I’ve finally stopped laughing long enough to write this short entry praising COLIN QUINN: LONG STORY SHORT which debuted on HBO tonight. In roughly 75 minutes, the blunt yet brilliant Quinn makes a persuasive and hilarious argument that human nature has not advanced one inch in our species’ history . . . but since that’s how it’s always been, we shouldn’t take it too seriously. From prehistoric cave paintings (proving “there’s never enough to go around”) to modern America’s trend as an empire of Democracy salespeople spread too thin over the globe (“Sure, everyone wanted Democracy in 1960 when it was the Beach Boys and the Mickey Mouse Club”), Quinn’s broadway stage hit-turned-HBO special takes comfort in the consistency of human failings as comic fodder across the ages.
Rest assured, this is no polemic sermon on the low, stupid animal nature of mankind — rather Quinn revels in our shared, ageless imperfection despite our unquestionable, even amazing technological and social achievements. No such grumpy lecture could induce this many belly laughs and brain-tickling juxtapositions between the Greek tragedy of Antigone and the pop culture whining of Jersey Shore’s Snooki, or comparing cultural work ethics in China and America by imitating their food servers’ behavior. Laughs of high and low order fire off in rapid clips, punctuated by flighty or satirically scathing observations about world culture through centuries, noting how little we have changed underneath the parade of ages.
Quinn takes delight, as will most viewers, in skewering the perception and foundation of Democracy, arguing that it offers its citizens precisely one additional choice in electing leaders than do the worst forms of government ever devised. The jilted lover relationship which his characterization of Britain (a Shakespeare-quoting fop) has with spurning France (a jaded, lampost-leaning seductress) gets several earned callbacks as the comedic device escalates in relevance and laughs through the show. As he globetrots across the continents, Quinn shows deft comedic skill speaking in many nations’ dialects to heighten this historic tour, from Trinidadian cricket players (“I hate this game!”) to depressed Russians (“What do want me to say?”) and West African debaters (“If you have a Nigerian friend, you have no friend. Why? First…”). These voices are less imitations that attitude impressions, which elevates their low potential as lampoon to a higher comedic purpose — like the veteran Don Rickles, by ‘making fun’ of everyone, Quinn insults or singles out no one, but instead makes the subtle yet funny argument that we all can identify with each others issues and idiosyncracies.
Knowing full well that to dissect comedy, like a frog, is to kill it, FilmEdge heartily recommends you tuning into HBO and enjoying Colin Quinn’s worldly, wise-cracking send up of the unchangeable and probably indomitable nature of human beings. We may never truly change our baser and better instincts, but that’s no excuse not to enjoy the ride.
Here’s a very short preview of COLIN QUINN: LONG STORY SHORT from HBO to whet your appetite: