Comedian Colin Quinn, who most folks remember not only from his run on Saturday Night Live (1995-2000) as a cast member who hosted the show’s Weekend Update segment, but also from hosting his own Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn on Comedy Central and his roles in the films A Night at the Roxbury and Trainwreck, recently wrapped up his one-man-show run in New York City, titled ‘Small Talk.’
He’s now taking his show on the road and will include a stop at Cleveland’s prized Hilarities Fourth Street Theatre from June 15 – 17.
“I’m playing around. It’s a lot of new material, too,” Quinn tells CleveRock on a recent phone interview when asked if his comedy tour is the same show he’s been performing in NYC. “I get bored and just start writing other stuff, too. I’m just doing material about our culture or personalities and how they formed and how they changed, and how small talk is a big part of our culture. And, because we are a free speech country, there’s so much to say on social media, of course, which is related to how we speak today. So it’s really comedy about how we live now.”
This interviewer is a firm believer that comedy belongs in clubs like Hilarities. It loses something in translation at large theaters. (Don’t even get me started on sports arenas!) Colin was asked why he chooses to do the comedy clubs versus larger venues.
“I can’t do a few thousand seat theaters. I don’t sell a few thousand seats,” he quipped.
Well….doing the math, three shows at Hilarities (which will undoubtedly all sell out) would tally up to one show at a smaller theater at Playhouse Square! In theory, he COULD do it if he wanted to. It IS a choice.
“I never thought of it that way,” he said with a laugh. “There’s very few clubs that you want to do the club, but Hilarities is one. You know what I mean? Very few clubs have that vibe to them, especially nowadays. Most of the ones I know from the old days are gone, and HIlarities still has that energy. Some places are electric, and I feel like that’s one of those places that have it. There are only a few great clubs. There are about five or six clubs that people just love. Hilarities is one of them.”
To anyone engaged with any social media platform, it’s no secret that almost anything can be considered offensive in today’s climate. When asked if he just needs to write material and not give a darn what anyone thinks or be mindful of what might be offensive, Colin is just as conflicted as any Tom, Dick, or Karen:
“It’s a little bit of both. I know that sounds ridiculous and doesn’t seem possible, but you can say what you want to say if you make it funny,” he said. “I feel if it’s funny in general, it’s going to get laughs from the audience. You know what I mean? Yes, there’s always going to be a few people that are filming you or judging you, whatever. But I mean, in general, if it’s funny, that forgives a lot. So that’s part of it. But yeah, there’s definitely a different culture than it was 20 years ago.”
As if tip-toeing around a sensitive crowd isn”t difficult enough for live comedy, television is even more difficult with writers having to be midful of material needing to be ‘clipable’ or be able to go viral. Doctors don’t write Adderral prescriptions for adults. While Colin admitted to missing late night television and said that he misses the live studio audience laugh, he acknowldges the changes.
“Somebody was telling me that some friend, they have a TikTok, was telling them that people’s attention span, you have to make sure you get it. You have to change your tone or what you’re talking about every three seconds. I was like, ‘What? Wow!’ I remember when it was the MTV generation when people couldn’t t take more than a two-minute video, and now it’s three seconds,” Quinn said. “Of course, you have to go viral. You have no choice. That’s why it is all clips. Even the comedians all say clips. When I watch standup on YouTube or somebody’s stand-up, this is the scariest part, and I know these guys and I want to see the bit, but if I look down and I see, okay, this bit’s three minutes, I want them to get to the point!”
Quinn is aware that technology has broken barriers and put content gatekeepers out of work. When he was getting his start in the indusry, the internet didn’t even exist, podcasts were something in a science fiction novel, and TikTok wasn’t even on the minds of fantasy writers. I had to ask Colin if he felt that the number of people creating content could be labeled as ‘oversaturated.’
“It is oversaturated! It’s not just comedy. Everything is saturated. This is crazy. You know what I mean? I wish it was just comedy. It’s every aspect of everything from politics, to business, to sales, to music, to everything. It’s crazy. It’s saturated,” he replied. “Comedy is just a drop in the bucket of what’s going on, which is everything’s like this. Nothing can really make a dent. You know what I mean? I watched the final finale of Succession the other night. It’s over now, but now we’re moving on. You know what I mean? In the old days, things would stick around for years and now, it’s just like, Ok, what’s next? So it is weird., mean, same with anything, same with any, the economy, everything wars. I mean, the Ukraine a year and a half ok, people focused on the Ukraine, and now people are like, ‘Oh, the Ukraine?’ It’s in the background. Everything just becomes old news.“
Nonetheless, if given the choice….
“I definitely wish I would’ve came up today because I feel like people are more comedy savvy than when I came up. I mean obviously there’s some downsides to it, but I would’ve had a nice podcast,” Quinn said. “I would’ve just been one of the comedians, and I feel like, boy, I feel like there’s more taste in comedy than when I came up.”
Television. Books. Film. Podcasts. Live comedy. Quinn has ventured into so many mediums of entertainment. His time in Cleveland will be spent utilizing his definitive favorite.
“I hate that it’s still stand-up after all these years, but it still is. I mean, I hate to say it. There’s something going on there in the air that you can’t find anywhere else. You know what I mean? I don’t know if they call that kinetic or alchemy. I don’t know what the word is, but there’s something going on that nothing else has for me, and for a lot of people, that’s why you see everybody goes back to fucking stand-up”‘ he said. “All the comedians go back to standup. Why? They don’t need the money, right?. You know what I mean? They’re doing it because they miss it. I miss it. I miss the people. We are so lucky to be, it’s the only job that’s so clear. You are up there. Are they laughing or not laughing? If they’re not laughing, you’re not doing it. If you’re laughing, you’re doing it.”
With several years of late-night television on his resume, Quinn was asked if he had any crazy behind-the-scenes stories of something that hasn’t been revealed to the public yet. In my years of interviewing comedians semi-regularly, many of who have worked in television, I’ve never really got a solid ‘LOL’er’ on this one. Colin also shrugged this one off.
“Nothing amazing. I mean, just the funny big moments in life,” he said. “One time I was warming up the crowd at Saturday Night Live and Chevy Chase came out and the crowd goes crazy. You know what I mean? And he just walks up to me, he smiles at the crowd waves and he whispered in my ear. He goes, ‘I just came out here to fuck you,’ and then he walked away.”
Even though Quinn will be at Hilarities on Saturday, June 17 for an unusually early 6:00 PM show, and fellow comedian, Pete Holmes is in the very same building, the very same day, for an 8:30 PM show, he says the two won’t be hopping onstage together.
“That’s hilarious. I didn’t know he was there that day,” Quinn claims. “I know Pete, but no, there’s nothing planned.”
Comedians are known to be coy and this interviewer is known to be gullible, but nevertheless, I’m leaning toward believing Colin on this one.
But never fear! Holmes or no Holmes, Colin is worth the price of admission!