“Then the priest asks, ‘Do you renounce Satan and all his works?’ Again he shouts, ‘No!’ He wasn’t drunk. He was just saying no till the day he died against the Catholic Church.”
Quinn has fond memories of his youth.
“Growing up in Brooklyn I used to see everything I loved about Irish people. A fierce intelligence that was just thrown out without pretension, like all the Yeats and Thomas Aquinas references and all the cursing. That was the beauty of it. They were still down to earth,” he says.
Quinn’s grandparents came from Belfast, with his father’s father arriving (suspiciously, Quinn says with a laugh) around 1920.
“Apparently he got chased out. We were reading some old family letters from the 1920s where they’re talking about the Orangemen banging their drums until their wrists bled,” said Quinn.
“You can just picture those psycho Protestants with their wrists bleeding playing their goddamn drums. What a thought.”
But in his new show Quinn’s material is about issues closer to home, and he certainly doesn’t shy away from controversy.
“My new show is about America as an empire and about all empires. We are like the Costco of empires. We have to have every bad quality that destroyed the world together at once, you know?”
From the beginning the new show has grabbed the attention of his fans, many of who are immensely influential.
“I started playing with the show last year out on Long Island at this comedy club called Governor’s. Then I did it at the Gotham Comedy Club, and Jerry Seinfeld said I should do it as a one-man show,” Quinn says.
“I said I planned to and he said, ‘All right I’m producing it.’ I said, ‘You haven’t even seen it yet,’ and he said, ‘I trust you.’
“He saw The Irish Wake when it was in its infancy and he’s always been a supporter of my stuff. He saw the run through and I said, ‘Why don’t you direct it?’ and he agreed. He’s been directing and so focused.”
Even in rehearsal they’ve been finding new material.
“You discover these weird things. Like England, for example, which we (the Irish) called many years ago. We told the world they were a bad penny and now look at them,” Quinn says.
“B.P. That’s all I’m saying. Now America’s finding what we’ve always told them.”
How did England ruin the entire world?
“They didn’t overwhelm people, they shamed people. They came to these big countries like India and said to the people there, ‘Look at you! Put some clothes on!’” Quinn said.
“They shamed people. It was like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know I had no class until these people told me.’ It was psychological. England wasn’t big.
“Those little discoveries make up the show. They tapped into people’s insecurities, their low self-esteem by saying of course you want to be like us.”
"Colin Quinn Long Story Short" plays at Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street in New York from June 19-August 15. For tickets call 212-239-6200.