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'Long Story Short': Colin Quinn's 75-Minute History of the World

Comedian Colin Quinn has been around a long time.

How long?

This long:


Quinn has come a long way since 1990, but unlike some of the comedians he came up with, like Jon Stewart and Ben Stiller, his career has been a series of, shall we say, lateral moves.

Sure, he was the "Weekend Update" guy on Saturday Night Live for five years, but his movie career never quite took off (A Night at the Roxbury, anyone?).

He took up stand-up comedy after he quit drinking and needed something to take up his sudden surfeit of sober free time. Nearly thirty years on, Quinn remains a workhorse, and is sometimes called “the comedian’s comedian” (which some comics and fans consider a dubious designation, a backhanded compliment that’s synonymous with “too brilliant to ever make it big”).

It’s the Colin Quinn of Tough Crowd (2002-2004) I’m most familiar with: the fast-talking, working-class Brooklyn autodidact whose dry quips sometimes flew over the heads of the audience, not to mention the fellow comics who debated current affairs with him in the midnight hour.

Come on: if Lincoln could opine to Douglas and those assembled that “there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together,” then surely we can use the elevated word “debate” here, too (EXTREME language and content warning):

So I brought a lot of enthusiasm to Quinn’s latest production,"Long Story Short." He’d workshopped the material for a long time in clubs, then took the 75-minute one-man show about the history of the world off-Broadway. It seems stupid to talk about a performer who started out in 1984 as “getting his big break” in 2010, but that’s sort of what happened when Jerry Seinfeld signed on as producer/director: with that big name attached to the production, "Long Story Short" made it to Broadway.

HBO turned "Long Story Short" into a special, which was nominated for an Emmy. When it came out on DVD a few weeks ago, it topped my to-watch list.