Fresh off his wildly successful off-Broadway one-man show, Red State, Blue State, comedian and actor Colin Quinn is ready to hit the stage again for his new comedy tour. Whereas his last special quickly became popular as it openly poked fun at the struggles of a divided nation, this special promises to offer audiences a more introspective approach to how they took to their beliefs in the first place. It seems everyone—as Colin equivocally points out in his new, aptly-named show, Wrong Side of History—believes that they are on the right side of history.
Colin spoke by phone with AQ to discuss how he plans to provide audiences with a new perspective. Not necessarily set out to change people’s minds, but solely to make people laugh. In doing so, he hopes that it may resonate in a way that other things may not.
How do you think this new special compares to your last, and what was the theme or the direction you were trying to take it?
In some ways it’s similar, obviously. It’s America and you know—all I do is think about America like a lot of people these days, you know? ‘Where we’re going? What’s going to happen?’, you know? So it’s kind of about how everyone just thinks…. It’s sort of how everyone thinks they’re on the right side of history, you know? It’s a miraculous human quality where you always think, ‘Well, I’m not like these people… at least I’m basically good.’That’s how people feel, and everyone feels that way, so its kind of an interesting conflict that it causes.
Did you find that the name was pre-determined, or did you kind of write the content and that dictated what you ended up naming it?
The content. I mean I’ve said the phrase “wrong side of history” obviously, it’s a known phrase, but the content first, yeah.
I see you’ve already performed this once up in Albany. Did you find that the fans reacted as you anticipated them to?
Yeah, I mean comedy is pretty easy. Which is, that you want laughs, you know? I want laughs. So whatever you’re saying is up to you. But if you’re getting laughs, you feel happy that you’re saying what you wanted to say, but you’re getting the actual response. So that’s the goal, to get people laughing…. But, you know, when you’re talking about serious stuff it’s a little harder. So you feel more of a reward when you get the laughs.
And you found that you got the laughs at the points that you wanted to?
Yeah you know…. It’s really been a great one. It always surprises me every time, you know? You know when you start it’s so preachy, and just long, and you know [when] you’re just rambling, and its like, ‘Get to the joke, get to the point, get to the whatever’ you know? Because the point is the joke in comedy a lot of the times. Most times I would say.
Yeah, there’s always a little bit of truth to it.
Yeah. So it’s a very interesting thing. When I look back on comedy now I’m like ‘Wow, it’s interesting!’ When I was doing it I was like, ‘Yeah.. it’s comedy…’ you know? I didn’t want to overthink it. But you know it’s interesting. How the point is the joke and how much more clarity you have when you say something funny. Because everyone is kind of agreeing that, “yeah, we agree with that, that’s why we’re laughing.” Because it resonates in a way that other things might not. Like, if you applaud what somebody says, you’re saying that you agree. But it’s not necessarily coming from your gut the way if you laugh at what somebody says.
So like an innate reaction when you laugh as opposed to clapping?
Interesting. So, I see that you have some tours in the Northeast, and then you’re going down to Florida for a little bit. Then you have a show in California. Do you find that the audiences are different based on their geographic location, and do you have to kind of tweak that content to them?
Ummm… not really the content, no. But, I would say you can curse more, you can have more of a nasty disposition in the Northeast than in the Midwest. You know, in the Midwest they’re like, ‘What is he cursing for?’
Understandable. How does Florida compare to California? I’m sure that’s a big difference.
Oh, well Florida is like New York, you know? I always tell people if you wanna hear the New York accent, you gotta go to Florida. Everyone there speaks like, ‘How you doing?’ They’re all New Yorkers.
So someone that’s new to your comedy, how would you like to be described as a comedian?
I mean… what are the choices?
Well, in my opinion, you always come off very observational and calculated in your approach. I was just interested to see if you had to come up with the ideal description to get conveyed to someone else, how do you think you are as a comedian?
Yeah, I mean I guess I would say I’m…. Like, it’s thoughtful, you know what I mean? Not thoughtful in that I’m like, ‘Hey, here’s your seats, is your seat okay? How’s your drink?’ But, I mean like… you know, like you said, I put a lot of thought into it, and a lot of work into it.
Yeah, it definitely shows.
Which brings me to my next point. In my opinion, you’re one of the best comedians in terms of their Twitter page.
“Oh thanks, yes. Thoughtless, by the way, my twitter.
But it comes across that you’re not necessarily using it as a medium to push ticket sales, but you’re really creating content organically either directly, or indirectly, with your fans. So, for example, your recent Ricky Gervais tweet, I was dying reading those comments.
(Laughs) Yeah, yeah… people really attacked that one…
Do you find that they do not realize they’re talking to a comedian, and that’s why they kind of take you at face value?
Yeah. Well, I think they’re so used to people preaching, that when you say something that sounds preachy, they automatically just assume by the tone you’re preaching at them, you know what I mean? They don’t bother to read the end of the tweet or bother to look between the lines. But, people always say there’s no room for sarcasm in social media, you know.
I saw something that you previously said, that back in the day, when the main mediums were television and newspaper, you kind of had to be well-educated or have a reason to have that medium. Now, just anyone can spew his or her opinion.
Right. Yeah, yeah…
It’s pretty great to see you doing the balancing act between preaching and throwing in obvious jokes, and it goes over people’s heads sometimes.
Right. I mean… you know, Twitter from day one—I knew it was a joke. I mean, I’ll give myself credit for one thing in life, one thing I predicted correctly, was that Twitter was bullshit. [It’s] ridiculous, and from day one I’ve been treating it like that, and it turned out to be the smart move, you know?
Yeah, so did you find it had a positive impact on ticket sales, and merch sales for you?
Umm… yeah, a little bit…. I don’t sell merch really. I mean, I have that one crazy t-shirt but it doesn’t make sense, really…. I’m not really a merch guy. I feel like [Twitter] kept me selling decent over the years. Because people are like, ‘You’re alive!’ You have to keep reminding people you’re alive, you know.
That’s a good point.
That’s part of the game. So, it’s definitely been interesting.
I’m sure you’ve caught some heat from some of your tweets, as well.
Oh god… over the years, you kidding me? Especially in the early days, forget about it.
Was it the Gaza strip tweet, where you said you thought there was religious aspect to it?
(Laughs) Yeah… a lot of people were like pissed at that. Because they were like, “Hey you idiot, what a moron, yeah there is a religious aspect to it!
It goes right back to what you said about there being some truth in the jokes, and they just don’t see it, so it’s just kind of ironic.
Right, right (laughs)…. It all started when (former Libyan Prime Minister Muammar al-) Gaddafi died. That’s when we really started getting into trolling people on Twitter. I said something like, ‘Hey listen, a lot of people hated him, a lot of people loved him’… whatever, you know? I just said something that was like, ‘either way, the guy [has] a lot of loved ones mourning him.’ [People] were like ‘what are you talking about here?!’
That’s the best part, is that it’s so indirectly vague, that they make their own judgment. And then they hate you or they love you, based on nothing. It’s kind of funny.
Yeah, yeah. It’s really just a crazy thing, you know? It’s really changed the world—not for the better, but it’s changed the world.
Yeah, definitely. So aside from your upcoming dates, anything else the fans can look forward to in 2020?
Well, I got a book I’m writing, a book called Overstated. It’s a story of the 50 states. It’s basically just me attacking each state, so everyone’s state will be in there…. Including history, a few observations that are unwarranted, a few insults that are unasked for. It’s going to be an interesting book. 2020 definitely, summertime, maybe August or September.
Nice. So it seems you’re staying pretty true to form then?
(Laughs) Yeah…. Yeah, this country is in a really weird place, but I mean, what are you gonna do? That’s just how things go. The problem is, we always think there is a solution. And sometimes, there’s not. You just keep going.
Yeah, that’s a valid point. Or, they think they have the solution and they’re going tell you about it.
Well yeah, exactly… that’s the worst part, right?
Be sure to catch Colin Quinn performing his new special, Wrong Side of History, at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on Saturday, February 1. Tickets and further event information can be found at www.sopacnow.org.