Jerry Seinfeld is Making Colin Quinn Mighty on Broadway

By Ariel Leve.

The Saturday Night Live graduate's one-man show about the demise of world empires is getting big laughs in New York - with a little help from the US sitcom king

During a recent performance of Colin Quinn's Long Story Short, a trenchant and humorous monologue about the downfall of civilisations currently showing on Broadway, the woman seated next to me was laughing so hard the entire row of seats wobbled. Who knew fatalism could be so enjoyable?

The production, under Jerry Seinfeld's direction, takes 2,000 years of history and fallen empires and connects it to how we live today, pointing out that, essentially, we've learned nothing. A few nights after that performance, at a cafe down the street, Quinn reflects on the positive reception. "Yeah," he says. "Chris Rock said the show is getting dick-joke laughs without the dick jokes."

A native of Brooklyn, Quinn has been writing and performing comedy for decades. His manner is often described as "every guy", but that seems more descriptive of his no-nonsense delivery than his thought-provoking material. From 2002-4 he hosted his own show on Comedy Central (Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn) and before that he was a cast member of Saturday Night Live, where he anchored Weekend Update. He made his Broadway debut in 1998 with a poignant and reflective piece he wrote himself called An Irish Wake.

Since then, Seinfeld has been nagging him to do another one-man show. They've been friends for years and the sitcom star has always championed his work. Over breakfast one morning, Seinfeld offered to step in to help. "Rather than see one of his friends become another paranoid conspiracy theory psychopath, he figured he'd produce a show," Quinn says.

One of the most salient features of their collaboration is the conversational and intimate way Quinn engages the audience in sizable subjects. He compares the British Empire's acumen to the demeanour of American chat-show host Martha Stewart. "England was a little country so they took people over, but not with military might. They had something far more powerful: contempt. They tapped into people's insecurities and low self-esteem. They would show up in pressed uniforms with polished swords and look around. 'Really? This is where you live?'"

Quinn would love to bring the show to the UK, and he thinks its mischievous irony will go over well. He's a big fan of Blackadder. "You do a show like that in America and people would be like, I don't get that at all. It's a high standard."