Colin Quinn

Photo by Chris Owyoung/Netflix (CC-BY)

The seasoned comic breaks down the city that never sleeps.

It's a few days after the election, and it still doesn't feel real. Colin Quinn says it won't feel real until we see Trump sitting in the Oval Office. 

“People don't really think of Donald Trump as being from New York. He's from the rich New York. The Upper East Side, Manhattan… That's not really New York. The Bronx, Brooklyn—now that's New York,” Quinn tells the Daily Dot.

“Did you see him sitting in the White House talking to Obama?” he asks. “He looked like a kid who was in trouble.”

Quinn, who grew up in the Bronx, is an expert on New York City. He proves it in his Netflix special Colin Quinn: The New York Story, explaining the city's characters at a break-neck pace and chronologically detailing its rich history of immigration. He makes fun of people from different regions of the U.S., but quickly centers back to his home state and asks: “How did all these cultures come together to make the New York attitude?”

The special, directed by fellow New Yorker Jerry Seinfeld, attempts to answer that question, all without utilizing a single prop from the meticulously decorated set behind him. This is Quinn’s fifth one-man show and the special is based off his book The Coloring Book: A Comedian Solves Race Relations in America, published in 2015. 

Quinn has come a long way since his time as one of the first MTV spring break VJs, and the unforgettable jerky boy-voiced announcer from the early ‘90s game show Remote Control. Or from his stint as the Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live. Or even recently, when Quinn played Amy Schumer's dad in the movie Trainwreck. 

These days he stars in his own webseries, Cop Show, where he plays himself playing a bad actor who plays a New York cop. His humor is lived in, delightfully cynical, and it savors the process.

It's trusted and earned, too: Quinn found his voice in the New York comedy scene alongside Chris Rock and Adam Sandler.

“We went to all kinds of open mics,” he says. “We used to bomb all the time. It's incremental. Comedy is different than I thought it was going to be. I always thought I would understand it one day and say to myself, 'Oh, I get it now. This is the way to do it.' But that day never happens.”

Quinn says that being sober for almost 40 years has helped. He says not drinking makes you have to confront yourself. Some of it is about facing the pain of life and some of it is just facing its boredom. When you're bored you have to find out what you're really about, and what you really want to do with yourself.

It's this “strange life,” as he puts it, that led him to Lower Manhattan's Schimmel Center, where he paces the stage fast-forwarding through a history lesson about the people who reside in city that never sleeps. New Yorkers are rude, opinionated, pushy, loud, fast-talking, and sarcastic. And those are just a few of their qualities, he says. Quinn uses a lot of stereotypes to examine the attitude of a New Yorker, and in doing so makes a brilliant point about how times have changed.

“You just can’t tell jokes like you used to,” he says.

Colin Quinn: The New York Story is streaming on Netflix.

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