Colin Quinn brought his version of the history of the world to Broadway and then to HBO. Now, “Colin Quinn: Long Story Short” is at Guild Hall in East Hampton through June 26.
Perhaps best known for the five years he spent as the host of “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live,” or as the host of “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn” which aired after “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, Mr. Quinn has also made Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Best Standups of All Time, at number 56.
Jerry Seinfeld, who is directing “Long Story Short,” comes in at number 12.
Mr. Quinn is obviously no stranger to the stage, having been performing comedy at various clubs since the mid-’80s. He is also no stranger to Broadway; “Long Story Short” was his second stint at the Helen Hayes Theater, following his earlier one-man show, “An Irish Wake.”
Mr. Quinn admitted that a few of the skits from “Long Story Short,” in which he summarizes the history of mankind in 75 minutes, have bitten the dust along the way.
“There was some stuff about the World Bank that we cut,” he said. “And I kind of meandered a little bit about the Ottoman Empire.”
It was an effort to get away from the meandering style of stand-up that brought Mr. Quinn to write “Long Story Short.”
“Why not make stand-up thematic?” he said. “Big picture stuff.”
According to the show’s Web site, in “Long Story Short,” Mr. Quinn focuses his comedic energies on “the demise of empires, including our own,” offering a mix of “incisive observation” and “sharp commentary,” while “channeling of the personalities of the past” and present, from Socrates to Snooki of “Jersey Shore” fame, all to help him make the point that “throughout human history, the joke has always been on us.”
Mr. Quinn has said before that history was not written by “the winners, but by the bullies.” However, he still admires some of the earlier empires that came before ours, even if their methods left something to be desired.
“I admire the British empire,” said the Irishman from Brooklyn. “In spite of their brutal ways, they were right about a lot of things.”
All through history, Mr. Quinn said, “About half the world is bullies, and half is people who were smart and did things the right way.”
If he could go back and convince one person in history to do things differently, “I’d tell Julius Caesar, ‘Why go back? You’ve got a good thing here with Cleopatra, why don’t you stay awhile?’ ”
While the show is mostly a comedic turn, there is a lesson hidden under the laughs. “We’ve changed technologically over the years,” he said. “But human nature never changes.”
“Long Story Short” is in preview tonight. Regular performances begin tomorrow and will be on Tuesdays through Fridays and Sundays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 7 and 10 p.m. Tickets range from $40, or $38 for members, to $85 ($80 members), and can be purchased at guildhall.org or by calling the box office.