Colin Quinn
(© Carol Rosseg)
Colin Quinn
(© Carol Rosseg)
In his new solo show, Long Story Short, at 45 Bleecker, former Saturday Night Live star Colin Quinn sets out, in his fashion, to tell the whole history of the world in a mere 75 minutes. While he may not totally accomplish that obviously impossible goal, Quinn nevertheless provides a clever and informative look at many past civilizations, while also making astute and often hilarious observations about how our current behavior is informed by where we've come from.

The piece, which has been directed by superstar Jerry Seinfeld, takes the form of an illustrated lecture -- Aaron Rhyne's gorgeous projections are truly something to behold -- in which Quinn discusses everything from ancient Greek philosophy and the origin of theater to the reasoning behind the Holy Roman Empire, the drug cultures of long-ago South America (one of the show's funniest segments), England's obsession with France, and the mystery of why no one emigrates to Canada. And lest one think America is let off the hook, well, think again.

Far from being dry and didactic, Quinn engages the audience by constantly drawing parallels to modern-day society and our everyday behavior. (There's even a funny and unexpected Jersey Shore reference in one segment.) While some of the humor is topical, very little is geo-specific, so that the show will appeal to both New Yorkers and tourists alike.

As might be expected, however, the show is not for the thin-skinned, as Quinn "insults" practically every nationality and religion, nor is it for those averse to the use of four-letter words, which Quinn peppers liberally throughout the evening. (If the f-bomb doesn't bother you, bringing the teens isn't an altoghether bad idea!)

Unlike some of his comic compadres, Quinn is not much of a shouter, and his fairly low-key delivery ultimately proves more effective that one might at first imagine. Moreover, the performer displays a facility for foreign accents that might even make Meryl Streep a tad jealous. Most importantly, Quinn exudes an everyman quality and basic likeability that allows some of his more inflammatory statements to seem less obnoxious (and more truthful) than they otherwise might.

Without question, the show is still a work-in-progress; there are clearly moments when Quinn seems like he's still struggling to remember a line verbatim and the writing could occasionally use a bit more sharpening. Nevertheless, Long Story Short is a tale worth attending.