Saturday, January 24, 2015

Colin Quinn Unconstitutional Review

   Colin Quinn is comedy’s “Everyman”. This is not an original idea, as I've heard this label used many times over the years to describe the hard-working comic from Brooklyn, but watching him perform his most recent project Unconstitutional just serves to solidify the branding.
   Quinn has had a long career that’s included MTV’s Remote Control, SNL writing/performing and various guest spots in films and most recently appears on the show Girls as the character Hermie. He’s hosted his own show, Tough Crowd, and ventured into the one man show arena before with Long Story Short which was directed by Jerry Seinfeld. However, with his latest project Unconstitutional, he’s found a way to meld elements from all aspects of his career into a brilliant one hour show tackling that most sacred of American historical documents: The United States Constitution.
   What I always loved about Colin’s comedy was that he comes off as one of the tough Irish kids that might hang out on the corner and talk about how he’d like to bang your sister or punch out his best friend for being a “dick”, but then seamlessly transition into cerebral commentary on current socio-political events. He worked his way through SNL’s Weekend Update often times looking (and sounding) like a hundred guys I grew up with that thought they had the answer to every problem facing the world, usually solved with a few beers and a “straight right” to the chin, but cleverly weaving his sly intelligence into the bit and creating a more dynamic character than his demeanor and accent might suggest.
   While performing Unconstitutional at the Tarrytown Music Hall last night, never has the dichotomy of Quinn been more evident. The show opens with a Presidential looking desk filling center stage and Quinn coming out to an eager crowd that he immediately address with four fingers in the air, signifying the 4 pages of the Constitution. He’s then off and running with factoids about “The Toosh” as he started calling it on Twitter, and letting the audience in on the secret that he himself wasn’t that familiar with the Constitution until he decided to tackle this latest project. While Quinn explains how the United States “divorced itself from England” and then became its own dysfunctional relationship “while drunk”, he does an incredible job of blending historical references with modern and his own comic styling’s and timing. Quinn has never been a big impressionist, but he seems powerless to not incorporate subtle references to Deniro and Goodfellas in his act and even in this politically themed show the jokes work and are met with ample laughs from the crowd, or more accurately his “gang” as he often calls them on Twitter.
   There were a number of great lines in the show, but a couple standouts were his comment that the “2nd Amendment was what will likely cause the U.S. to divorce” and that it of course made total sense to have gun rights protected hundreds of years ago because “back then the country’s population was made up of 86% bears”. As he tackled the issue of Slavery, he mentioned how difficult it is to have a real conversation about race in America these days and the room fell silent, almost as if scripted, and lent itself perfectly to the topic; discomfort in comedy is always a win. My favorite bit as part of the racial discussion was when he attempted to dissect storytelling that may involve a racial component, such as “So this Mexican guy came into the restaurant…” and continued to filter, refresh and reconstruct the story with all applicable racial sensitivities and PC dilution, until eventually it was “So this Life Form walked into a restaurant…”. I am paraphrasing a little, as I can’t recall the exact context or locale that Quinn chose for the story but the point was hammered home that in todays’ world our language often needs to be carefully chosen in order to appease much of society. The tongue in cheek way that he was able to make this seem ridiculous, and also tie it to the how vital words and language were in terms of the Constitution, was brilliant.
   In the hour or so that Quinn was on stage, he tackled politics and history (obviously), racism, the Kardashians, The Internet, Bruce Springsteen and painted a concise and comic picture of America and its people. It was clever, hysterical, never dull and informative even, with added educational bonus points added for the Printout (on very old-timey feeling paper no less!) of a US Constitution “cheat sheet” that each audience member received. I had my younger brother with me as a guest and even though he wasn’t real familiar with Quinn’s work he found the show funny and intriguing and looks forward to seeing the special air on whatever format it arrives down the road.
   I am not sure what the plans are for Unconstitutional or where it may air (**update, Netflix on August 15th!!), etc. but I can say with certainty that it’s a great piece of work crafted by one of the hardest working comic talents in the business and that I hope it brings a larger audience and new fans into the CQ fold. In the meantime, Quinn continues to be a big presence on Twitter with his often intentionally annoying quips and observations or his tales of the city of “Laughington” where comedy was born, prompting responses from followers that range from “You’re about as funny as a fire at a Children’s Hospital” to “How is it possible you haven’t been murdered yet?”  It’s impossible not to get swept up in the Quinn bashing if you’re a follower, especially when he regularly ReTweets some of the more clever posts. To date, the Tweets of mine that he’s ReTweeted and generated the most activity are a random picture of a cat riding on a piece of pizza through space and a Brokeback Mountain screenshot with a caption declaring that “I can’t quit you, Quinn” so one can never claim that CQ doesn’t have an open mind to what’s funny, etc. There are a number of comics/actors who rarely ReTweet funny jabs or lines, maybe in fear their own comedic talents will be overshadowed in some way, but Quinn is never in danger of that and his willingness to give many of his followers that brief little moment in the spotlight highlights his affability, generosity and humility as well as serving to amplify his own humorous stylings.
  Unconstitutional was a treat for all fans of comedy and US history last night, and I hope to be able to see a live performance of it again in the future. I haven’t heard about where it may air, if at all, but this wonderful show definitely deserves a wider audience. I don’t know if this will end up being the pinnacle of Quinn’s long and successful career but I am certain he has a lot more up his sleeve. Perhaps a one man show dedicated to the oddities of his Twitter universe, with some of the chuckleheads like me reading our Tweets on stage in some soft light, only to fade out and have Colin offer his commentary on them. He certainly could do an hour or two about Twitter and social media and its impact on the American lifestyle. If you do choose this as your next project CQ, I expect at least a signed copy of “Celtic Pride” and a gift card to Target. Or maybe a large pizza with a cat on it, as I fly through space.
Unconstitutional began in 2013 as a one man show discussing the history and current day relevance of the U. S. Constitution and was performed live last night at the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown NY.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Writing: The Most Rewarding Form of Self Torture

One of the best books I've read in the last few years is "The Courage to Write" by Ralph Keyes. Without doing a full review, i...