Colin Quinn on Going From Stand-Up to Theatre: 'This Is Where I'm Meant to Be'

Meredith Ganzman
February 25, 2019 - 4:26 pm

Stand-up comedian and “Saturday Night Live” alum Colin Quinn now says the theatre is where he’s “meant to be.”

"Stand-up is the greatest, and I love stand-up...but it is a little different than this,” the star of off-Broadway's "Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State" told RADIO.COM in a candid sitdown about his career transition.

For example, Quinn said, in theatre you can take your time and speak more in-depth on a subject. “With stand-up, you have to get to [the punchline] all the time,” he said.

Initially, actors such as Whoopi Goldberg and Eric Bogosian influenced the lifelong New Yorker to give theatre a shot.

"I was like, 'That looks fun, man,'" Quinn said. "They were in theaters, and they were being funny. But it was a different style of things."

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The “different style” didn’t come naturally at first. Quinn talked about trying to turn a Shakespeare bit in his stand-up act into a theatre performance.  

"It was a cringeworthy moment," he said. "It was me doing Shakespearean monologues but as characters. So I was doing Ralph Kramden as Macbeth.”

Years later, Quinn has gotten the hang of it. “Red State Blue State" is his sixth theatrical show. It opened less than a year after Quinn survived a heart attack, which he initially tried to work into the play.

“When I first had the heart attack, I said I’m going to incorporate the heart attack with the heart of the country," Quinn recalled. "I tried it a couple of times, and I was like, 'What am I doing?' I don’t understand (anatomy) enough to be talking about the human heart."

Instead, he stuck with reacting to the country's current climate of political divisiveness.

"It’s just getting worse and worse with how people hate each other," Quinn said.

Quinn said the show has made him appreciate the Constitution more than he ever did.

"I used to be like, 'Why is everybody making such a big deal of the Constitution?'" he said. "But I do understand what everyone is trying to do and why it’s so hard."

What Quinn is still grappling with, though, is performing comedy at a time when he says everyone seems to be offended by everything. He said he tries to stay out of it.

"I’d be stupid if I took a stand on anything being over the line, even though some things might even offend me," Quinn said.

"Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State" runs through March 16 at the Minetta Lane Theatre.