The Mighty Quinn: Comedian to bring laughs to Playhouse

It was about 30 years ago that Colin Quinn was making a name for himself with college-age students everywhere as sidekick to Ken Ober on MTV’s smash game show “Remote Control.”

Quinn became infamous for his “Sing Along with Colin” segments, where the comedian would rasp the lyrics to a song, and once he stopped singing, the contestant would finish the tune.

Back then, Quinn never imagined that he would go on to star on “Saturday Night Live,” host his own television show or appear in a one-man show on Broadway, but that’s exactly where the gig led him.

Since 2010, Quinn has been concentrating on one-man shows, delivering successful runs of his Broadway and off-Broadway one-man shows, “Colin Quinn: The New York Story,” directed by Jerry Seinfeld and “Colin Quinn: Long Story Short,” which garnered a Drama Desk Award nomination.

“Doing these one-man shows is probably the best decision I have made in my career,” he said. “The people listen more but you have to make sure you have a point at the end.”

On Jan. 11, Quinn will return to the Ridgefield Playhouse as part of his One In Every Crowd tour, his first traditional stand-up tour in more than seven years.

“It’s more thematic than the other way. I can change subjects and go off when I want. The other way, you have to keep to a scene, which in some ways makes it better to me. But at the same time, it’s fun to digress,” he said. “If I had to stick to one thing, I would do one-man shows; it’s definitely become my thing.”

Of course, Quinn knows that you can’t get to a one-man show without the stand-up, as that’s where he worked out many of the themes that wind up in those shows.

“It’s still stand-up, but the way it’s packaged is more structured,” he said. “When I’m up on stage now, I stand there and try to go someplace where I don’t always know where I’m going, but the laughs are there. I just need to figure out that overall thought.”

It’s a little more difficult these days, he said, because of how divided the country is and how many people are unhappy with one another.

“People are very uptight these days. What I’m saying doesn’t divide them but everyone is so stuck on their own thoughts,” Quinn said. “If you’re trying to sell people on your way of thinking, then you’re just part of the problem, too. Everyone in this country is just trying to force their opinion and make people see things their way and that’s not working.”

That’s why a lot of what Quinn talks about now in his act revolves around other aspects of his life outside of politics. As long as he can make it funny, he’ll talk about it.

One place he isn’t talking too much these days is Twitter. Although early on, he was one of those comedians who would spend a lot of time on the site and often posted humorous thoughts on the day, he’s since taken a different stand.

“It was taking up a lot of my mind instead of working on other stuff because it’s too much fun to screw around on there,” he said. “It wasn’t my material but it becomes too much a part of my life.”

When “Remote Control” ended, Quinn found his success was more a hindrance than a help to his career.

“I would be on stage and people would be screaming and yelling out ‘Remote Control,’ so it was hard to do my thing after that,” he said. “It took years for it to stop. Then, when it went away, I was like, ‘guess what, you sort of miss those days.’”

It didn’t take long for the screams to start again. In 1995, Quinn started a five-year run on “Saturday Night Live,” anchoring the “Weekend Update” segment, ending each week with his trademark “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.’”

He followed that up with two years as host of Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn.”

“I loved all these shows and I had a great time doing all of them, but it’s not like you are on a big cloud the entire time. It’s still life and there are ups and downs,” Quinn said. “I have great memories and each one has a special place for me.”

With childhood dreams of becoming the next Richard Pryor or George Carlin, Quinn went back to concentrating on stand-up, and that’s what led to his one-man shows.

“I used to watch a lot of stand-up as a kid and always wanted to do it. But, it took me a long time to get the nerve. I was 24 before I started,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what stand-ups really did, other than doing a few spots on TV, and it just looked like a fun business. I had a vague idea, but didn’t know about the business or how much it paid or what I could do with it.”

He’s certainly found out. Over the last few years, Quinn has also appeared in the hit HBO series “Girls,” as well as the comedy feature film “Trainwreck” alongside friend Amy Schumer. His web series “Cop Show” is currently streaming on lstudio.com and his book, “The Coloring Book,” is now out from Grand Central Publishing.  

“But I don’t have anything else for 2018, I’m just concentrating on this tour,” Quinn said. “Eventually, I may film it, but I need to make sure my thoughts are exactly in my head the way I want. It’s still a process but it’s fun. I’m lucky to do it and I enjoy it.”

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