It’s been 17 years since Colin Quinn anchored “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live. It was a simpler time in Bill Clinton’s America, back when nobody complained about fake news. But once a fake newsie, always a fake newsie. Quinn can’t help but have an opinion on the current man in charge.
“He’s a bully,” he says of his president, on the phone from his home in New York. “But I also think people have lost their mind by trying to deal with him rationally. Everyone’s like, ‘Hey, Trump, what are you doing?’ And he’s just sitting there with that crazy look on his face writing executive orders. They’re like, ‘Trump, Trump!’ You’re talking to a man who’s gone mad.”
Quinn has been thinking a lot about bullies lately. So much so that he’s developed a new show based on that theme, which he’s premiering at the Rio Theatre this week. Wikipedia says he’s done five one-man shows, but Quinn prefers to think of them all as simply standup.
“I still have that standup personality where I’m like, ‘If I’m not getting a laugh, why would anyone be watching?’ ” he says. “Nobody’s that deep. If you’re really profound and deep and you call yourself a philosopher and people pay to see you, that’s good. Otherwise, if you’re a comedian and people are paying to see you, I wanna get laughs, you know what I mean?”
The new show is called, appropriately, Bully. He says it’s about “that toxic asshole in every situation”. It cuts across all lines, not just politics. “In every office, everything, there’s always one person. In every situation. It’s unbelievable,” he says. “It’s an interesting question how people deal with these people. I’m so into it right now with that whole behavioural thing. It’s very fascinating to me.”
He worries that genteel Canada might not be familiar with the archetype. I assure him that jerks are universal. Canada has been “the star” of two of his shows: Long Story Short and Unconstitutional, he points out. “They’re the ones that come off looking good in a world of trashing everything,” he says.
“The principle of the show is every system—capitalism, communism, theocracy, monarchy—all these systems bring out one kind of asshole or another,” he adds. “And then I just kinda correlate them with the people of today that would be comfortable in that kind of system or that were created from that kind of system. Like I said, those people, whether it be Trump or somebody at your office, there’s always somebody who’s there that helps destroy the fabric of whatever might have worked.”
Quinn has spanned booms, starting standup around 1984 in the middle of the first one. “I was there at the right time,” he says. “I didn’t deserve to make a living at it yet, but I did make a living at it.” Now he’s riding the wave of the current interest in the art form. “It’s become like a real industry,” he says. “It’s crazy. It’s like a real thing now, you know? Now the fans are so much smarter than they were when I was starting.”
Not all, though. Being an older white guy who is no fan of the politically correct culture, Quinn is sometimes perceived as a conservative.
“You just gotta live with whatever people are going to think,” he says. “If people turn that into [me being] a Trump guy, it’s bad for me, but what am I going to do, start a fucking publicity campaign? Fuck it. People can say whatever they want.”
Colin Quinn’s Bully makes its world premiere at the Rio Theatre on Friday and Saturday (February 24 and 25), as part of JFL NorthWest.