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In Arts & Entertainment

Colin Quinn is bringing his stand-up special "Unconstitutional" to the Marcus Center on April 8. (PHOTO: Mike Lavoie, copyright 2013)

Hysterical history: A chat with Colin Quinn of "Unconstitutional"


Most people may know or recognize comedian and actor Colin Quinn from his TV work, whether it be his five-year stint on "Saturday Night Live" back in the '90s or more recently on HBO's polarizing hit show "Girls." The stage, however, is Quinn's true home, and in recent years, he's had a particular topic on his mind: history.

His previous stand-up special, "Long Story Short" – directed by Jerry Seinfeld – took on telling the history of the world in 75 minutes. With "Unconstitutional," his 70-minute stand-up special hitting the Marcus Center stage on Tuesday, April 8, he's narrowed his focus just a bit to merely the Constitution.

OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to talk to Quinn about the show, his interest in history, why he now loves the Kardashians and what his first order of business would be if he was a benign dictator.

OnMilwaukee.com: So where did the idea for "Unconstitutional" come from?

Colin Quinn: It came out of the fact that I was trying to figure out why, in a country where nobody seems to agree on anything, everybody loves the Constitution. Nobody here agrees on anything, but we all agree the Constitution is great. It's just interesting. Nothing else has that kind of clout.

OMC: Absolutely. Where did your interest in history come from? This is now two shows in a row – this and "Long Story Short" – that take on history.

CQ: They're about history, but they're really about today. It's more my interest in today that makes me want to look back at history to illuminate today. This one is interesting because it's about how our national character, our personality as a country are kind of based on the Constitution.

OMC: What was one of the most interesting topics that you found in the Constitution for your show?

CQ: Freedom of speech, obviously. The fact that we live in a country where there's total freedom of speech, yet at the same time everybody's trying to censor everybody else.

OMC: It's interesting; you had that Twitter rant a couple of years ago about comedy and sarcastically talking about what comedy should be like. There seems to be this notion of what can and can't you make fun of.

CQ: It's ridiculous. It's not so much comedy is getting clamped down – though they are getting clamped down. I'm offended by sh*t, too. It's human to be offended by things that offend you; there's nothing wrong with it.

When you have dummies determining what's offensive, it's so weird. Like that lady the other day trying to sell the word "bossy" as something that men say to denigrate or marginalize women in power? First of all, nobody says that! Nobody uses the f*cking word "bossy." Seven-year-old kids say it to other 7-year-old kids on the f*cking playground.

So that's what I'm saying. There is a danger, when you decide to allow this to go on, that the dumb people are the people that have their own personal issues with a word. Maybe she hears the word "bossy" a lot, so then she's like now we have to ban that word. No! That's the whole principle of the Constitution, that your personal thing does not trump the general.

What's interesting is that it's a fight between group and individual rights. That's the whole conflict of every society, and the Constitution is actually trying to bring individual rights into it. In other places, it's the group and that's it. You're a part of the collective, and the individual has to go by the wayside. So for us, this (Constitution) was pretty ambitious.

OMC: What do you think is more dangerous to American society today: drones or the Kardashians?

CQ: (laughs) Because of my show, I've actually grown to love the Kardashians because I realized they represent our history. The whole show is almost built around this Kardashian thing now, that they represent business, art versus commerce, nature versus commerce. They've become something bigger than me in the show.

I started off just talking about them as far as what I thought they represented, and then suddenly I realized they're actually bigger than this. They are the country. That's why we hate them but are fascinated by them. There's something in there that we recognize in ourselves.

OMC: Where do you see America going in the next 10, 15, 20 years?

CQ: You know, I think about it, and I can't even envision it. Unless I was put in some kind of benign dictatorship position, I can't even imagine what we're going to do.

OMC: What would be your first order of duty if you were a benign dictator?

CQ: My first order of business would be we'd have to have one day a week of absolute silence. No Internet, no TV, no speech. Nobody would be allowed to say anything. You'd only be allowed to say, "Excuse me, I need that," or ordering a sandwich or paying a car fare. You wouldn't be allowed to hear or give any opinion just for a day, just to kind of cleanse us. It's like a day of meditation.

OMC: Another Colin – Colin Jost – has recently taken over Weekend Update. Have you gotten a chance to see him?

CQ: Yeah, I saw him for a few minutes, and I really felt, even though I don't know him, I felt like, as a Colin, kind of an empathy for him. I'm rooting for him.

OMC: From that segment, do you think he has a good vibe with Cecily?

CQ: From the little bit of what I saw, they're just getting into it. If people give them a chance, they'll be great. To my credit, people attacked me, and there wasn't even Twitter or Facebook or anything. They still managed to find ways on the Internet. I think I invented the negative Internet feedback in many ways.

But now, forget about it. You're under a f*cking microscope, and he's just trying to do his thing. Hopefully, it'll work out. Everything needs time to gel.


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