A dependable TV presence since his days anchoring Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, Colin Quinn is an acerbic Irish-American comedian who can currently be seen on the HBO hit Girls as well as in two specials on Netflix, Unconstitutional and the Jerry Seinfeld-directed Colin Quinn: The New York Story. Recently, he played Amy Schumer’s character’s father in the movie Trainwreck.
Quinn is bringing his latest show, now titled (see below) Wrong Side of History, to the Rio Theatre (1660 E. Broadway) Feb. 23 and 24 as part of the JFL NorthWest comedy fest. We talked to Quinn about his new show, his web series Cop Show, and working with Girls’ Lena Duham.
Q: You’re bringing a show called Bully to Vancouver. What can you tell us about that?
A: I’ve changed the name six times. It’s no longer called Bully. It was called Utopia, then Bully, and something else. I’m now calling it Wrong Side of History.
Q: How is thematically similar to your last two shows? Is it historical?
A: First of all, I should’ve done Unconstitutional (his 2013 show covering the creation and impact of the U.S. Constitution) now, it’s infuriating to me.
This one’s about governmental systems and why nothing ever works. You have Canada, all right fine, but I’m saying no other system has worked. The only country that has worked is Canada. It’s basically about people in America right now, it’s really ugly and it’s not going to get better and it’s because people have different ideas about what the country should be. It’s how each system tries to be good but there are always assholes who ruin it in every system. Whether it’s a theocracy or socialism or a sense of capitalism, everything gets ruined. By people who like to ruin s***. There are always a couple of people who have to f*** things up. That’s what they do in life. That’s their thing.
Q: Do you ever bring back your old shows, like Unconstitutional or New York Story?
A: Nah, you’ve gotta move on. I’d like to, it’s fun to think about, “Oh, I’d love to do that and add to it,” but move on, you know?
Q: I’ve noticed people posting a lot of videos of Bill Hicks and George Carlin lately. Were either of those comedians an influence on you?
A: George Carlin was the ultimate influence on me as a kid, him and a Richard Pryor were the guys for all of us at the time, there were not that many people. And I love Bill Hicks, he’s been sorely missed over the last 25 years.
Q: In a lot of those clips it’s not so much about punchlines but about truth-telling. Is that how you see your role?
A: No. I want to tell what I think is the truth. But truth is subjective, in my opinion. It’s based on your life experience. That’s part of the reason the world never gets along. My role is to get laughs but still try to say what I believe.
George Carlin and Bill Hicks, sometimes it seems like they’re not getting laughs, but they both proved themselves many times.
Q: You have a provocative Twitter account. It’s like you see it as a tool.
A: It kind of is. I’m kind of a tool on Twitter. I say the most annoying, mainstream things, and then wait for people to go, “Why do you have to ruin my day?” I’ll make statements that everybody makes and then act like I’m breaking ground. Like I’ll talk about the Superbowl, but say the most obvious things. Everything I say on Twitter is really obnoxious.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your web series Cop Show.
A: We did it because I was never on Law and Order or any of the cop shows, and I started to get annoyed, so I said, “I’m making my own show where I’m the head cop.” It’s got all the clichés of cop shows.
We do the whole season in a week, we do it dirt-cheap, you don’t make money, and it’s so much fun. And you hope somebody will pick up. But nobody picked it up. But it’s the kind of show that really shouldn’t get picked up because part of the plot of it is that I’m not doing that well. If it was picked up by a network it wouldn’t be as funny.
Q: You’ve shot the last season of Girls, season six. Can you tell us what to expect?
A: No, I really can’t. I’m sworn to secrecy. I’m like one of those Star Wars people.
Q: How did they first approach you about doing the show?
A: It was near the end of the first season. I was like, Wow, that’s weird, me being on Girls, let’s face it, you know what I mean? Then I met Lena Dunham. She’s just one of these people, when you talk to her, you’re like, she’s so intelligent. I don’t like to call anyone a genius, except maybe Albert Einstein or something, but she’s definitely another level of intelligence at least. And she’s nice to everybody. She’s a kind person.
Q: You’ve got a few years on her in the business, do you give her advice? Or maybe she’s giving you advice?
A: I wouldn’t go that far. I don’t take advice from anybody (laughs).
For tickets to Colin Quinn at JFL NorthWest, visit jflnorthwest.com.