With Long Story Short, an abridged, attention deficit disorder-friendly history lesson on civilization’s most prominent empires and man’s eternal proclivity to destroy the very foundations he once helped erect, Colin Quinn—former Saturday Night Live writer and cast member, and host of Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn—implements his trademark, scattered-delivery cynicism to examine culture from the philosophical Ancient Greeks through “the bouillabaisse of fallen empires”: modern-day, Jersey Shore obsessed America.
The Jerry Seinfeld-directed Long Story Short: History of the World in 75 Minutes arrived on Broadway in November of 2010 and twice extended its run before closing in March. It comes to East Hampton in June.
Niko Krommydas: I didn’t have the chance to see your play on Broadway or HBO…
Colin Quinn: [mutters] Son of a bitch.
NK: …but I read somewhere about your friendship with Snooki as its central theme, and its import.
CQ: No. Not at all.
NK: Do you hang out with The Situation?
CQ: None of this was anywhere near the play.
NK: I know, I was fuckin’ around with you. I’ve seen the play like six times.
CQ: (laughs) I was like, ugh.
NK: Do you think the Ancient Greeks would have worshiped Snooki?
CQ: Yeah, I think so. She would have been like, the goddess of partying, the goddess of…
NK: The poof?
CQ: Yeah. Almost like a little Hummel Doll-type god. She’s an archetype of the loud girl at the party who tries extra hard to be fun, and then has her mood swings. That’s Snooki.
NK: Your one-man show offers a “History of the World in 75 Minutes.” What would be the “History of the World in One Word?”
CQ: Wonder. But not in a good way. I’m amazed at how fucked up people are, how crazy we are—and if you look around at the buildings, subways, society, everything we’ve created—I mean, how did we do this? It’s amazing. I bet all the people that did these amazing computer things are like, ‘You bastards—if you would have been one-tenth of what I was, we could actually have a functioning planet right now.’ So, it really is a wonder how we just don’t kill each other. That we’ve gotten past caves, I don’t believe it. And it wasn’t thanks to people like me. It was thanks to whoever these nerds were that fuckin’ corralled electricity and all this other shit.
NK: Well, in your show, you ponder how we as humans can create nanotechnology to isolate single strands of DNA and stop global plagues, but “we need guards at the zoo so nobody tries to jump over the fence and kick the polar bear in the balls.” Why are people still so stupid?
CQ: It’s just our nature. Kicking a polar bear in the balls, people used to be like, ‘You’re an asshole.’ But the guy that kicked the polar bear in the balls would say, ‘I’m not an asshole, I’m funny.’ Now, he puts it on YouTube and people think he’s funny, so all the other assholes think that asshole’s funny, and it reinforces them—they form like a mini-army, almost like a city-state of idiots.
NK: Do you think there’s hope for us in the future to, I don’t know, be less stupid?
CQ: I think it’ll become worse, but it’s up to us—you know, the people in the middle—to draw the line for the dumbasses. But the line keeps getting furthered.
NK: I pulled this from your Twitter page: “Osama bin Laden to be buried at sea. That’s a noble touch! Hey, why don’t we just give him a twenty one gun salute while we’re at it?” I take it you weren’t pleased with how America handled his disposal?
CQ: I’m not pleased with people who were like, ‘You shouldn’t celebrate anyone’s death.’ But it’s like, even bin Laden’s? It’s phony to pretend we can’t have a moment of joy over the death of bin Laden. We have to pretend no one is happy when people die? I’m happy when people that I really knew died, who I didn’t like, so why wouldn’t I be happy that bin Laden died? We try to be above the fray, but we’re still human—bin Laden died, people are happy.
NK: Do you think America is hated more than everyone else?
CQ: Not at all. If anything, we’re the ones who criticize ourselves more than anyone, so everyone trashes America—including America. It’s almost disingenuous to be powerful and know we’re assholes, but everybody else is a fuckin’ asshole in their own way, too. The only thing people resent is when we try to act like we don’t do shit. We just Ponzied the whole world with the credit default thing, so when people want to say, ‘That’s not us,’ we do a lot of great shit, but we do a lot of fucked up shit like that, and that still represents us.
NK: If someone performs your show in say, two hundred years, is America on the list of fallen empires?
CQ: Yeah. The only reason we’ve lasted this long is because of geography. We were lucky to be born where no one can really fuck with us. If you’re Germany, surrounded by Europe, Africa, Asia—it’s all right there. We’re in a great location. I mean, Canada’s not gonna start shit, you know?
NK: If Colin Quinn were President of the entire world, how would he run shit?
CQ: That’s my dream! It would probably be a combination of a hippie commune from the sixties and a Brooklyn catholic school from the forties. From the hippie commune, I would take the idea that you can’t be greedy, like you’re part of a community whether you like it or not, or you can get the fuck out. And the catholic school would be like, there are evil and good deeds. When you’re evil, we’re going to smack your fingers until they’re bleeding.
I was in a cab last night—last total American cabbie—and he turns down the religious radio and says, ‘What is evil and good, right?’ And I was like, ‘There are definite things that are bad, no?’ So we’re driving and some cute blonde is jogging along and he says, ‘I could drive this cab on the sidewalk right now and just plow into that girl and kill her right now, you know? I’m not doing it because I don’t want to get arrested, but if some other guy does it, is he worse than me?’ And I go, ‘Yeah!’
NK: The show ends with an international bar fight, but which country is getting laid that night?
CQ: (laughs) Italy, I guess. When I was over in Iraq doing shows, all the troops were like, ‘These fuckin’ Italian troops get to have wine, it’s like their religion,’ so they were getting all the female soldiers from America drunk and…you know. Italy’s just laying back like The Situation.
Colin Quinn performs Long Story Short at Guild Hall in East Hampton from June 8 though June 26. colinquinnlongstoryshort.com, guildhall.org.
Listen to the full interview below!