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Off-Broadway Review: "Colin Quinn—Small Talk"

Colin Quinn—Small Talk
Written and performed by Colin Quinn; directed by James Fauvell
Performances through February 11, 2023
Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, New York, NY
Colin Quinn—Small Talk (photo: Monique Carboni)
For several years, sharp-witted comedian Colin Quinn—probably best-known to comedy fans for his stint as "Weekend Update" anchor on Saturday Night Live from 1998 to 2000—has been performing regularly both on and off Broadway. After his show The Last Best Hope in fall 2021 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, the fast-talking Brooklyn comic returns there for his latest, Colin Quinn—Small Talk, in which he amusingly discusses the seemingly lost art of people introducing themselves to and engaging with others through innocuous patter. As always with Quinn, there are more misses than hits, but his sardonic approach does yield some comic insights.
Although Quinn trods a lot of ground in his 70-minute routine—which encompasses his maxim that, “between phones, air pods and self-checkout, small talk is down 87 percent”—it’s on the periphery that he finds his cleverest material. In one routine, he affirms that Human Resources is the “law enforcement arm of the office” and soon there will be no more series like Law and Order or CSI on TV; instead, “every cop show is going to be H.R.: ‘There are two separate but very important groups in every office—the sexist pigs and those who are assigned to stop them. These are their stories.’”
There’s also his offbeat spins on things we all take for granted. Discussing social media, he notes that schizophrenics suffer their whole lives with imaginary voices in their heads and now all of us have our own “voices,” all on our devices: “You carry two billion peoples’ personalities with you at all times.” His solution? “If you post more than 5 times a day you should be in a 72-hour psychiatric hold.”
He has quick fixes for our country’s various ills, including immigration (those who want to live here must pick someone already here no one likes and send them to their old country as a one-for-one trade), abortion (“the only people that should weigh in on abortion are mothers disappointed in how their adult children turned out—they’ve seen the agony and the ecstasy”) and gun control (“When people come in to buy a gun, no waiting period but first give us three references. Then we FaceTime those people and go, ‘Hey, your friend Joe Schmo wants to buy a gun,’ and if they go, ‘Really?!’ They’re not getting a gun.”)
Quinn also, somewhat halfheartedly, equates the right and the left as cultish, the wingnuts as a “combination David Koresh compound meets Jimmy Buffett concert” and liberals as the Manson family. But he doesn’t push the comparison too far and drops it after an obvious punch line about killing “the pigs.”
For all his Bushwick bravado, Quinn saves his best bit for the end, when he humorously eulogizes the great Norm MacDonald as the ultimate small talker—it’s a bit sanctimonious but also humanizing in a way that Quinn usually doesn’t allow himself. It’s also the best kind of small talk.

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