. It had a nice 135-performance run and is now touring the country.

This is the second week of Quinn's show Long Story Short at Chicago's Broadway Playhouse, with two shows tonight and tomorrow concluding the run. While the show has already been televised on HBO and catching a rerun there would likely be sufficient, I would certainly recommend that anyone so inclined get down to Water Tower Place to see Quinn's intelligent insight on the follies and foibles that have linked almost all cultures throughout world history.

Perhaps because I went into the show believing that greed and self-centered motives have accounted for man's downfall--though rise as well--recently and for much of time, I found Quinn's material to be agreeably shrewd as he gave "the history of the world in 75 minutes." While it was more akin to the best college lecture you ever could imagine rather than chock-full of laugh out loud lines, Quinn enjoyably traversed time and space from ancient Greece and Rome to British Empire to a present day where survival of the fittest means we "came from the pricks, not the nice guys."

Some of Quinn's best jokes were the seeming throw-away lines at the end of a run about an era's idiocies, and I probably missed a few. But thoughts such as one about "why is Marxism so called if Marx and Engels worked on it together and equality is a key premise," show the depth of Quinn's intelligence. Another great strain was one where Quinn compared Julius Caesar and his reign over Rome to that of a mob boss.

As enjoyable as it was, I don't know that I liked Long Story Short too much better than I would have a standard Quinn stand-up routine, and there was little overtly Seinfeldian about it. But whereas Jerry is a genius when it comes to the absurdity of life, Quinn's take on the absurdity of life over the course of  history was definitely well worth an evening of mine.

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