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We as Americans have always
taken for granted that we know Colin Quinn intimately. Of course, as a
nation were bound to make that presumption since we feel that we have more
or less grown up with the dude.
Sure, we learn more than we need to know
about his sex life because hes incredibly
forthcoming shockingly so as one of the most compelling guests who ever
appeared on The Howard Stern Show. Along with Howard, who
has heard it all, we no longer blink at Colins stories of
prostitutes and cats and priests.
And true, we come to know his sociopolitical
views each evening on Comedy Centrals surprise
hit Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn (Mondays
through Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. EST). And each of us can name at least one
song he warbled, tinged generously with gravel and nicotine, on
MTVs Remote Control (for me, it was The Way We Were.) And
how many of us have taken comfort in the memory of
how he with his neighborhood-guy delivery -- helped us through a small
part of the Clinton years as post-Norm-McDonald "Weekend
Update" anchor on Saturday Night Live?
So yeah, we know him, but do we know know
him? To look at him, he appears to be your typical Brooklyn bloke on the
stoop that put-it-there-pal kind of guy who
would buy you a beer at the corner bar in exchange for an hour of
your time hearing his stories. But alas our Colin (the guy we think
we know so damn well) goes a lot deeper than that.
For instance, did you know that
he hasnt had a drink in twenty years? He gave up drinking at age
twenty-three and has been sober ever since. To fill
up his time, he pursued stand-up comedy, and we know the rest, of
You may also be surprised to learn that
Colin has had a one-man show on Broadway in which he portrayed colorful
characters based on his Brooklyn neighbors. The performers who
success on The Great White Way with no chorus line, orchestra or even
Nathan Lane to loosen up the crowd are few and far between, but Colin is
on that legendary short list. And his 1989 MTV special, Goin Back to
Brooklyn (co-written by Ben Stiller) remains one of the most brilliant
lost treasures in the history of television.
Now we know him as host of Tough Crowd
with Colin Quinn, which has been happily renewed by Comedy Central
through the futuristic year of 2004. The irreverent commentary forum,
peopled by a panel of non-expert comedians, draws more than half a million
viewers each night. This peanut
gallery consisting mostly of Colins comedy world cronies -- toss
hilarious barbs at the world, and when the barbs are not so hilarious, they
toss them at each other. Along with crowd-pleasing regulars like
Greg Giraldo, Nick DiPaolo and Jim Norton,
they occasionally toss a barb to such no names as Jerry Seinfeld, Denis
Leary, Chris Rock and Janeane Garafolo.
Here are some more details you
may not have known about Colin, in his own words:
On his influences: I grew up on Carlin and Pryor like most
guys my age who were into comedy. Having Carlin on the show was such a big
thing for my family. My whole family came sixty
people and there are only a hundred people in
the audience. They laughed at nothing I said, but for Carlin, hed say
anything and theyd laugh.
On the shows MO: Today, being honest is edgy, which is
unfortunate. I just want everyone to say how they really feel,
trying to win the crowd over by saying the right
thing. The thing that I love about the show is that
we nail each other: "You phony!" You have to be loud and you have to be
quick. Its definitely a rhythm. I think that most people come on the show
and say, How seriously am I really going to take
On political correctness: I dont like what Ive seen in this
country as far as the phoniness in the last twenty years.
On Politically Incorrect: It was a role model for our show.
But on my show, were all comedians. No experts. Were not as high-minded.
If we dont agree with someone, we just make fun
of their shirt.
On the comedy of politics: If you are an extreme right or
extreme left guy and you think theres a real answer to the right or the
left and you dont think theres some extreme
bullshit on certain levels, youre not really a
comedian. Our job is to point out the bullshit and the hypocrisy on both
On weaknesses: Sometimes I feel I need to know more. I dont
know a lot about finance. I wish I knew more about business dealings. The
way business works. The way multi-nationals really
work, because thats obviously a big issue with
all of us. Are they good? Are they bad?
On Remote Control: It had nothing to do with what I was
trying to do at the time, but it was fun! MTV was like a big family. A real
family atmosphere. People still come up to me
about Remote Control. We had such an effect on people who are now
thirty to forty. It was pivotal to a lot of people.
Ken Ober, former Remote Control host and who now serves as
Supervising Producer for Tough Crowd: Hes one of the best
comedy minds around. Hes quick, funny and smart.
And he could host anything. He cuts through all the
On his stint as
"Weekend Update" anchorman:
The pressure was that Im not
really a joker guy, doing one liners. I always just keep
talking. The pressure was also on to keep up on
the news. Lorne [Michaels, SNL producer]
taught me some good lessons. Lorne is very interesting in many ways. I would
be like, Geez, Lorne, all my jokes are about the Senate subcommittee. And
Lorne said, "you can make it funny. Making it funny is hard
because you have a long setup. And you hope the
punchline will work. I did it for two and half years. I wasnt particularly
cut out for it. It wasnt my kind of comedy. But
it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. A dream.
Conveying whats funny in the news to a crowd is hard, because you
would have to find the right words that would get a laugh. Theres no hard
and fast rule as to whats funny to people.
On his one-man show: It was such a personal show to me. I was
nervous, but I wasnt really nervous. I wasnt trying to show people
"how talented I was." I was trying to show
these people [in my neighborhood] were about.
What their life was about. Those people meant so much to me, my life on that
On his acting career (which included pivotal roles in Crocodile
Dundee II and A Night at the Roxbury, among others):
One of the great shames of the
twentieth century. Its right below the Japanese internment camps.
On comedy clubs: I never leave them. I can still bomb. Comedy
clubs keep you humble. The crowd, no matter who you are, will give you grace
for like five minutes. Its a live crowd, theyve
paid money, theyve had a couple of drinks. You
have to keep their attention. You cant be phoning it in and you cant be
living off your laurels. You have to work. It really brings reality
back to you quickly.
On the rules he lives by: By comedian's rules: Nothing sacred.
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