Welcome to Next Question With Michael Musto, a regular feature in which Musto uses his time-honed skills to interrogate big celebrities, former celebrities, and wannabe celebrities. Musto is a pop culture icon, regular TV presence, and the author of four books.
Brooklyn-born comic Colin Quinn has been bringing his wry bouts of bemusement to TV (Saturday Night Live, Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn), movies (Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2), and Broadway (Long Story Short) for years. And he’s hardly through talking. Poised for a tour of all 13 colonies, the mighty Quinn is currently at the Cherry Lane Theater with Colin Quinn Unconstitutional, in which he masticates on the complicated country the founding founders helped spawn with one zippy little document. Like your angsty neighborhood bartender—who happens to be a genius—he hilariously deconstructs the Constitution and its ripple effect on Paula Deen, immigrants, and the dire lack of Obama jokes.
Hi, Colin. Do you get lonely alone onstage?
No, but I get lonely backstage before I go on.
Do you feel the seeds were planted early on for our reality show future?
Yes. The fact that George Washington was picked as President was partially because they needed a name. He was the only famous person. The only other one was Ben Franklin, who was a sexual groundbreaker. He used to go to sex clubs all the time.
Maybe that’s why Anthony Wiener is suddenly a frontrunner.
Good point. He should actually be pushing the Ben Franklin sex connection. You know, I went to [the sex club] Plato’s Retreat once and didn’t get laid.
You rejected that many people?
I went in its twilight years—in 1983, right before the fall. It was a slow Tuesday night. My friend ended up on all fours as one of six guys getting whipped by some dominatrix. I didn’t want to crawl around. I wanted to have sex. He was the sixth dog in a row.
Speaking of degradation: In the ‘80s, you tended bar before hitting it big. Was it “One for you, three for me”?
When I was working, I was a real pro. I’d wait till the after hours clubs to get drunk. Besides, I was hung over while I worked. I went to AM PM, Zodiac, even the Crisco Disco several times.
Wait a minute! That last one was a high-octane gay club! I was a member!
I was allowed to hang. I was a real cosmopolitan.
Were you on your knees?
You didn’t stand long on NBC’s The Colin Quinn Show, which lasted only three episodes in 2002. Why?
I think it was too much for them at that time. It was a very shocking show. Very racial and provocative.
Too racial. Racy they don’t mind. Racy is not dangerous to people. When you talk about ethnicity, that’s what freaks out show biz.
But it wasn’t negative, right?
Everything in comedy is negative. Show me something positive and I’ll show you something that’s not funny.
Oh, come on. Kelly Ripa’s a riot. Anyway, why are female comics extra acerbic these days?
They always were because you’ve got to be acerbic. Every comedian has to be their most brutal self just to fucking last. Nobody wants to hear any pleasantries in comedy. No one wants to hear “I walked by this construction site. The workers were a little rude, but god bless them, they work hard.” That’s not funny. “These miserable bastards…”
That’s funny. But how do you control hecklers and seize power over an audience?
I like that phrase, “seize power.” The first couple of times, you feel “I’m so happy to be up here.” It’s like being the substitute teacher. After a few times, it’s “Everybody just shut the fuck up. You’re not shocking me. If you boo me, I’m not gonna die. If you yell, I’m gonna try my hardest to ruin your goddamned day.” When you destroy some heckler—unless they’re really drunk—it’s a douche, someone who wants to be funnier than the comedian. Everyone in the audience is like, “Kill them—for my shit coworker, for the person that jumped ahead of me on line…” Symbolically.
Or even literally.
In a comedy club, people would have no problem if someone in the audience got killed or somebody killed you. “I got something for my iPhone at least.”
Who’s a douche in comedy? Has anyone ever ripped off your material?
Don‘t you wish they would?
It is kind of the ultimate indictment. “I wouldn’t steal from him.” But comedians love me and I love them. They’re the only ones that kept me in this stupid assed business.
Do they resent you now that you’ve turned to theater and get award nominations?
No, because I’m not that successful. I don’t make enough money to resent.
If you got another TV show, would you drop theater in a second?
No! I wish I could own one of these theaters and inflict my opinions nightly on the crowd. I screwed up somewhere along the line. I should be richer than everybody. I think it was from eating out every night.
Or from going to Crisco Disco. Does the world need Grown Ups 2?
(Laughs) You could say the same thing about Godfather 2. Both stories that needed to be told.