Over the course of the show, Quinn takes viewers on a whirlwind “1066 and All That” tour of world history, from Antigone to Snooki.
(Before you say to yourself, “Oh! You mean like, he’s the cool teacher we never had?”, Quinn’s anticipated that reaction; he gets around to spoofing every Hollywood “hip white teacher helps underprivileged black kids succeed” movie in one of the show’s funniest bits.)
Most stand-up comedians are terrible students, as Quinn himself has noted, but he must have absorbed a few lessons while he was throwing spitballs behind the nuns’ backs. He opens the show by declaring that “human nature doesn’t change,” which is a very Catholic concept. And he told one interviewer that the show’s material about the Silk Road and the historical acrimony between the French and the English was “just general knowledge,” which was true if you went to Catholic school when we did, but not so much anymore
The Colin Quinn of Tough Crowd, who relished talking about race and ethnicity, is the same one on the Broadway stage, if in exceedingly cleaned up form. He traces familiar Italian hand gestures back to ancient Rome, and explains the differences between the Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs based on the particular drugs they used.
Quinn explains that the way Jews, Christians, and Muslims pray reveals a lot about them, with Muslims crouched over as if “they know there’s gonna be an explosion.”
The show isn’t punchline driven, which may throw some viewers off. I guess Quinn was trying to be “above” that, but for what it’s worth, the occasional old-fashioned, just plain jokes got the biggest laughs (“the average Greek child was watching 40 hours of plays a week”).