Page 2 Staff
You think Colin Quinn needs a tough crowd, wait until you hear what he has to say one-on-one.
Page 2's Eric Neel caught up with Quinn, the host of Comedy Central's "Tough Crowd," to get down and dirty with questions that ranged from sports to comedy to taboos. Somehow, those segues are easy for Quinn, who isn't afraid to tackle racial issues, personal issues, or any other issue for that matter.
1. In the wake of the plagiarism scandal, the New York Times' executive editor job recently became avaliable. If you filled the post, how would things at the Times be different?
Quinn: There would be less false compassion. And people wouldn't be called "Mr." in every stupid story. You could commit double-rape, triple-murder and they call you "Mr. Jones," you know what I mean?
2. In other news, Martha Stewart recently decided to resign her post as CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Incorporated.
Quinn: My whole thing with Martha is this: She had to step down because her broker told her to sell because the stock's going to go under. I thought that's what a broker was supposed to do. What the hell is the point of one if they don't do that?!
Quinn: No, it's more of the Clarify Campaign.
Speaking of powerful women, have you heard that that E Network plans to do a Hillary Clinton movie?
Quinn: Oh, that's beautiful. I see Darrell Hammond as Bill, of course. For Hillary, you've got to have somebody who has a certain kind of intelligence combined with the sincerity of a lapdancer.
Are you saying you're going up for the role?
Quinn: (Laughs) Nah, I lack the necessary deadpan delivery of a cold, eastern European stripper
3. Throw us a bone -- tell us something scandalous from behind the scenes at "Saturday Night Live."
Quinn: The saddest part of our crew is that we were scandal-free. When I was there, it was the most middle-of-the-road crew. There was no decadence. We always complained to each other about it, but nobody would do anything about it. I'm sorry.
If you could invite any three people from throughout history to dinner tonight at your house, who would you have?
Quinn: I'd have the guy, John Kennedy Toole, who wrote "A Confederacy of Dunces," which is like the funniest book I've ever read (and he killed himself), probably Shakespeare, and of course, even though people are going to think it's a George Bush answer, I'd probably invite Jesus Christ. Why not? It's just dinner. Wed have pizza. You want to talk about purity? Pizza, hamburgers, french fries and cokes are the purest, most unbelievably perfect things in the world. Sometimes I just marvel, I just sit there and think, Holy s---! French fries! You know, there are people making money off of computer things they put on the stock market, some little b.s. computer chip, but the guy who invented pizza, the guy who invented french fries, they get nothing, and yet they make millions of people all over the world from ages two to 70 smile and laugh every day.
Quinn: It's affected the whole Dominican community. I knew there was going to be trouble with that kind of stuff: One time I went up there to Washington Heights, and I bought some fake crack, and when I went back to complain, they chased me with corked baseball bats.
You know, Pedro Martinez and Jose Canseco both recently said that there was racism involved in the media's response to Sammy.
Quinn: Guess what, if it was a white guy, the whole country would be against him, so who the hell are they kidding? I say it's just the opposite: If it was a white guy, the whole country would have turned on him. But now, people are walking on egg shells (with Sammy).
5. Your Comedy Central show is called "The Tough Crowd." How tough are you?
Quinn: I'm sure I can be broken down like everybody else.
What's the toughest thing you've ever done?
Quinn: The toughest thing I ever did was get chased out of upstate New York, with bats, and then actually come back a few months later.
Did you bring your own bat?
Quinn: No, I just brought a smile and a peace pipe.
Let's say I can either grant you an Emmy for your new show and make it widely popular, or I can tell you that you're going to have a hard-core, loyal, but pretty small audience that really gets what you're doing. Which would you want?
Quinn: The hard-core, loyal, small audience. No question. First of all, Emmys annoy me. The fact that everybody acts like they mean anything -- the Oscars, maybe, but the Emmys? Ah, shut up. I could care less if I got nominated or won one.
That almost guarantees you'll win one, you know.
Quinn: You're right. But that kind of stuff -- all you have to do is look at past winners and you just groan. This country is hellbent on lulling ourselves to sleep. Why not just get a giant cradle?
I see a skit coming.
Quinn: I like that.
6. Where is the line on your show? What's taboo?
Quinn: I was hoping the line would be talking about me, but the guests slam me every chance they get, those f---ers. And I have to say, 80 percent of the time, they're right. I deserve all of what I get and more. Washed up, last chance, skinny legs, it's all true.
Is this show the last chance for you?
Quinn: Oh yes. Even I'm sick of me at this point. This is it for me. I can't do this any more.
If you weren't a comedian, what would you do?
Quinn: I've always been able to bartend. I guess I could do one of those take-a-picture-with-former-SNL-cast-member things. I'd charge four dollars. Most people would charge five, but with me, four sounds like nothing.
It's a bargain. Every time they take a picture, you just lean in and say, "you just saved a buck."
Quinn: (laughs) Exactly.
Do you ever worry about going too far on the show?
Quinn: No. Look, everybody is so brainwashed. This society is so politically correct today, you can't help but go too far, unless you want to be totally sincere, which ends up sounding phony.
I'm not telling people how to feel about race, for example: I'm just talking about how I feel, and if you don't like it, too bad. The whole point of this country is supposed to be free speech, but you know, everyone wants to celebrate diversity as long as you don't point out people are different, you know. I was raised in a very inter-racial area and when we were kids, we'd say whatever we wanted. I just don't believe in the sanctity of any group.
Quinn: Racial things. The fact that Pedro Martinez and Canseco had the (guts) to say the Sammy thing was racially motivated gives you an idea how far the political correctness thing has gone. I don't think discussion about it is bad, but it's almost like you can hear all the white people in America just folding their hands and waiting for the accusation to die down rather than really talking about it. Let's be in there, what the hell. That's the fun of life, you know?
8. Is fear a factor for you as a comedian, even after all these years in the business?
Quinn: You never want to bomb and it's always a possibility that you will bomb. That's part of the drama of comedy. You need the tension and release. I deal it with by being overprepared. I'm so afraid of not giving people their money's worth, I write stuff like crazy. They're getting everything I got. I'm not going up there half-assed.
Last line of the night -- would you rather make somebody laugh or cringe and shift in their seats?
Quinn: I'd like 'em to laugh. Lately, I feel like the only people who are really cringing or shifting in their seats at my shows are a-- holes because I do so much material on those people, you know, who make everybody else shift and cringe all day. That goes beyond race or ethnicity. In every group there are those people. But you have to get a laugh if you're doing comedy. If you're just getting shifting and cringing, you're probably not as profound as you think you are. You have to make them shift, cringe and laugh. That's the art.
9. What's the worst bit of advice you've ever been given, professional or personal?
Quinn: The people that would say, or give me the perception, that there's somebody out there who knows what they're doing and you'd better learn from them and realize that you don't know what you're doing. It's not true. I've spent years trying to find these people who know what they're doing. They're not out there.
How is doing stand-up better than "real" life?
Quinn: In so many ways. It's better because in stand-up, when some idiot says something and you slam them, the whole crowd is on your side, and even that person, even if they're 6' 10", 350 pounds, has to go along with it, whereas in real life they'd just kick you're a--.
Is it hard for you to ever be serious about anything?
Quinn: I think stand-ups are serious about everything. I think that's what's funny. On some level, they're so serious, you have to laugh. There's a certain amount of quiet desperation in it. That's part of the humor. I'm serious about everything, except myself, because I know I'm capable of the same dumb things everyone else is.
10. Tell me something you'd like to bury and forget
Quinn: There are so many, and they're not buried, they're all right in public. It's like having nude pictures out there if you're a woman. My stellar work in "Night at the Roxbury" -- they've killed me for that many times. They blame me for "Celtic Pride," even though it was re-written 20 times and there wasn't one line left in my original script when they were done with it. Um, they get me for the "Back to Brooklyn" thing.
Do you look at that stuff and think about what you'd do differently now?
Tell me something about you that would most surprise people who watch you on television.
Quinn: That I don't drink.
If you weren't you, who would you most want to be?
Quinn: Jason Kidd. To be a master of assists, to be that small and get that many rebounds, it would just be so cool. It was always my dream when I was little, you know, I'd imagine myself at Fordham University coming down court with the ball, handling it, and waving my hand in the air like I'm calling some stupid play -- that would be cool.
Who plays you in the Colin Quinn Story?
Quinn: I'm trying to think of someone with my voice.
Quinn: Oh, that really hurts. Abe Vigoda story: I was once staying at this semi-rooming house, semi-hotel a few years ago -- I thought it was kind of nice. Abe Vigoda pulls up to check in, takes one look at the place and drives off. That gives you an idea of the kind of class that I have. I'm comfortable, but Abe Vigoda won't lower himself to my level.