The 75-minute “Colin Quinn: Long Story Short” raises the question of what makes a Broadway show.
For ages, Broadway was neatly divided into plays, which covered drama or comedies, and musicals. Over the years, major stars have mounted one-person shows, talking about behind-the-scenes gossip and answering audience questions. Or, they were like Whoopi Goldberg‘s or Lily Tomlin‘s shows, referencing famous characters.
Colin Quinn, funny and savvy, departs from all of the above. Jerry Seinfeld directs this intelligent take on history. It’s easy to classify this is as a stand-up comedy act, but it is so much more.
Quinn, alone on the stage, takes the audience on a caustic, funny romp through history. The stage has steps, which he occasionally walks up or sits on, and a large screen with a backdrop of maps.
Quinn begins by asking how we can live in a time of such scientific advancements as the tracing of the genome, yet still need signs in bathrooms to remind employees to wash their hands.
His story begins with ancient Greece. “The average Greek kid watched 40 hours of theater a week,” he says. “Parents didn’t like it, but what could you do?”
The natural segue is into the Romans. Along the way, he takes well-reasoned jabs at everyone, including Americans.
Quinn understands that the rest of the world is not clamoring for our brand of democracy.
“They wanted democracy in 1960 with the Beach Boys and Mickey Mouse, not with Lil Wayne and Girls Gone Wild,” he says.
He jokes about cows (“not a phony bone in their body”) and does some excellent accents including East Indian, British and Irish.
Quinn holds the audience rapt for the 75 minutes because his observations are dead-on, intelligent and funny.
Of the British he says, “They had something more powerful than military might. They had contempt.”
He calls France “the only empire based on sarcasm.”
And when he takes on the personalities of different countries, he’s wonderful. He ends the piece as succinctly and cleverly as it started.
Quinn never flags. Still one can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have been just as much fun to watch this without the big stage and Broadway prices. Though it is far better than so many stand-up acts, this would be great in a club over drinks. It’s also a natural late-night comedy piece for HBO.