Q&A with Colin Quinn: ‘We’re a country of Karens’


(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Q: I’m glad we’re talking because “we’ve met the enemy and it is us,” right? You said that in your Netflix standup special, “Red State, Blue State.” It’s a weird time. I mean, Rick Moranis just got attacked in the street.

A: But that’s symbolic that a Canadian got attacked. Symbolic because, you know, our next move as a country, we’ve run out of things.

Q: So what can you tell us? Is there any hope here? Because, honestly, I’m in Massachusetts, but I love Tennessee. I love North Carolina. I don’t want us to be at war.

A: Sure. But, I mean, the only hope would be a constitutional convention every year for the next 10 years where we put everything on the table. But there would be no press allowed, because now the whole country is the press. Social media would be blocked from the convention because you’re also going to have everybody nitpicking over every word, and it’s paralysis. So we need to get our greatest thinkers, which will be another fight, deciding who the greatest thinkers are. We’re a country of Karens. We’re all Karens. All I see all day is people on social media. Everybody’s a Karen.

Q: I’ve watched your stage shows and seen your new book, “Overstated: A Coast-to-Coast Roast of the 50 States.” You’ve become kind of a historian, which is fascinating. How did you develop that?

A: I’ve always been a reader. And I have always done one-man show stuff. Like, I did a show on my family and on my block, but believe it or not, this was in the ’90s. It never got filmed. And now everything you do is filmed. But in those days, you had to go out of your way to make sure you filmed something. But the way I started doing it was, I remember, in the ’80s, when I first started comedy, I went to see Eric Bogosian do a one-man show, and Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg. And I was like, “I want to do that,” where you can really do characters and standup.

Q: I would argue that your 2016 “New York Story” show was really about the history of the country and the power structure. Then there’s your 2015 show on the Constitution, and then “Red State, Blue State.” I feel like if I asked you to tell me about how the world began to now, and I gave you a time limit, you could do it. Where did that come in from?

A: From reading Cliff Notes in school. [Laughs] It’s just standup shorthand. So all standup is like Cliff Notes. Whenever I’m onstage, or at a comedy club where I work the stuff out, I have to get to the point faster.

Q: You said recently that whether Trump wins the election or not, we will still be broken and divided. And short of your idea about a constitutional convention, which will never happen, is there actually hope? Because, honestly, it feels hopeless at times.

A: Yeah, it does. But other than my idea, there’s no solution. That nobody would even try a simple, cheap idea like that — getting these minds together and coming up with some solutions — is insane. It’s not a trillion-dollar idea. It’s a few hotel rooms and a banquet hall for a month or two. And the fact that we wouldn’t even do that shows that nobody wants to cure the stuff. They want to wait till there’s real bloodshed. And then we’ll be like, “Oh, now we’ve got to do something. Let’s have a reckoning.” This is just too much.


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