ALBANY — Someone wise beyond Facebook and Instagram once or twice said to flip the channel if you don’t like what you’re hearing, and that’s what Colin Quinn wants America to do.
The 60-year-old comedian hasn’t slowed down since suffering a heart attack last February. The Irish kid out of Brooklyn got back up and kept on going. He hit the Twitter verse days later to let fans know he was okay, but if he were to keel over, “you would see a funeral like Al Capone!”
Quinn first garnered laughs from a national audience appearing on MTV’s Remote Control, a campy television game show centered around America’s fixation on television. He was the Ed McMahon to Ken Ober’s Johnny Carson. His gravelly voice was distinctly from Brooklyn, aided by a smoking habit. To the college kids watching the show, he sounded like that frat boy a year removed from his five-year plan.
Quinn attended the University at Stony Brook, but not on a five-year plan. He quit and went on to do stand-up comedy after he couldn’t get into law enforcement. After three years, he was in front of a national audience. A regular gig that broadcast from Spring Break each year.
Quinn ultimately followed Remote Control alum Adam Sandler to Saturday Night Live, and hosted his own talk show “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn” on Comedy Central. Aside from that, he’s continued his stand-up with tours and several television specials.
The comedian has observed the world. The social strife you and I witness on social media is more than just the fodder that fuels his sense of humor. You can find him riding with New York City cabbies and listening to them explain how Uber and Lyft is killing them. It’s not funny. It’s not meant to be. His latest one-man show, “Red State Blue State,” is meant to be funny, but there is candor. It premiered in January and was later adapted into CNN’s first comedy special before it started streaming on Netflix in August.
The headlines out of Washington have long provided punchlines for comedians, and these past few years have been no exception. For Quinn, today’s current events have turned into a senior thesis; one that calls for flipping the channel on America. As controversial as that reads, people from both sides of the aisle enjoy it.
“I think we should find a way to divide, and stay together at the same time,” Quinn said. “At this point, it’s just getting ridiculous. The whole point of this country is that people are supposed to live the way that they believe. And, everyone is trying to get other people to believe what they believe. That’s not going to work.”
Quinn’s take on our freedom of speech is that, “it’s an acoustic art; it wasn’t meant to go electric,” he said, adding that it was meant to be exercised by a person under an oak tree, in front of a handful of people. With social media, that same person now speaks to the world; and probably shouldn’t be. He describes people as being “emotionally dug in” and unwilling to change their point of views.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who would span the political landscape,” Quinn said, “and, they’ve all got one thing in common: They all have this real anger and real fixed idea that this is the way it is, this is what’s wrong. They all think they know what’s wrong, and they’re just disillusioned.”
Quinn is on the road with new material. He hits the Swyer Theatre at the Egg on Saturday, Dec. 21 with “Colin Quinn Live” before jetting off to London where they have their own problems. He’ll likely touch upon those issues, too, while he’s there. But, don’t ask him to pick a side. He doesn’t see issues as easily defined or remedied.
“The whole world has been grey area since Day One,” he said. “If somebody had a solution, we’d all know about it.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.