In the nearly 25 years since wiseass Brooklynite Colin Quinn debuted on MTV’s game show Remote Control, the comic has written for In Living Color, anchored Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” and hosted two short-lived TV shows. This month, he’s appearing in Long Story Short, a one-man show about failed empires, produced and directed by Jerry Seinfeld. Quinn spoke with Brian Raftery.
Everyone says the American empire is falling like the Roman, but no. It’s falling like every empire: Greek, Roman, Mayan, Mauryan. When I say Mauryan, people say, “Okay, maybe he does know what he’s talking about.”
Were you a good history student?
I hit my peak at 12, before I started smoking pot. That was my downfall.
How did Seinfeld get involved?
We’ve known each other since the late eighties. He’s been a great friend—even when he was on Seinfeld and I was doing a one-man show in a crummy theater, he showed up.
How’s the stand-up scene changed since you started?
All these young comics, they’re really fuckin’ funny. After all the comedians I’ve seen, how can people come up with new jokes?
What was the most memorable gig of your stand-up career?
I guess it would be the first unofficial gig. It was before I was doing comedy, but I wanted to be a comedian. So I went to the Improv early on a Sunday afternoon, got wasted, then needed speed to stay awake. I went to a [place on] 42nd Street, and this door bursts open. There’s six cops, and they’re sweeping Times Square, cleaning it up for the Sunday matinees. So then it’s a chain of me and thirteen black dudes [at the station], and the whole time I’m screaming, “I’ve got a comedy show, motherfucker, let me go!” So the cops finally say, “Okay, let’s see your act.” I start doing it—whatever that was—and after two minutes, one of the cops says, “We were gonna let you go, because you said you were a comedian, but now we know you’re lying.”
And the most unmemorable?
I’ve had delusions of grandeur my whole life, and I was in the middle of writing a movie, and Mike Myers calls me up to tell me I got the part of Dr. Evil’s son in Austin Powers: “Just fly out—it’s only a few days.” He couldn’t have made a better scenario. But I was such a dick. I said, “Hey, man. I’m doing my own thing.” Maybe I was a little scared of it. I’ve turned down some shit, [but] that is the only one I can honestly say was stupid.