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Colin Quinn on Comedy’s Evolution & Unforgettable Stage Moments

I sat down and reunited with comedian and longtime friend, Colin Quinn.

Colin Quinn (Writer/Performer) is a stand-up comedian from Brooklyn (okay, Park Slope), who has been a part of your whole life even though you never asked for it. From MTV’s “Remote Control” to SNL to Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn,” Mr. Quinn is not one to take a hint and bow out gracefully. He’s been on Broadway with Colin Quinn: An Irish Wake and Colin Quinn: Long Story Short and Off-Broadway with his show Colin Quinn: Unconstitutional, Colin Quinn: The New York Story, directed by Jerry Seinfeld, Colin Quinn: Red State, Blue State, Colin Quinn: The Last Best Hope, and most recently Colin Quinn: Small Talk. Recent credits include Trainwreck, Girls, and his web series “Cop Show,” streaming now on Colin’s YouTube channel. His last book, “Overstated: A Coast-to-Coast Roast of the 50 States,” is now out from Macmillan publishing.

Full Podcast Interview Transcript available here –

Connect with Colin Quinn

Connect with Comedian Jimmy Tingle

Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:00
Hey everybody, this is Jimmy, welcome back to another episode of the Jimmy tingle Show. Today I have one of my favorite friends and favorite comments on the show today. He’s doing us a big favor because this man is notorious for never doing podcasts ladies and gentlemen, but he said, Jimmy, I’ll make an exception for you. I’m thrilled to have Please welcome Mr. Colin Quinn to the show. Hey,

Colin Quinn 0:26
Hi, Jimmy. Hi.

Jimmy Tingle 0:32
Colin, good to see you, my friend. So Colin is coming to the Wilbur theater on March 3, at beautiful Boston, downtown Boston. And Colin has asked me and Steve Sweeney to do a few minutes up front. So I’m really thrilled to be doing that. Colin was that was very gracious of you to ask that Colin. But it’s so

Colin Quinn 0:52
funny because I always feel like whenever we’re in Boston, I’m like, I feel such a part of you guys, that it almost feels like this is how it should always be. Yeah. Boston and not have my friends who have great comments on the show has always been a little strange. Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 1:06
Well, usually you’re doing a one person show though with a title. So you don’t have an opener, right? Yeah, but you could

Colin Quinn 1:13
but I mean, it feels weird to ask because we’re all equal guys. So sometimes, you know, if you ask somebody hey, do you want to go on my show? They’re like what? Yeah, go on your show. You go on my show. So it’s always touchy, especially with the Irish because Irish people what I always say about Irish people is if they even think that you think you’re doing them a favor. They’ll never talk to you again. favor that you think you’re doing them a favor? You’re dead for life. Calling you love

Jimmy Tingle 1:50
Boston. When did you first start coming up here? I mean, it was back in the 80s Right?

Colin Quinn 1:55
You’re what was that famous time with Sweeney when you that story? Why did on the stand up stood out on France altimeters movie, what came up and the crowd turned on me and Joe unary had to come on stage and tell them folks, I’m from HD. This is a friend of mine will leave it and they did. Sob they kicked me into the crowd left who beat the balls off me?

Jimmy Tingle 2:22
Yeah, but the crowds can be tough though, right? Well,

Colin Quinn 2:25
yeah. Especially then I didn’t really the whole joke of it was I’m looking at this crowd, and they get an attitude. And this is 1985 86. Yeah, I’m looking at them, though. Blonde and redhead kids with blonde eyebrows, with eyes, not shirts, and boat shoes. And so they look like to me because I’m from New York. These kids look like the Kennedys hyannisport. I don’t realize that the kids in Everett, and Southie dressed. You know what I mean? They are pop callers. So I think if I’m like, I think they’re wasps because I don’t know what your problem they’re gonna be they go back and I cursing at them. And they get madder and madder than I start to see, you know, peeking out of the eyes out shirt is a shot bottom half of a shamrock tattoo. This job’s easy, guys. They look a little you know, start to realize. Yeah,

Jimmy Tingle 3:24
and the thing is, especially in the clubs back then you had to you had to hit the ground running with the comedy you had to make them laugh right out of the gate all the way like you know, they were very defensive. Right like you got to make me laugh now. That’s

Colin Quinn 3:37
right. And yeah, it was but I love Boston so much that show didn’t even matter. I was I love the minute I get to Boston I loved it. And I still love it for some you know, maybe it’s could be an Irish I don’t know. But there’s something about I just love Yeah, they can’t they don’t have to love me back. I just love them.

Jimmy Tingle 3:57
Well, you’ve been making the rounds here for years you’ve done well you’ve done like six one person shows now. Yeah,

Colin Quinn 4:03
six or seven? Yeah,

Jimmy Tingle 4:05
six or seven? Long story short, Red State Blue State unconstitutional the New York story you know and I saw the last one small talk in New York I saw that I saw red state blue state great shows. You know what I was always interested though. Colin, how do you like how long does it take you to come up with another show and you completely stop doing the previous show and just start writing a new one how do you do it? Mostly

Colin Quinn 4:32
I do I film if I film it then I’m dominant but it you know like it’s going to be like this one now. I didn’t film the other one. So it has chunks from the other one is right a couple of shots. But just keep writing and you know when he what you remember you remember comedy is such an unscientific odd for us. If people only understood how insane we are. When you think about all the material you didn’t It performed that people have not seen. Yeah. There’s hours, right? It’s just this thing. And people go, Well, why don’t you see it? Because we forgot. Yeah, but don’t you write it down? You have it that I lost the notebook with the most low tech, unscientific odd form of anybody who’s working with us. Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 5:19
No, I agree. Calling it is, it’s very much seat of the pants, and most of them are not the knowledge. I mean, there’s not a school for it. It’s, it’s you get up there, and you do it. And, and you you’re trying to connect with the audience. And, but But it’s become more sophisticated. Now. This like Emerson is teaching it. And there are schools that are actually teaching schools. But like

Colin Quinn 5:45
you said, they can’t teach you. They can’t teach Alicia, they can’t teach you Friday, Alicia, right? Because you can go up there. I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years. And I go on that stage. And I have it all set up perfectly. And I know what’s going to happen. I know exactly what the punchline is, every show has been going great. And then something changes in the energy and you can’t teach it. But you know, you have to go home all you people I can keep if your you have your you teaching how to teach how to keep the allies in the audience, when it is the enemies and make sure they understand you’re not the enemy, those people who the enemy thing. This fifth, this 50 moves like that, that you have to learn from experience.

Jimmy Tingle 6:38
Right, right. And Colin, you always develop your shows, you end up in the theater, but you’re developing them in the clubs, which is much harder, because they’re not just sitting there, you know, with their hands folded, waiting for the play to start that coming in their water and drinks this getting them getting food to talk and right.

Colin Quinn 6:56
Yeah, yeah. And it’s so funny, because it’s the same thing. I feel like nowadays, and this is a crazy thing I want to say. But in some ways, the theater audience is almost more afraid, or more rigid than the stand up club clubs are, the old clubs will like as a guy, they don’t get half this stuff. They don’t want to hear this kind of stuff. And now I feel like sometimes theater audiences are a little bit like we don’t want to hear this kind of stuff. And it’s so crazy thing. That’s only happened the past couple

Jimmy Tingle 7:29
of years. You think it’s a sensitivity issue? Yeah, but it’s not based

Colin Quinn 7:33
on sensitive, it’s based on it’s, it’s, it’s definitely a sensitivity issue, but it’s based on an imaginary offense. You know, I think this stuff out I mean, I’m not up there trying to start shit, you know, I mean, I’m really there’s not my way at work. And I’m saying what I believe but I’m saying I’m not saying like, you know, trying to be like transgressive, particularly right, I’m just stating what I believe. Is that some controversial statements I’m making, but that’s the culture we live in has gotten to this strange place. And it’s, it’s really sad. You know what I mean? Well,

Jimmy Tingle 8:12
the shows that I’ve seen you at the last one I saw in in New York, the people loved it when especially just being yourself I mean, I think your audience because it comes out of the clubs when you draw people into the theater, they know you from the clubs on a certain level and they know you from Saturday Night Live and so they know you got the comic you know the the rather than the the hardcore theatrical approach to it.

Colin Quinn 8:41
But yet I consider myself hardcore theatrical at the same time, they don’t realize that they will realize the hours I spent with Gary Ramsay doing Alexander Technique attacks on me pre show about my vocal power, having a great projection.

Jimmy Tingle 9:05
Right, and as I’m not you still use a mic on stage, don’t you even at the theater shows? Well,

Colin Quinn 9:12
sometimes I do because, you know, it became like a thing where every is I might you know, like, Wait, comedians, yeah. So and So doesn’t use that other part. That thing? Yeah, it looks a little bit pretentious. Even though I like it better because you move your hands around. But God forbid people find you pretentious, you know that’s the ultimate. Oh, yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 9:33
Don’t you ever use just a little lapel mic that comes up and drag a couple of six inches below the bone for some reason

Colin Quinn 9:41
this I don’t know why this mic now said a little lapel lapel is the best. Yeah, me too.

Jimmy Tingle 9:47
You get your hands

Unknown Speaker 9:48
like your rustling your wrestling shirt.

Jimmy Tingle 9:53
Right right. Colin so when you work in so it usually takes you Oh, I would just say A couple of years to work out something new. Yeah. To show when you when you’re coming up to Boston now, the show we’ll see on March 3, is that like a hybrid of all the stuff was

Colin Quinn 10:11
fully developed. Yeah, put it this way. It’s this the show I’m going to shoot. And if this show doesn’t please the crowd, then I’m really in deep trouble, because this shows really worked towards pretty fully developed. Yeah, this is not pleasing. We’re in a lot more trouble than one bad night.

Jimmy Tingle 10:32
Well, what does it do have a working title for it? You need a title, brother.

Colin Quinn 10:40
I know. But I’ll give you the theme the themes that we’ve had a psychotic break with social media, and that this is what happens anytime there’s a new, a new breakthrough technology, the brain changes. Yeah. Who the collective and individual brains have changed in the past 20 years.

Jimmy Tingle 11:01
That’s the truth. Yeah. I mean, that they have documented evidence about kids attention spans. And, you know, in China, we want, we got people on tick tock, China banned Tiktok in China, but they give it to us. They did. Yeah, it’s a Chinese company. It’s a Chinese, whatever platform, but they banned it in China because of what it’s doing to their kids, when they sell it to us. It’s a form of tick tock warfare. Well,

Unknown Speaker 11:32
I couldn’t I didn’t really been in China to Korea.

Jimmy Tingle 11:34
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s a Chinese company as well.

Unknown Speaker 11:38
I know, it’s.

Jimmy Tingle 11:39
So the thing you did at small talk, the last one I saw in, in New York, there was a lot of a lot of comments there on social media and how people can you know, you can be sitting in your house, you know, in your underwear having an argument with somebody online? Oh,

Colin Quinn 11:55
yeah. Yeah, I mean, that stuff. That’s for Brits a blue state, actually. But yeah, that’s, it’s still a thing. But it’s so now it’s social media is not even. It’s almost like, in the old days, like if you commented on people, you know, walking down the street, it’s so much of us now, that it’s, I’m still trying to figure out where, what reality is, because right now, this is reality. Even though we’re remote, this might be more real than if we were in person. Yeah. And if it’s not being filmed, it’s not did it happen. So like, there’s all kinds of things going on, where you like, this is really another level. You know, this is another level that everybody you know, because everyone has a phone, you know, right? It’s really, it’s, it’s almost like a given, and anybody was born all these people. Last night, it was on stage, the front row was all these guys that were 23 years old. That means they were born when they were two years old, Facebook came out. So social media is not something they would even think of discussing anymore. It’s part of life. It’s like living in a house, right?

Jimmy Tingle 13:10
That digital, the digital natives because the internet is native to you and me with digital immigrants. Were familiar with from the land of three channels on television?

Unknown Speaker 13:26
That’s hilarious. Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 13:27
Well, that’s what I mean. We’ve had to adapt. And if you don’t adapt, you’re sunk. If you don’t continually stay up on everything, you’re really, you know, you can’t it’s very hard to work as a comic or to work almost in anything now. Oh, yeah.

Unknown Speaker 13:43
No, every field if you’re not, you know,

Jimmy Tingle 13:47
Colin, so when you do these books, now you have several books, as well as the books, you know, basically, the text of the state show, are they different?

Colin Quinn 13:57
They won’t let me do that. I would do it. If I could get away with it. I promise you one thing. I was offered another book deal recently. I’ll never do another book. Why not? Because it’s so hard to write a book. And I’m so spoiled from getting instant feedback to my thoughts will stand up, right. And every time you write something funny in a book you’re like, so what? No one’s ever gonna see it. Yeah, I’m just I’m spoiled. spoiled me for book writing. I can’t do it. I hate it.

Jimmy Tingle 14:28
Right. It’s takes us so long. Gary Gulman was just on last week. He just got a new book out. He said it took him I think he said three years, three, four years, you know? And he was? Yeah.

Colin Quinn 14:40
And it’s Yeah, you can’t do the same as us. But yeah, I’m gonna say I feel the same way. I’ll never do one again.

Jimmy Tingle 14:45
Well, why can’t Why can’t you like put just, you know, take red state blue state and that’s in there have a book form of it.

Colin Quinn 14:54
I tried to do that briefly. But I could probably do that with Chad GPT it you should make this a book form. And they probably right,

Jimmy Tingle 15:04
right. Right.

Colin Quinn 15:06
I’m even too lazy to do that.

Jimmy Tingle 15:10
So listen, how’s it squared?

Unknown Speaker 15:12
My book in the chat GPT thing.

Jimmy Tingle 15:17
But you’re pretty disciplined call it to turn out as many one person shows and as many books as you have. I mean, you do right every day.

Colin Quinn 15:25
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, but it’s also because I have that thing where it’s like, I get so mad thinking about what I didn’t say that then I’m like, I gotta say that, I gotta write that. And it’s like, it becomes like an obsessive thing. You know what I mean? Yeah, definitely hasn’t made me a happier life. But it’s definitely been a discipline has been good in a certain way, you know?

Jimmy Tingle 15:50
Oh, yeah. I mean, you’re one of the most prolific guys out there. Yeah. You know, I mean, you you are you 5671 person shows how many books to two books. Yeah. Now I remember back in the day, you could easily I thought you could easily take up cuz they’re essentially plays that you’re doing right. Right. Are they published this plays? No, no. You could though. publish them as a play and somebody else could do them. Right.

Colin Quinn 16:20
I would do that in a second. Actually, I sold my first one to some kid in Brazil. And he did it in Brazil for years long story short. Wow. And I see here this little snippet was beautiful. It was a small guy came up and met me didn’t officially he could have just told me that he wanted I would never know. But he came up and met me officially he was like, hello. And we a little coffee. And he it was so funny. That was honored years ago, you know, right.

Jimmy Tingle 16:49
No, but I mean, like, I know, Eric Poghosyan. Had this is one person show Spalding Gray. And they were more from the theater world and the literary world. You know, they were legitimate actors and writers. Yeah. As opposed to just, you know, stand up who started working in theaters. But I remember that, Eric, you know, they, he had his show published. And it was a book. And so theoretically, Uri could get the rights to it and do it just like any other play. Yeah,

Colin Quinn 17:18
ever. Because even when I first saw his plays, I saw a couple of his plays in the mid 80s. When I first was getting around, stand up. And I remember thinking now that’s what I’m talking about. Yeah. So sex and drugs that I saw them on before that, and I was like, This guy’s these things are great. And I love them. Yeah. Yeah. And the other one I saw that was one person show. That was very funny. Whoopi Goldberg. Yeah, did a one person show was really good back in the day?

Jimmy Tingle 17:46
Yep. She was one of the first ones her Lily Tomlin Eric Burgos. Spot.

Colin Quinn 17:52
Intelligent Life was a masterpiece, you know? Yeah, yeah. And Lily Tillman’s was also about a time. It was almost like Goodfellas, it was about the eras of the 60s 70s 80s. Yeah. Like, it was really kind of a powerful thing. I mean, her and Jane Wagner, who her wife wrote it, right. It was a it was a brilliant piece. Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 18:16
And it was before anybody was doing it. That’s right. There was another guy dick. Shawn, did you ever see his show?

Unknown Speaker 18:23
He died on stage. Yeah. Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 18:26
He died on stage in the neighborhood. Yeah, I did. I never saw it. But I heard about I heard it was fantastic. And it was around the same time Lily Tomlin came up with hers as well.

Colin Quinn 18:36
Jimmy, is it a funny, Dick? Shawn, if we look for a show you probably it was probably never filmed.

Jimmy Tingle 18:43
Yeah, you imagine living in

Colin Quinn 18:45
a time when things didn’t get filmed?

Jimmy Tingle 18:50
Right. Right. But calling the show that spoke to me the most because I saw Eric show, and he did characters. And I said, you know, that’s way above me. I can’t I don’t do characters. And Spalding Gray was reading and it was more literary. I said, I will. When I saw Jackie Mason, though. When I saw Jackie Mason, I said, I can do that because he’s doing his act.

Colin Quinn 19:15
Amazing. I remember him coming into the comedy cellar before when he’s getting ready to do a show. And he was no, he was a joke. Yeah, we didn’t we didn’t know Jackie Mason. Somebody said he is a Catskills guy. Well, I go God, yeah, cellar, and he went on stage. And the crowd was you know, looking at him and we were looking at him like a nice guy, but Who the hell’s that skills guy? And then a year later, it’s like, oh, that’s what he is. Yeah. Who I Am. Yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 19:48
And he put together you know, is whatever. 3040 years of honing that act in the Catskills and just came to New York and just blew it up. But when I saw him, I was It was like an epiphany because I said I can do I can do that or that type of show I can work in that medium doing my act as opposed to characters and reading, you know, like Spalding was doing. You know, you will hum, do you work with the same director every time or do you mix it up?

Unknown Speaker 20:18
Mix it up?

Jimmy Tingle 20:20
Yeah. Are you working with somebody now?

Colin Quinn 20:23
No. Why now? I’m still, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just gonna do. I did the show with James last time and he’s amazing, but I’m not doing a show. I’m just gonna do a stand up. He’s gonna film it, and then see what I want to do. Because I you know, I don’t know why I just, I just, I know, I have to just do this. Get this stuff out of my off my plate.

Jimmy Tingle 20:48
Yeah, yeah. So and I know that. James Favell was great, great director. He helped me a lot in New York when we worked on on mine. Thank you for introducing me to him. By the way, again, I know he’s he’s taken a step back. I reached out to him. I think he’s, I think he said he was going back to school or something. Yeah, I know. He’s married and got a kid and everything. So that’s great. wish him the best, great guy, great director. But do you feel that it helps you having somebody giving you notes? And I mean, I always find that helpful, too. Because this is somebody you know, it’s always helpful to have some outside opinions, of course. But you can’t always do it. And the audience is going to give you notes too. And that’s the way it goes. Right. Right. Your audience like it or not, they’re a real collaborative part of our business. You know, they really are so any other right? Yeah, as Seinfeld was saying, I heard him in an interview say that the audience is really the editor of your sets. That’s right. That telling you what works and what doesn’t work. So I know he directed one of your shows. Which one did he direct the viewers

Speaker 1 22:03
to do it long story short in New York story? Okay.

Jimmy Tingle 22:06
Okay. And one were both of those on Broadway a wonderful, yeah.

Colin Quinn 22:11
Okay, those two shows on Broadway. And after that awkward, and you know, it’s funny, you can make that much money on Broadway. You make the money awkwardly. Yeah. On Broadway, you have to pay for everything. Right? It all comes out all the publicity, all the theory, everything’s comes out of your out of the money. It was a little easy to make decent money. You know, none of his gonna be amazing, but it’s but it’s shocking how you think one person on Broadway is gonna get rich? Yeah. Because you’re the only one getting paid. But there’s a lot of other things you got to take out of there. Yeah,

Jimmy Tingle 22:43
yeah, there’s a lot a lot there. But how was it working with Jerry was that was that good?

Colin Quinn 22:48
Yeah. I mean, you know, it’s like, comedians have a certain shorthand that other people don’t have, you know?

Jimmy Tingle 22:55
Yeah. Yeah. But if it comes down to you, in the director about a purse of a personal choice of to keep a line in or to take it out, it always comes down to the artist, of course.

Colin Quinn 23:10
Because you’re out there. Yeah. You know, can we people don’t realize comedians are such willful people. I mean, I feel like you have to be Yeah. You have to be willful, even when you’re wrong. When you to be standing in front of a bunch of strangers every night, trying to get laughs takes a certain type of personality. That’s maybe crazy, but also very strong in a certain way.

Jimmy Tingle 23:36
Right? Oh, yeah. And the punishment, there’s nothing worse. There’s nothing worse than getting off stage, having tried a bit or two bets, or like 20 minutes of stuff. That doesn’t work. It’s the worst feeling ever.

Colin Quinn 23:50
Your worst feeling, but it makes you a stronger comedian. Because it’s real. Yeah. Those people went in a laugh and they didn’t laugh.

Jimmy Tingle 23:59
Right. Right. Right. Oh, you know,

Colin Quinn 24:03
yeah. Yeah, totally. Dave Edison used to say, Never blame the audience, even though it’s always their fault

Jimmy Tingle 24:14
calling, being well known and working in the city, you know, there’s expectations I think this happens probably with, with anybody who’s really well known and successful. Jerry, Chris Rock, anybody who they go, Oh my god, so and so’s here. So for them to train yourself included to get on stage. Do you feel inhibited? Do you feel like you gotta you gotta give them something even if you really want to try, you know, 20 minutes and new stuff. You really have to you have to prove yourself do you feel that but now,

Colin Quinn 24:48
look, Jerry Chris Rock has a whole nother level for me. So is that in the same? You can hear by the bush? You know, I mean? Yeah, but so for me, I don’t feel that much pressure like they would feel by have you on? Um, no. I mean, I’ve worked so hard. I give everything I have. Yeah. So is that enough? Is that enough? But it’s not like I didn’t do the homework. So when I try new stuff, it’s I work that new stuff. So when I go up there, they’re getting 100%. So if it doesn’t work, there’s nothing I could do about it. I got I can’t do better than I do on stage. That’s how much work I put into this budget, you know,

Jimmy Tingle 25:23
right here do better. Right? Right. But you work every day at it

Colin Quinn 25:28
work every day. I can’t do more. I couldn’t work more on stand up. So I never feel bad, because it’s all it’s everything I got. Yeah, you gave 100% 100%. Even if it doesn’t work, it wasn’t for lack of trying, you know, right.

Jimmy Tingle 25:42
And but over time, over a few weeks of the same bits. It’ll be working. Yeah,

Colin Quinn 25:50
I mean, get rid of them. Absolutely. I mean, you don’t get rid of somebody, you know, what is supposed to get rid of and then you come back like that stupid one. Setup line changes the whole thing. Yeah. Because yeah, let people let people be able to intuit by through the way they think, you know, yeah.

Jimmy Tingle 26:09
Right. And it’s hard to in a comedy club to judge what works. If you’re going on fourth Friday night. It’s 1230. They’re hammered. You try and stop. Yes.

Speaker 1 26:22
You know, the Bill of Rights.

Jimmy Tingle 26:30
The bill really writes, oh, my God. Well, I’m looking forward to seeing you up here in Boston. March 3, is gonna be so much fun. Yeah. Colin Quinn, and he asked Steve Sweeney to do a set and myself to do a set so I’m excited to do a call and it’s going to be a lot of fun. And I I know you don’t like doing podcasts, but we really appreciate you doing. It’s gonna be fun, man. It’s gonna be fun up here and we’re gonna publicize it and anything we can do to get people in there, man, it’d be great. And it’s always an honor to see you and always an honor to work with you and to call you my friend. Same here. You know that? Yeah, yep. All right, pal. See March 3 Folks, the Wilbur theater. You can get tickets at the Wilbur or you can also see all Collins dates at Colin The official site of young Colin Quinn. See ya pal.

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