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

Other stellar bits saw Quinn veering off topic, like a cringe-inducingly accurate reenactment of the last time you visited a relative in the hospital (“See that other family? They stole my chair!”) and the real reason restaurants invented the “early bird special.”

As the show wraps up, Quinn tries to get semi-serious, musing that all empires end and perhaps America has had its day. Don’t worry: he doesn’t descend into Michael Moore-like vitriol, but he makes a point that few people were willing to hear when they needed to most – around ten years ago. That is, that “exporting democracy” sounds like a great idea to us, but for millions (maybe billions) around the world, “democracy” is synonymous with Britney Spears and crack. (One encounters the phrase “whiskey, democracy, sexy” far less often in the conservative blogosphere these days...)

You’d almost think Quinn and Seinfeld might have read Mark Steyn:

Speaking of Seinfeld: yeah, I'm a philistine -- I don't really understand how you "direct" a one-man show, but whatever Seinfeld did to get Quinn to stop mumbling and talking so fast, he should be congratulated.

Quinn doesn’t act like a typical comedian. He doesn’t pull stupid faces or mug for the camera. In fact, he seemed pretty tense for the first half of "Long Story Short." Having seen video of other versions of the same material, like this:

I now wonder if Quinn was told that for the sake of the HBO taping, he should look “up” (at the camera) instead of “out” at the audience.  The result is that the HBO special is stiffer than I’d been prepared for – Quinn is looking up and out at nobody, and seems almost afraid to blink. Quinn sounded great but looked extremely uncomfortable – the contrast was jarring.

The opening and closing music and graphics were a bit cheesy. The shifting stage backgrounds depicting pyramids, maps, and other predictable images made me feel like I was seated in the orientation center at the Hoover Dam or some other historical site instead of “at” a Broadway show.