Colin Quinn Set To Light Up Stage At North Fork Arts Center

June 24, 2024 0 By JohnValbyNation

NORTH FORK, NY — Stand-up comedian Colin Quinn has long been a familiar face and voice on stages and screens, the guy “who has been a part of your whole life even though you never asked for it,” according to his bio.

And now, Quinn is bringing his bright array of talents to the stage of the newly unveiled North Fork Arts Center at the Sapan Greenport Theater Wednesday, June 26, with a show beginning at 8 p.m.

“Spend the night before the first presidential debate sharing a laugh with friends and neighbors,” organizers of the event said.

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Quinn, a talented writer and performer, is a stand-up comedian from Park Slope, Brooklyn, whose first big break in MTV’s “Remote Control” led to a long stint on “Saturday Night Live” and then, to Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.”

His most recent stand-up special, “Colin Quinn: Our Time Is Up,” which was shot at a 2024 Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington, DC, is now streaming on YouTube.

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Quinn has taken his talents to the stage, starring on Broadway withColin Quinn: An Irish Wake” and “Colin Quinn: Long Story Short” and Off-Broadway with his show “Colin Quinn: Unconstitutional, Colin Quinn: The New York Story,” directed by Jerry Seinfeld, “Colin Quinn: Red State, Blue State, Colin Quinn: The Last Best Hope”, and, most recently, “Colin Quinn: Small Talk”.

Recent credits also include “Trainwreck”, “Girls”, and his web series “Cop Show,” streaming now on Quinn’s YouTube channel. His last book, “Overstated: A Coast-to-Coast Roast of the 50 States,” has been released by Macmillan Publishing.

Speaking with Patch, Quinn, whose voice and demeanor carry all the nuances of an everyman Brooklyn childhood, reminisced about growing up in the neighborhood, in a family of teachers, where no one was in the arts — but where his early dreams were nurtured with a steadfast belief and love.

“I was the only performer,” he said. “I was always the class clown. I was always the boisterous kid. From Day One, everyone knew what I was going to be doing — everybody knew I was going to be a comedian. Nobody was ever shocked when they heard I became a comedian.”

After time spent studying at Stony Brook University, Quinn set his sights on the New York City skyline.

Quinn began his stand-up career — hitting club after club in a steady stream of gigs — at a time when comedy was the brightest star in the entertainment constellation. New York City in the 1980s was alive with comedy clubs such as Caroline’s and the Comedy Cellar opening their doors, the places where stars were launched and careers were born.

“I stepped into comedy at a time when it was more practical than going to law school,” Quinn said. “In the mid-80s, comedy became a thing, and I just happened to step into that.”

Of those early years, Quinn said: “I was out there all the time, bartending and doing stand-up at night. And then I ended up on MTV in the late 80s, my first big break.”

From there, his path led him to “Saturday Night Live.” The road to success was holistic, fueled by innate talent and a fierce dedication to his craft.

“I probably should have strategized better,” he laughed. “I didn’t have a plan, I just always said, ‘Go do comedy.’ The good part of that was that I never looked up from writing and doing standup. It’s still true, to some extent.”

Heading back to Long Island this week, Quinn said he’s always had an affinity for the towns and people that make up the heart of the communities where he’s performed. Governor’s Comedy Club in Levittown was one of his first gigs “back in the day.”

Looking back on his rich career, Quinn said there have been shining, defining moments where the stars aligned — and he knew he was fulfilling the destiny for which he’d set out since his earliest days.

“A couple of times on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ I had those moments,” he said. “My family, coming to see me do ‘Irish Wake’, that was a moment I’d really dreamed of.”

Quinn said when the play debuted Off Broadway, it was a rich and meaningful experience; the show later headed to Broadway.

Having long taken on politics in his work, Quinn said this week’s presidential debate, like so many others, is likely to be “chaotic, depressing.”

Quinn said he does not necessarily think comedy bridges the vast divide in the nation today, a divide he says is more digital than anything else.

“I’m Irish, I’m not going to sit here and be all positive about things,” he said.

But, he added, comedy can provide a common ground. “It does humanize people,” he said. “It’s the one little glimmer. Because laughter is involuntary. When you’re laughing, you’re on the same page as other people, not because you feel you need to please them, or to get over on them — but because they’re laughing involuntarily.”

Stand-up has changed since those early days, Quinn said. “You can’t shorthand,” he said. “The big difference now is, you have to do a big preamble before you say anything, trying to explain, saying ‘I’m coming from a place of . . . ‘ It’s just this weird time.”

Throughout his life, Quinn has long had a deep affinity for the communities that comprise New York City, the neighborhoods and their deep roots, with the people that give them substance, history, and an abiding humanity.

Speaking of Brooklyn, he said: “When we grew up there, it was this really special time. We were so lucky we had that. It had a kind of flavor in it, the people, that just doesn’t exist anymore, it was just of its time. You don’t ever get that back.”

In the same way, Quinn has always held a reverence for historic, beautiful theaters, places of a certain time that have been lovingly preserved for posterity. “I love it when I’m sometimes at a gig, in the middle of Pennsylvania or some small town in Ohio — this has happened at least 100 times — and you walk in, and it’s this turn-of-the century, restored, beautiful vaudeville theater. They’re all over the country and every time I find one, I feel great. It’s beautiful — and it’s so important.”

The newly restored North Fork Arts Center represents just such an effort to preserve a timeless theater for generations to come — and transform the space into a thriving arts center.

When the Village Cinema in Greenport was first offered for sale or long-term lease, the owner of the theater, Josh Sapan — who recently retired after years serving as the CEO of AMC Networks — offered to gift the theater if three specific conditions were met: A new not-for-profit organization was created; a skilled board with ties to the North Fork was created; and $1 million was raised to cover operating expenses for the not-for-profit’s first three to four years.

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The ribbon-cutting was a moment that, itself, symbolized what the heart and determination of a small village can do. Residents banded in a hometown, community-driven fundraising campaign to raise $1 million, save the theater and create a not-for-profit arts center, in an outpouring reminiscent of “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

NFAC Executive Director Tony Spiridakis said he’s thrilled to welcome Quinn to the NFAC. “After idolizing this man’s comic brilliance for decades, I had the honor to work with him in a writers’ group run by a mutual friend (and mentor), Academy Award-winning screenwriter Bobby Moresco. This is where I learned that beyond comedy, Colin is a great writer, period. Comedy, or drama, he loves and understands the human condition in ways that just flat out make us think and feel. What a gift for him to come perform for us at the North Fork Arts Center!”

Sapan also lauded Quinn’s work: “There are a handful of people called comedians and social commentators whose body of work and contribution to the way we think about society, history, religion and politics make them more than that,” he said. “From stand up, to MTV, to SNL, to network and cable series, movies and no fewer than seven extraordinary one-person shows, Colin Quinn has been guiding the collective narrative for decades. He is hard to describe — and impossible to resist. I have a collection of the things he’s said that I replay in my mind, with frequency — and I laugh a lot every time.”

Quinn offered intelligent, insightful words of advice to comedians just starting out, learning the proverbial ropes.

“There are two kinds of people, people just trying to write jokes, and people writing from their own experiences — but you have to do both. The funny thing about comedy is that you think you have something amusing to say, and it is amusing — people say, ‘Oh, that’s funny,’ and you see their faces light up — but if there’s no joke at the end, they’ll say, ‘Well, we came to hear jokes, too.’ The joke clarifies what you were trying to say, it synthesizes it. That’s a comedian.”

Story telling is great, “but make sure you have a bunch of jokes peppered in,” he said. “Unless that story is really fascinating, you’d better get all those jokes in there. That’s the nature of comedy.”

Looking ahead, Quinn said there are still new professional peaks he hopes to scale. A writer, Quinn hopes to direct some of his films. “I would say time is of the essence,” he said, a smile in his voice.

But despite the many years of gigs and a career studded with success, Quinn said when he steps on a stage, the same feelings he had as a young comic performing before those first crowds come rushing back — every single time.

“It still feels the same,” he said. “I’ll still feel exactly the same on Wednesday night in Greenport. It’s crazy, but that’s how it feels.”

When asked what it is about the experience that makes every show, every stage new and thrilling, Quinn answers without hesitation: “It’s like going into the ocean, with the waves. You don’t know where they’re going to go. You try to control it — but it always takes you in a different direction.”

To purchase tickets to Colin Quinn’s performance at the North Fork Arts Center, click here.

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