I wonder if I would have loved Long Story Short as much as I did if I was not aware of some of the history re the man himself. While his show did not reference his personal life (it is but the history of empires rising and falling from the Greeks on to our own young nation), my knowledge of his self-admitted misadventures had endeared me to him already.
At first glance, he appears as a brawny, stentorian-jock type, with a strong robust build and a full head of wheat-colored hair. In actuality, despite his appearance, Quinn is really a real court-jester, possessing a tendency for self-deprecation that only a person of gigantic appetites and/or developmental traumas would end up with.
He is kind of a throwback to that Irish tough-guy poet type -- a macho guy who starts the day off reading, and then ends up in jail that night for a bar brawl and risqué behavior -- such as accepting favors of a transsexual lady of the night, as he confessed to Howard Stern. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
The most important thing of all is that Quinn is funny, achingly funny from the moment he steps on stage, until the moment the light goes out on his one-man romp. Much has been made of the material. Is it original? Do we really need more ethnic humor? Of course we know the world stinks, etc.
Although I happen to adore his material, the reason it was funny was neither due to its originality nor its derivativeness. It was funny because the man delivering it was authentic, engaging and generous. I was not always enamored of Quinn, since I had a hard time getting past Norm MacDonald losing the SNL news anchor spot to him, when for some reason it was deemed that the brilliant Norm was "not funny."
Norm's dead-on satire of a news report and the smarmy/sincere ease with which he delivered it, was in direct contrast to Quinn's unpolished, somewhat abashed persona, containing flubs and blushing. His slightly over-stimulated and reactive personality was much more suited to his sadly canceled, Comedy Channel's Tough Crowd, a show where he and some invited chums would slug out the world's problems. He was not a snotty-arrogant type as certain other more successful TV personalities, and his openness did not put him in a niche for that type of programming. Or maybe it was ratings, whatever they really mean.
Now, in Long Story Short, he reveals himself to be more in control of his instrument than I could have dared imagine. Physically flexible and verbally nimble, he rattles off his take on why the victorious cultures eventually end up losers due to their selfishness, delusional behavior or substance abuse. His bit on the coked-out Mayans was hysterical. Sure, they did many great things, but ended up knee deep in the skulls of human sacrifice! A more daring bit about the Sharia law of Islam pointed out that yes; kill the rapist, that is fine,. He respects that, but why go so far as killing the victim too? Did the great philosopher Aristotle, on his dying day, have to say that he did not know anything? How bad was THAT for the brand? What was with the Pre-Columbians speaking Spanish though? Was he testing us? I hope so. And so on and so forth, the best bit probably being the conceit of the nerdy English trying to impress the hot French with all of their empire building. A very funny piece of work, indeed.
Jerry Seinfeld (a good friend to have) directed, and whatever influence he has on Quinn seems to be paying off. Maybe they could do a buddy movie together.
People tend to complain about ticket prices for what might actually be a souped-up stand-up. There are many ways around that, with discounts and such. Good luck bargain hunting, it is worth it.
Plays through Jan. 8 at the Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44th Street; (212) 239-6200 or telecharge.com.