When I think of all the stand-up comedians out there who could tackle the entire history of the world in under 90 minutes, Colin Quinn isn't the first person who comes to mind. I'd probably first picture Robin Williams running through voices and doing the whole thing in a dizzying flurry that channels his Genie from Aladdin, but Quinn handles this subject matter deftly and his drier, less frenetic style actually works quite well here. I was completely impressed and kicking myself for not getting to see this on Broadway. Thankfully, some genius thought to record it and put it on HBO.
When I say that Quinn tackles the history of the world, I'm not lying. Sure, he focuses on the major empires and larger countries throughout history and glosses over other things, but he hits most of the major evetns, and when he brings it back around to present day America for his finale, it's pretty brutal. And that's what stand-up should be.
In one part, he talks at length about Dangerous Minds and how he'd like to make a movie where he's a white teacher in the inner city working to educate his students by teaching them fun facts about how Paul Revere was an old-timey snitch. I would say that this Long Story Short could just be his curriculum for a semester. After all, where are you going to find a high school teacher who is able to compare Greek fascination with Antigone to our fascination with Snooki and make it work? Or someone who can sum up the Roman Empire simply as:"The Greeks were busy thinking. The Romans came in and conquered them and said, 'What do you think about that?'" Not that I'd want another Teach: Tony Danza, but I'd love to watch Quinn warp and shape the minds of the next generation.
There isn't a culture that is safe here. His personification of the British Empire is just something that has to be seen. He viciously attacks the Catholic Church about not changing their rituals to keep up with the times, such as maybe getting rid of kneeling, or the practice of "going in a darkened booth with a guy who may have a Justin Bieber poster up in the rectory." Or blaming our Founding Fathers for everyone's current obsession with prescription drugs because they put that "pursuit of happiness" line in the Constitution.
It's smart comedy, not just personal anecdotes or celebrity bashing or a profanity-filled recounting of personal exploits, and it moves seamlessly from one topic to another (with the help of some underwhelming graphics). So Colin, when does your History of the World, Part 2 come out? Because I'm really curious about your take on the Ottoman empire.
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