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Other segments from the episode on December 12, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 12, 2003: Interview with Colin Quinn; Review of the film "Stuck on you;" Review of Television shows on DVD.


DATE December 12, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Colin Quinn discusses his new program on Comedy
Central, "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross.

Our guest is the comic Colin Quinn. He first became known for anchoring
"Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live," but he's been around for a while
and is so respected by other comics that even Jerry Seinfeld listens closely
to his opinions about comedy. In the documentary "Comedian," now out on video
and DVD, Seinfeld does just that, as in this scene where he and Quinn are
sitting at a comedy club table and talking between sets.

(Soundbite of "Comedian"; cheers and applause)

Mr. COLIN QUINN (Comedian): I just love it. I love walking downstairs...

Unidentified Man: Mr. Jerry Seinfeld...

(Soundbite of cheers)

Mr. QUINN: ...go in there, it's all crowded, everyone's approached--and you
just go on and grab the mic and bust it out, you know what I mean? The bear
essential. It's like Tyson fighting with no socks, just his shorts and his
shoes, and that's it.

Mr. JERRY SEINFELD (Comedian): It is the smelly gym.

Mr. QUINN: Yeah.

BIANCULLI: Now Quinn is commenting on the headlines as star and ringleader of
his Comedy Central program, "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn." It's broadcast
Monday through Thursday at 11:30, right after the satirical newscast "The
Daily Show with Jon Stewart." It's a one-two punch of thoughtful politically
aware comic commentary. On each edition of "Tough Crowd," Quinn leads a
conversation with four other comics about the issues of the day. Sometimes
the guests are famous, like George Carlin. Other times, they're just
hard-working club circuit guys, like Patrice O'Neal. In this exchange form
"Tough Crowd," Quinn introduces a controversial topic, and O'Neal immediately
takes the bait.

(Soundbite of "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn")

Mr. QUINN: Germany, France and Canada are angered about the Pentagon's
decision to cut them out of that $18 billion worth of contracts.


Mr. QUINN: So here's what President Bush had to say about this. Ready? It's
very simple: Our people risk their lives, friendly coalition folks risk their
lives and, therefore, the contract is going to reflect that. That's what the
US taxpayers expect.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. QUINN: What? Just because I stink as an impressionist, who cares?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. QUINN: What do you think, Patrice? Should rebuilding contracts be used
to help those who helped us?

Mr. O'NEAL: Look, first of all, can this goofy country just give us the
truth? I think we can handle it. Just have him say, `I'm giving all the jobs
to my friends.'

Mr. QUINN: Yeah.

Mr. O'NEAL: Why should there be some kind of explana...

Mr. QUINN: No, no, no.

Mr. O'NEAL: That was what he was looking for.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. O'NEAL: No, no, no, no!

Mr. QUINN: No.

Mr. O'NEAL: Save that for ...(unintelligible) at some point. He's going to
need it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. QUINN: No. Yeah. First...

Mr. O'NEAL: He's just giving it to his friends. Why don't he just say that?
He's just giving it to his buddies. So what, if we got control, it's--I don't
know if it's called nepotism, but it's called something, and he's giving it to
his boys. Look, the reason people hate this show so much is because you've
got your boys working...

Mr. QUINN: Right.

Mr. O'NEAL: ...and all the other comics who think they're funnier, but you've
got your boys working...

Mr. QUINN: Exactly, stupid...

Mr. O'NEAL: You know what I'm saying?

Mr. QUINN: Yeah. Well, I'll tell you...

BIANCULLI: Colin Quinn started his TV career in 1987 as co-host of MTV's game
show "Remote Control." He joined "Saturday Night Live" in 1985 as a writer
and performer and stayed on the show for six seasons. For almost half that
time, Quinn anchored "Weekend Update." Then, as now, Quinn goes after
sensitive topics and isn't afraid to say things that make some people squirm
or gasp. And on "Tough Crowd," he makes sure he's not alone. When Terry
spoke with him earlier this year, she asked why he was so eager to work with
other comedians.

Mr. QUINN: Well, first of all, I think that, you know, the comics can say
things--first of all, they will say things. It's not that they have the
intelligence to say things no one else will, but they do have that instinct to
be more honest about--you know, without being politically correct about
everything racial and--You know what I mean? That's really the thing. I
mean, to me the big censorship thing has been race in the past 10 years, and
everything else is open game.

But I also think when the comedians are on a show, there's also that sense of
reality in that no one's going to change anyone's opinion. You know, no
matter how intelligent somebody is, everybody--I mean, look at the Middle
East. It's just all these brilliant minds trying to work this out and nobody
changes. So it's like at least at some point in the discussion, you realize
the comedians are sort of acknowledging that by just giving up and turning on
somebody just personally. So it kind of reminds me more of, like, the reality
of life, which is that you give your opinion, somebody else gives theirs, you
know, you try to get your point across, nobody really wants to change their
opinion--on some level, they already have it--and they just start attacking
each other and you leave on a kind of friendly note, you know, of like, you
know, the world just goes on kind of thing.


Are there certain perils involved with bringing comics together and having
them talk? Because, I mean, they can start picking on each other, they can
start picking on you.

Mr. QUINN: Well, that's what they do.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. QUINN: You can't believe it. They pick on me all the time and they pick
on each other, and I pick on them. I mean, but that's good, you know. It's
like--you know, I mean, that's part of the show, too. Instead of it just
being like people just respectfully listening to each other's dumb opinions,
kind of saying, `OK, idiot,' you know. Like, my favorite times is when
people, like, call each other and trying to get an applause break from the
audience by saying something that's so correct; not necessarily politically
correct, just one of those statements like, `Well, I think people should care
more about children,' or `I think war is bad.' You know? Or `I think all
human life is precious,' then we just start attacking them for trying to get
the audience to applaud on, you know--with some vague statement that nobody's
really going to disagree with.

GROSS: Well, the other thing is that so many comics seem to be kind of--well,
very competitive with each other, maybe a little anti-social.

Mr. QUINN: Yeah.

GROSS: So here you're bringing them together in a little group to talk to
each other.

Mr. QUINN: Yeah. Well, they're the only people who can stand each other,

GROSS: (Laughs)

Mr. QUINN: I mean, I was at this roast last night for Patrice O'Neal, one of
the guys from the show. It was the meanest thing I've ever seen. And I was
involved in it, too, but, I mean, it was brutal. They really are. There's
something very wrong with comedians, and I'm starting to realize it more and
more. I never believed it. I was just always, like, `Oh, people just want to
talk about projection.' I felt like everybody projected their anger that
comedians, you know, kind of bring out, you know, or their anger that
comedians are the catharsis for. So I used to think it was everybody's
projections, but now I realize comedians are very damaged. In fact, I don't
think I'm going to go to the show today, thanks to you bringing that up.

GROSS: Glad to be of help.

Most of the comics on "Tough Crowd" are--you're kind of like young, hip
comics, you know, people like Dave Chappelle and Denis Leary and comics who
aren't as well known as they are.

Mr. QUINN: Right.

GROSS: But you also had on Pat Cooper, who's from a completely different era.

Mr. QUINN: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: And he's kind of like an insult comic who would be playing--I don't
know--Atlantic City or Vegas...

Mr. QUINN: Right.

GROSS: ...or at least he would have been years ago.

Mr. QUINN: Yeah.

GROSS: And that show struck me as so bizarre, putting these two kind of
generations, two completely different styles of comedy, together. Would you
talk about what that experience was like for you?

Mr. QUINN: Well, I mean, it's just like--you know, I mean, he's just--like,
I think, among comedians, like, everybody loves Pat Cooper-type people, like,
everybody loves the old comedians that are funny. You know, so it's like--so
it's sort of our kind of way of, like, saying, `Hey, listen. We know what
funny is,' you know. And, obviously, everyone's political opinions aside, it
doesn't matter to us--I mean, for our little quality control of business, a
lot of pretenders and a lot of people getting up trying to, you know, in that
generation and in this generation and in the middle generation that I'm sure
are coming out, people that are trying to, under the guise of comedy, you
know, they've got a million things like, you know--What do you call it?--like
bread and circuses or bright lights and loud noises, and they're not funny.
So a guy like him, as miserable and mean as he is, and he's mean offstage to
me, too...

GROSS: Really?

Mr. QUINN: ...he's really funny. Like, he came on the show the first day. I
can't even describe what's funny necessarily sometimes, but like, here's what
he does the first day. He comes on the show and we had to do a couple of
phone calls. You know, we're doing the show. It's a new show to us, so we're
like, `OK, make sure you call and get this.' He comes on, walks in the
dressing room with all these young comics and stuff and goes, `Hey! Hey, is
the "The Godfather"? You've got to fax me three times this nonsense? What?
What's my favorite political party? What color do I like?' He's just ripping
up his stuff and he's really mad, but it was so funny 'cause he was right.
It's like we're making a big production. He goes, `You think--you're a cable
show. You're acting like you're "The Godfather." You're acting like
you're'--I forget what other movie he said. He goes, `I worked with De Niro.
You think I want to sit all day thinking about what's my favorite
political'--and so he just starting ripping into me, and everybody was crying
because he meant it. You know, he was being funny, but he really did mean it.
He just cut and passed ...(unintelligible) level of nonsense that we thought,
you know, `Hey, make sure he gets this,' you know, like a modern-day--he's
from the old school where you show up and you be funny, and here we are
sending him faxes asking his questions about, you know, who did he vote for,
what does he think about the war, what does he think about this, you know?

GROSS: And there's one point on the show where he's basically saying to you,
`Oh, you're gonna be washed up soon. There's younger comics. They'll be
taking your place.'

Mr. QUINN: Yeah.

GROSS: Oh, and then there's one...

Mr. QUINN: It's funny 'cause it's true.

GROSS: And then in the middle of the show he says, `Hurry up already. I have
to take a pill.'

Mr. QUINN: Yeah.

GROSS: That just really slayed me. I don't know.

Mr. QUINN: Yeah. It's so funny 'cause it's so true. He does have to take a
pill, and I think people identify with, like, `Hey, listen, whatever you're
talking about, at some point it just becomes, you know'--I don't think he can
curse on the show, but, I mean, you know what I mean. And he's like,
`Ultimately, if I don't take a pill, I'm going to die. So whatever nonsense
is going on in the world, I personally am about to die if I don't take my
pill, so let's get to it.' So it's like that humanistic thing, you know.

GROSS: There was one point where I thought you looked like you were really
trying hard not to laugh. It's everybody's job to be funny, and you should be
laughing, but there's one point where I thought that you thought your laughter
would be so inappropriate that you were trying not to.

Mr. QUINN: When was it? With Pat?

GROSS: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Mr. QUINN: Well, it's not that it's inappropriate. I'm afraid of Pat. I've
just seen him go off. We did this thing about a year ago with this short
film, this guy Ray Garvey did, and Pips, you know? So Ray Garvey goes to
me--you know, he runs Pips, does comedy, you know, and he goes, `Hey, listen,
you know, can you do this thing with me? Woody Allen's gonna be there.' So
I'm like, `Yeah, yeah, right. I'll be there, but Woody Allen's not gonna be

Cut to three months later, Woody Allen bringing me on stage at Pips. So Woody
Allen was there. It was like the first live appear--it was crazy. Pat
Cooper's on it, too. You know, it's a bunch of, like--you know, I don't know
how all these ragtag different sides of everything got together, but Pat
Cooper goes on. He walks in and they're filming, and Woody Allen and these
other people like Danny Aiello are there, so they're filming them laughing at
Pat Cooper. Pat comes in and ad-libs 10 minutes; it's brilliant.

Then they go, `All right, Pat. Now we've got to do it again, and we'll shoot
you this time.' `What?' `Well, we shot Woody and then they've gotta leave.'
`What? You want me to'--`Yeah. Could you do that again?' `Yeah. You want
me to ad-lib what I just did again? Yeah, sure. You want me to kind of
spontaneous--You know what? This thing stinks.'

He starts screaming, and he was dead serious. Next thing you know, we're out
on Emmons Avenue in Brooklyn. Everybody's watching. They're all, like, `Oh,
Pat Cooper.' And it seems like the whole country's in on the joke, then he
goes off and he starts screaming at me. He screams at Jackie Martling. He
goes, `Hey, come on, Pat. It's for friends.' `Friends? What friends?
Jackie, you know how long I've been in this business? Friends my ass'--he
starts, like, you know, giving all those Italian-like--and then I try to kiss
Pat's ass because now I'm scared. I'm like, `Hey, Pat, at least you were
funny, though. You were really great,' you know, I'm trying to go the other
way. Since I see Jackie's way is, you know, not working for him I figure I'll
grovel to Pat. `That's not the point, Colin. Yeah, I'm funny.' He starts
screaming at me. So, you know, part of that not laughing is not
professionalism; it's just, you know, fear of Pat. He's a wrecking ball.

GROSS: Well, here's Colin Quinn and Pat Cooper on "Tough Crowd," fielding
questions from college graduates about their futures.

(Soundbite of "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn")

Unidentified Woman: So what's more important, happiness or money?

Mr. PAT COOPER (Comedian): Money! Forget happiness; happiness is when you
die. Money is when you're living. Spend, grab, run, do whatever you've got.
Forget school, quit, go to Europe, hide!

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

Mr. QUINN: Well, you know, Pat, it's kind of funny you bring that up because
I was gonna talk to you about, you know, you've been in the business about,
you know--I mean, I make good money at the job, but sometimes I don't feel
like it's as fulfilling as it...

Mr. COOPER: No, no. It's fulfilling. Listen to me, the name of the game is
surviving. You got a few dollars in your pocket, you're doing good. If
you're broke, nobody gives a damn. I tell these kids, I tell my grandkids,
`Don't go to school.' That's--just do what I'm going to do. Do what
everybody does: loaf.

Mr. QUINN: But I'm talking about the existential crisis kind of thing, you

Mr. COOPER: What is that word? Never heard of that word. See, I'm not
educated. What does existential mean? What the hell does that mean? I don't
understand. Where are you from? I'm from Hell's Kitchen, and you're throwing
me those big words. I got trouble with `the.'

Mr. QUINN: I'm from Brooklyn.

Mr. COOPER: What the hell is the matter? Because right here he's telling

BIANCULLI: Colin Quinn, the host of "Tough Crowd" on Comedy Central. More
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's interview with Colin Quinn, recorded in
June. His Comedy Central show, "Tough Crowd," features him leading
discussions with four comics on the issues of the day. It's shown Monday
through Thursday at 11:30 PM.

GROSS: On your show, on "Tough Crowd," how do you know what you need to kind
of bleep or, you know--how do you use bleeping or, you know, editing?

Mr. QUINN: Well, I mean, I don't get involved in the editing or anything,
you know, with bleeping, because it's like--you know, there's not enough time
for you to be around everything, you know? But I mean...

GROSS: Do people walk onto the show knowing what words aren't going to get on
if they use them?

Mr. QUINN: Well, I mean, you know, obviously--Are you talking about curses
or other things? Because curses--you know, I don't even think--I think that's
my other big theory, if you'd like to hear, since I'm--you know, this is my
National Public Radio thing, Terry. It's my one shot to give my theory about
life, but people...

GROSS: Yes, and that's why we invited you on, because we were hoping you'd
have a theory.

Mr. QUINN: I do have a theory, thank you, and it's fallen on deaf ears many
times, but I think this is the one place people might actually be able to pick
this one up.

GROSS: Let's hear it.

Mr. QUINN: Fake shock. Fake shock. Here's my theory. You ready?

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. QUINN: This is going to be boring. You're going to cut this out of the
show, probably, because it's too boring, but still, I'll make it very quick.


Mr. QUINN: I talk very fast. My theory is that in the last 10 years, people
need to feel like they're watch edgy comedy, and the audience and the
comedians and everybody is in collusion in this unconscious agreement, where
they'll say, `OK, look, we really don't want to laugh at any uncomfortable
truths about race or anything really, you know, important. So instead, we'll
all agree that if you make, like, jokes about disabled people, that's shock,
or if you make jokes about midgets or whatever, that's cutting edge.'

GROSS: OK. So you think that's all a substitute for race. Now...

Mr. QUINN: And I think that cursing is the same thing. I think that every
time somebody talks about cursing on TV, I want to fall asleep. Where
they're, like, `Yeah, man, I want to say--they cut us out from saying this,'
or, `They cut us out from making an AIDS joke.' And it's all fine. I mean, I
could care either way about those kinds of things. I mean, maybe there is a
legitimate reason those jokes can be there, but I do feel like it's
substitutes for things that people really, really, really want to make the new
things you shouldn't talk about.

GROSS: OK. Well, let's talk about how you get to race on the show. Maybe
you could describe what you did with Dave Chappelle.

Mr. QUINN: I'm not going to talk about race. Please. Come on, Terry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. QUINN: Well, like, the Chappelle thing was--we just said five things that
the other race always wanted to say to their race, I think it was. Something
like that.

GROSS: Do you remember what any of them were?

Mr. QUINN: So like, I said--I made him say five things I always wanted to
hear a black guy say--admit, and he gave five things he always wanted to hear
a white guy admit.

GROSS: So what did you give him?

Mr. QUINN: You're right. I'm sitting here, like, `I guess she would like an
example of that to keep the humor going.' Good point, Terry.

All right. I gave him, like, the fact that the biggest--the epitome of
hypocrisy is that Trent Lott had to apologize for insinuating pro-segregation
remarks on station called Black Entertainment Television, which in its very
name is promoting segregation. Nothing for that one?

GROSS: Well, I think they're different, but...

Mr. QUINN: Oh, come on. But it's still funny.


Mr. QUINN: Don't you think--but it's called Black Entertainment Television.
I admit--yes, if you look in the--of course, you say, `Well, Trent Lott has a
lot more power'--blah, blah, blah. But still, you have to admit there's
something kind of ironic about that.

No? All right, fine. What were my other ones? Oh, I can't remember.

GROSS: Oh, I think you gave him one thing...

Mr. QUINN: That was my big one. I just gave you my blockbuster...

GROSS: I think you gave one saying, `Not every white person I've ever met is

Mr. QUINN: No, no. What I gave him one saying was, `Every white person I've
met is not racist. No one has ever called me the N-word,' and something like
that. Now that's what I gave him, was one saying that every white person he's
met is not racist and that every white person has treated him with kid gloves
and has tried to welcome him. And, you know, just the delusion that it's 1960
in Selma all over this country kind of annoys me.

GROSS: What did he give you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. QUINN: Oh, thank God I got a laugh out of you. The first one bombed.

GROSS: What did he give you?

Mr. QUINN: But even the Trent--I was about to try to sell you on my Trent
Lott joke, but I'm just going to give up.

GROSS: It's not--give up. Give up.

Mr. QUINN: Like we said on the show, you know, nobody ever changes their

What he gave me? He gave me--I apologized for slavery, I apologized for the
Jim Crow laws and, finally at the end, it was, like, I apologized for the
whole Kenny G thing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So have race relations moved forward as a result of this?

Mr. QUINN: I think that--you know, when I grew up--I grew up in Brooklyn, and
it was a very mixed neighborhood, and people really did--that's one of the
reasons that I wanted "Tough," that I'm so happy doing "Tough Crowd" is
because when I grew up, everybody was mixed all the time, and everybody would
slam each other's races, but based on true things. Like, I was on the other
night, and they were talking about black people shoplifting, whatever, you
know, and being outraged about it. And I was, like, `Don't pretend that 70 of
your kids from, like, you know, Antwone Fisher High don't bum rush a Korean
deli once in a while.' I mean, these are facts that I've seen. So it's
like--and they laugh because they know I'm not saying that they're genetically
criminal. You know what I mean? I'm just saying these are things that exist.
Just like they say white corporate things--I admit that, too. You know what I

Like last night, we were talking about the Bush's awful tax cut idea, you
know? And it's like when I grew up, everybody used to just say whatever they
wanted about Puerto Rican, black, white, you know, Asian. And, you know, some
people would say things that was dumb cliche stereotype, and some people would
say things that really are accurate based on accurate things. So I think it's
more the--I think if you're specific and it's true, I think that's fine. I
think if people just make these--you know, it's like anything else. It's a
judgment call. It's really a matter of, you know, the fine line, you know.
And I feel confident about this kind of stuff because, you know, for the last
18 years, anytime I perform in front of clubs, it's always mixed; it's always
black, white, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Chinese and Indian, you know, everybody
who lives in the country now. And I would know, especially with black
people--I'm sure they'd let me know--if they thought I was being, you know--I
mean, the things I'm saying are true things. And some of them are
unflattering to each different group of people, but you know, if it's the
truth, they laugh.

When I go to clubs, if I say something about Puerto Rican or black--I was
talking about the parade the other day. There was a bunch of Puerto Ricans in
the club, you know. And I go, `Oh, the Puerto Rican Day Parade,' and they're
like, `Whoa,' but they're kind of excited to hear what you have to say. They
don't want you to say, `Yes, what a beaut'--this is not funny--`what a
beautiful celebration of the culture of Puerto Rican people. If only white
people could get past their uptightness'--you know what I mean? That's not
funny. What I said was, `It's the only place you could see a grandmother in a
tube top,' because--and that's not a negative thing. Hey, if you're proud of
your body at that age, that's--you know, but it's not negative or positive.
It's just a fact, you know, made funny.

So that kind of stuff's not--if that stuff is offensive, you might as well,
you know, take me off the Earth because that stuff is just having fun and
saying something that could be taken as a positive, a negative or just, you
know, an observation. So it's like--you know, walking on eggshells is never
funny. And celebrating anybody's culture, white or anybody else, is not
funny. It's not supposed to be a tribute. You know what I mean?

BIANCULLI: Colin Quinn will be back in the second half of the show. I'm
David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music; credits)

BIANCULLI: Coming up, more with comedian Colin Quinn. David Edelstein
reviews "Stuck On You," the new film comedy about two brothers who are stuck
together, written and directed by two brothers who aren't. And we'll consider
some DVDs to watch while you're warming your toes by the fire this holiday

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, back with Terry's
interview with comic Colin Quinn.

He's a former anchor of Weekend Update on "Saturday Night Live." Now he has
his own show on Comedy Central called "Tough Crowd," in which he leads a
conversation with four comics on the issues of the day. It's on Monday
through Thursdays at 11:30 PM after the satirical newscast "The Daily Show
with Jon Stewart."

When we left off, Quinn was talking about his politically incorrect ethnic
humor. Here's a good example from one of his Weekend Update newscasts on
"Saturday Night Live."

(Soundbite from "Saturday Night Live")

Mr. QUINN: The House passed a bill this week that paves the way for Puerto
Rico to become the 51st state. The flag will be displayed on a clothesline
outside City Hall. Come on. Now that was low. Ah, but when I made the Irish
jokes, everybody was fine. All right. That was wrong. That was--let me just
finish. The--that part was actually just a joke. But seriously, the
inaugural barbecue will be held on the shoulder of the West Side Highway this
Sunday afternoon.

GROSS: So, Colin Quinn, what reaction did you get to that?

Mr. QUINN: First of all, I did not say that. I don't know who that is. I
think that's no--no. I said that. The reaction I got was a lot of Puerto
Ricans came up to me in the street and go, `That was hilarious.' You know,
like, they--I mean, because like I said, when I grew up, you know, in the
'20s--no, in the '70s, people would laugh if it was realistic stuff. So the
truth of the matter is Puerto Ricans, a lot of Latin people, pull over to the
shoulder of major thruways and barbecue there. And you know, it's nothing
against them. You know, why is that a bad thing? But it's a fact. You know,
so if I drive by and go, `You know what? That's degrading to people'--no,
it's not, 'cause I don't mean it to be degrading. And I think it shows how
you mean it. If I thought, `Oh, you know, they're disgusting, they pa'--You
know what I mean?--that would be different.

But I mean, you know, people point out flaws--it's kind of an unwritten rule
for the past 15 years, and I understand where it's based from and where it
comes from, you know. But I mean, in the last 15 years, everybody wants to
just try to be like, `Hey, man, we're going to go after the Christian right
and white guys and white'--that's fine. I agree with that. But don't pretend
that other people are flawless. If you really believe people are really
equal, you know, internally and you really believe in that, you know, common
humanity, then you have to figure there's going to be flaw, the same amount of
hypocrisy and, you know, in each group, depending on their circumstances.

GROSS: Well, you know, even in that clip that we just heard, like...

Mr. QUINN: Right.

GROSS: make that joke about the flag and then you say, `Oh, that was

Mr. QUINN: Well, exactly.

GROSS: Like you're playing with that.

Mr. QUINN: I'm playing with the idea. And I also said in that clip, `Oh,
but I make the Irish joke and it's fine,' because I had made an Irish joke
three jokes before where Irish were drunks, and everybody just went crazy,
like, you know, like, `Oh,' so it was almost like, `Ethnic humor, yes, thank
God you can make a joke that we'll laugh at that's kind of ethnic and kind of
based on truth.' Irish--you know, it's not like Irish people don't drink a
lot. You know, it's part of the culture, you know. And it's not in the most
flattering or unflattering thing--but to be able to sit there and go, you
know, some Irish people drink a lot and some Jewish people drink a lot. Well,
guess what, more Irish people drink a lot. And you know, when you can't speak
about what you see in front of you, you can't be a comedian, you know.

GROSS: Well, you know, I think a lot of Jewish people and a lot of
African-American people feel like it's one thing for a Jewish person to make a
Jewish joke or an African-American person to make an African-American joke.

Mr. QUINN: Right.

GROSS: But for a white person to make a black joke, or an Irish person...

Mr. QUINN: Right.

GROSS: make a Jewish--that's no good. So...

Mr. QUINN: Right. And...

GROSS: Yeah, where do you stand on that?

Mr. QUINN: It goes so much deeper than race, but, yeah, I mean, the bottom
line is if I see anything happening and I can't say it because it's wrong,
then how can I call myself a comedian, if it's a thing that I see as a truth,
you know?

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Mr. QUINN: How can I call myself a comedian? Then I'm just going to say,
`Well, you know, that really is--now is not the time for that kind of thing.
Let me make up something about a group, or let me substitute a group.' I
mean, for years I'm watching comedians on stage going, `You know who we gotta
go after? The French.' And part of it--this is before the war--because the
French are rude, the French are this. Well, guess what? There's plenty of
groups--and if you ever want to come see my act live, I'll talk to you about
that they're rude in their own different ways, everybody, and I talk about
their specific rudeness. And they all live here; I don't have to go after the
French, 'cause I don't--you know, you see five French tourists.

So it's like I do feel like, you know, that the day that comes when I feel
like, oh, well, I'm not going to talk about that, even though I've seen it
50 times, because that might be construed as racist or sexist or, you
know--it's never going to come. I'd rather be killed, you know. I mean,
that's what comedians are supposed to do, say what they think is the truth,
only make it funny.

GROSS: Now, Colin Quinn, getting back to your theory of substitution--what's
it called?

Mr. QUINN: Substitute shock?

GROSS: Substitute shock, yeah.

Mr. QUINN: This is a dream come true. Did you just say that, that's my

GROSS: Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. QUINN: All right. Go ahead.

GROSS: Yes. I think it's an interesting theory.

Mr. QUINN: Oh, this is exciting.

GROSS: Your theory's working here.

Mr. QUINN: You're the first person that, yeah, it's ever worked for. Thank

GROSS: OK. So since you have this whole theory, you know, that comics use a
lot of other things to make jokes about--they can't get to the central issue,
which is race...

Mr. QUINN: Right.

GROSS: ...what was the issue of race when you were growing up? What was the
ethnic makeup of your neighborhood, your school?

Mr. QUINN: Well, I grew up in Park Slope, which was a very ethnically
mixed--which, as you know now, is a Swiss village.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. QUINN: You go back there today; it's just little blond children running
around. But at the time it was very mixed. It was very, like, you know,
black, white, Puerto Rican and Asian and stuff. And so it was really a mixed
area, you know. And everybody had their problems, but you know, it just felt
more like natural that, you know--and I do think it helps, you know, as far as
in the long run to live in mixed neighborhoods if you can legitimately say,
`Hey, you know, these guys do this.' It doesn't help to live in an integrated
environment if you can't point out people's--You know what I mean?--'cause
here's my favorite awful tag line that I always use. I feel like we live in a
society where you can celebrate diversity as long as you don't point out that
people are different.

GROSS: Yeah, right.

Mr. QUINN: And so that's the contradiction I feel sometimes, like, `Hey,
hey, hey, only celebrate it with, like, you know, some stupid parade where
everybody goes up and shows a side of their culture that nobody does except
once that year, you know.' So I feel like--so to really celebrate diversity,
you can point out that, you know--well, like I used to do this joke in my act
about black dudes. I'd say, `In the summer'--and say to the audience; you
know, there's always a lot of black guys in the crowd--I go, `You guys gotta
realize something this summer. If you see a pretty girl, don't be shy; just
say something to her. Even if it seems like it's absurd or inappropriate, you
gotta take a chance if you want to meet girls.'

And so, you know, they--everybody laughs because, you know, it's obviously not
their--you know, and that's not a character flaw; it's just a fact what I've
seen in my whole life. So it's like, hey, you know, I mean, there's something
good about it, too, but they'll come out and just say that they--but either
way, you know, it's like I can't pretend that that's not a distinction between
whites and blacks, and why would I, you know? And blacks certainly have no
problem pointing that out, and they shouldn't. They have their distinctions,
you know. Like Chris Rock or anybody, they'll say whatever they want, you
know, and it's fun. They should.

GROSS: Were your friends as ethnically mixed as the neighborhood itself?

Mr. QUINN: No. I would never go near any--my mother told me, `Don't'--no,
I'm kidding. Yeah, they were. They were very--yeah. I mean, my whole--you
know, I had friends that were--some of the greatest names of all time, by the
way. D'Artagnan Cortez(ph)--how about that for a name? Spanish kid.
D'Artagnan Cortez. What a beautiful name, right? He was about 6'4". He
called himself the world's largest Puerto Rican, you know. And Cleveland
Carr(ph), black dude, you know. But they had some great names back in those

My block was very mixed. I had, like--you know, it was almost like a
feudal--it reminded me of Afghanistan, with the Italians in the middle of the
block, and they ran, you know, their little turf. Then you had the black
family on one corner that ran their whole turf. They had, like, you know,
their whole crew was down there. Then the Puerto Rican building on the
corner across the street from them. And it was just like this whole mixed
thing, and I was, you know, this blond-haired kid who luckily had a good sense
of humor, because--but, yeah, it was very mixed, my neighborhood.

And everybody--it's not to say that there weren't constant clashes; of course
there are. But it was a different--it was just reality. Like people would
laugh if you said something that was true, and it's still that way.

GROSS: So did you and your friends talk to each other this way when you were
growing up?

Mr. QUINN: Yes, except I don't think we used this language,
`celebrating'--but, yeah, of course. You kidding me? I remember one--there
used to be some funny guys, too. Like one time, this was not a racial joke,
but there was this kid in my class, Godfrey, Godfrey Baptiste(ph), but he was
not West Indian; he was black American. And this kid, Mark Williams(ph),
another black dude, were just getting yelled at by the teacher. We're, like,
in sixth grade and it's like, you know, real quiet. We were all like, you
know--they were fed up with us. It was like a serious thing; everybody's dead
quiet. At the end of school, he just runs in our door--opens the door to our
class and goes, `Hey, Godfrey, your father said leave the sneakers on the back
steps of the school; he's gotta go to work after this,' and shut the door. I
mean, that is just funny. And ran out. And I mean, the whole place cried
because we were so--you know, we were in trouble for something else; I forget
what. But can you imagine how funny that was?

GROSS: Colin Quinn is my guest, and he's now hosting "Tough Crowd," which is
a show on Comedy Central, weeknights at 11:30, in which a group of about four
comics sit around and talk with Colin Quinn about the political issues of the

So who were you when you first started to do stand-up? Like, what was your
on-stage persona?

Mr. QUINN: My on-stage persona was kind of like--it's hard for me to say
exactly what it was, but it was not--I'll tell you one thing it wasn't:
funny. I used to bomb so much. The comedians are the only reason I stayed in
the business. Here's what I used to do. Here was my persona. This'll give
you an idea of how commercially, you know, savvy I was at the time. I tried
to base my cadence in comedy, I swear to God, on a combination of "The Ginger
Man" by J.P. Donleavy and "Ulysses" by James Joyce. And I'm not kidding. So
I would be talking in this run-on sentence on stage, monosyllabic run-on

GROSS: Not good.

Mr. QUINN: Ah, the crowds hated my guts.

GROSS: How did you get started working on "Saturday Night Live"?

Mr. QUINN: Yeah. Well, I mean, I had written on "Living Color," you know.
After MTV, I went into LA; I wrote on "Living Color." I went into LA to get
my own show, so I wrote on "Living Color." And so then I was just sitting
there and I was just doing stand-up. And my friend Fred Wolf, who was one of
the head writers at "SNL," he goes, `Colin, you should audition for "SNL," you
know, to be on.' I was like, `Ah, Fred, you know, I'm getting old already,
you know.'

So I went there to audition for "SNL," and they could tell my writing was
good, even though I bombed, because it was like--here's the crowd. They
shipped in a bunch of 15-year-old kids to The Improv in LA from a camp for
a comedy night. It's not good for my act, you know what I mean?

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. QUINN: And they're interested in, like, you know, basic stuff, you know,
sex or whatever. And so, you know, I'm there trying to be like Mr. Subtle. I
was still in my Joycean phase, I believe, or at least the--I was in the
remnants of it. I think it was more of a--you know, I don't know, a Yeatsian
phase, maybe, where I was trying to break them apart. OK, I'm overselling it.
But anyway, so I bombed, but they knew my material was good, so they hired me
as a writer. And then when I was there, this guy Fred Wolf and Lorne would
just be like, `Oh, look how funny he's being. Hey, why don't you put
something in, put in a'--so I started doing that lion thing on Update where
I'd go on as this lion, you know, this, like, lion that's got a lot of
problems with the Department of Health. And so I'd just be doing all this
stuff like, `I'm sorry to bother you people,' but I was in a lion costume, you
know. I'd be like, `I'm sorry to bother you people. I'm waiting for a check
from, you know, National Geographic. My cousins'--you know, and just all
these problems that a lion would have if he moved over here right now. But
that was what started me doing stuff on the show.

BIANCULLI: Colin Quinn talking with Terry Gross last June. Quinn's program,
"Tough Crowd," is on Comedy Central Monday through Thursday nights at 11:30.

Coming up, a review of the new Farrelly Brothers film. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Farrelly Brothers' newest movie, "Stuck on You"

The directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly are best known for their gross-out
slapstick comedies such as "There's Something About Mary," Dumb & Dumber," and
"Shallow Hal." Their newest film, "Stuck On You," features Matt Damon and
Greg Kinnear as a pair of conjoined twins. Film critic David Edelstein has a


The Farrelly Brothers, Peter and Bobby, exploded onto the scene like a popped
whitehead with "Dumb & Dumber." And that title has become shorthand both for
their films and the people who flock to them. I'll concede that their movies
are broadly written and that they've never learned the niceties of
composition or staging. Their plots feature cretinous males unable to control
their bodily fluids pursuing silky blondes--not exactly progressive territory.
But I consider the Farrellys the most compassionate filmmakers in Hollywood
right now. They're guerrilla humanists working in the lowest and most
infantile of genres with disarming moral authority. Yes, they wear that
humanism like a loud plaid sports jacket, but even at their most tasteless,
their proportion of empathy to mockery is about 50/50. And when someone
genuinely disabled or abnormally sized shows up, that balance shifts to
80/20. And they always do show up.

While it's a shock to see an actor with spina bifida make fun of his lack
of certain orifices, I'm convinced that the Farrellys' underlying impulse is
a healing one--to make the disabled part of the same continuum as the rest of
us poor bastards laboring to make do with whatever handicaps have been
bestowed on us by a jokester god.

Which leads us to "Stuck On You," in which Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear play
Moe and Walt, conjoined twins. And don't call them Siamese, says Damon's
Moe, they're American.

They're connected at the waist and share a liver. Actually, Moe has most of
it, which unfortunate, because Walt is the bigger drinker. Moe and Walt run
the Quickie Burger eatery on Martha's Vineyard, where they turn burger making
into a wondrous ballet. Watch them chop, flip, squirt, top and plate with
dizzying precision.

Kinnear's Walt is the slicker one. He sleeps with all the girls, while Moe
sits beside the curtained bed with headphones and a book. Walt wants to go
to Hollywood to be an actor, but Moe, who has no choice but to go with him,
gets massive panic attacks when his brother performs.

In LA, they meet Cher, played by Cher, who's unhappily locked into a contract
to star in a dopey forensic series called "Honey and the Bees." She picks
Walt as her leading man, thinking there's no way the studio would make the
show. But they do, somehow keeping Moe out of the frame. And it's a big hit,
except Moe's panic attacks become a problem for director Griffin Dunne.
The sound you hear, by the way, is Moe blowing into a paper bag while his
brother acts.

(Soundbite from "Stuck On You")

CHER (Herself): Here, fill this out, and I will see if I can squeeze you
into an entry-level position.

Mr. GREG KINNEAR (Walt): Fantastic. Let me tell you something, you won't
regret this. And by the way, if you need any references or anything, I can
certainly furnish you with everything...

Mr. GRIFFIN DUNNE (Himself): Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, you're
killing me, you're really--cut it, cut it, cut it, cut it. Ten. That's 10

Mr. MATT DAMON (Moe): Ah...

Mr. DUNNE: It's OK. It's just very, very important that you stay on your

Mr. DAMON: Yeah, I'm just--I'm a little nervous. I have some opening-day

Mr. DUNNE: It's OK, kid, it's OK. And I know you're going to get it. It's
just you have to stay out of frame.

Mr. DAMON: OK. Gotcha.

Mr. DUNNE: OK? Otherwise, the whole show won't work right, all right?

Mr. KINNEAR: I don't want to tell you how to handle this, Griffin, but back
home at the Oak Bluffs Playhouse(ph) we used to disguise him as different
props in order to hide...

Unidentified Man: Right.

Mr. DUNNE: Well, it's a great idea, Walt. We'll just turn Bob into a bush.

CHER: It might not be such a bad idea.

Mr. DUNNE: It's a terrible idea. The network has made it very clear that
the kid stays out of the picture. And this way we don't have to explain why
the bee's followed around by a juniper bush.

EDELSTEIN: Matt Damon gives an affecting performance, a serious performance,
his Moe is brainy, introverted and hopelessly overdependent on his brother's
initiative. And this is the first time I've warmed to Greg Kinnear. He's
very sweet, and his usual smarminess merges with his character's
overconfidence in a way that's rather poignant. "Stuck on You" isn't just
gags. It has patches of uncomfortable intimacy. Moments when you realize
that for the Farrellys, this is personal. Near the end, the twins have a
fight and begin to slap each other and when Moe sprints in the opposite
direction, Walt yells `You'd better run!' That line is hilarious. But the
blows that follow don't have "Three Stooges" boinks. They're real. Then the
brothers lie exhausted on the grass and wonder aloud if it's finally time to
go under the knife.

When the Bijani twins of Iran died this summer during surgery to separate
them, there was clucking in some circles that the decision to release a
conjoined twin's comedy was monstrous. But "Stuck on You" turns out to be an
offbeat memorial to the Bijanis' dilemma, and beyond that, a metaphor for all
our cruel intimacies. It's about how symbiosis makes you stronger and warps
you. And separation makes you liberated and incomplete. It's a testament to
compromise. And so are the Farrellys' movies. Between the pain of our
freakishness and the wonderfully dumb slapstick it makes possible.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for the online magazine Slate.

Coming up, we'll hear about some DVDs for that TV lover on your holiday
shopping list.

I'm David Bianculli. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Analysis: TV shows on DVD make good gifts for the holidays

I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for the New York Daily News and for FRESH AIR.

As you're shopping for holiday gifts, you might want to keep this in mind. If
you have a friend who's crazy about a particular TV show, however obscure,
chances are getting better you can find that show at a good price on DVD.
Some are old classics. Others are shows still on the air. The fifth season
of "M*A*S*H" was just released by a Fox Home Entertainment. And just
before the end of the year, HBO releases the fifth season of "Sex and the
City." The second season of "Alias" with lots of deleted scenes and other
exciting extras was released last week by Buena Vista. A few weeks ago,
Rhino released the second season of "The Monkees."

That span covers a lot of TV history, and these sets are as much fun to watch
as they are to receive. With each set offering hours and hours of
entertainment, they're a gift that keeps on giving. But I'm not only excited
by the sheer number of titles available, I'm increasingly impressed by how the
packagers of these sets and producers of these programs are taking full
advantage of the DVD format. Take Joss Whedon for example. He's the guy who
created "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the fifth season of which just came out
on DVD earlier this week. The Fox Home Entertainment set provides "Buffy"
fans, and I'm one of them, a great way to see 22 episodes of Sarah Michelle
Gellar in all her glory, and fighting Glory, the name of the season's big
villain. But through it's alternative audio tracks, it also provides fans a
way to hear Whedon comment on the creation of that year's best episode, "The
Body." It was the best hour of television shown that year. And was about
Buffy coming home to find her mother dead on the couch, dead from natural
causes with her body sprawled and her eyes frozen open. Whedon, who wrote and
directed the episode, explains the choices he made. And it's like attending a
master class in TV directing and scriptwriting.

(Soundbite of "Buffy" DVD)

Mr. JOSS WHEDON: Hi, I'm Joss Whedon. I'm the writer and director of the
episode, creator of the show, I guess maybe you know that by now. You
probably also know that this entire scene I shot we used as the last scene in
episode 15 as a kind of cliffhanger after a very sweet and kind of silly
episode. And also used it for the teaser of this episode. Never did that
before. But we felt it was a scene that was worth repeating twice.

(Soundbite of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer")


Mr. WHEDON: It's a little hard to talk during it, especially seeing
Kristine lying there for the first time, and hearing Sarah say, `Mommy?'

That line very clearly written, `mom' to `mommy,' as she descends into, you
know, small girlhood, at the thought of losing her mommy. This episode is one
that I did because I wanted to show not the meaning or catharsis or the
beauty of life or any of the things that are often associated with loss or
even the extreme grief, some of which we do get in the episode, but what I
really wanted to capture was the extreme physicality, the extreme, the almost
boredom of the very first few hours. I wanted to be very specific about what
it felt like the moment you discover something--you've lost someone.

BIANCULLI: This week Fox also released another boxed set of a Joss Whedon
show. This one is called "Firefly," and it's complete, because the series,
which premiered two years ago on Fox, was canceled at midseason. Whedon's
commentary on this boxed set, unlike on "Buffy," isn't that instructive or
even that entertaining. What's amazing here is the pure content, a chance for
people not only to see a quality show they might have missed, but to see
episodes that were never shown in the first place. Whedon's idea with
"Firefly" was to take the old frontier concept and transfer it to outerspace.
But an outerspace where there were no aliens, just a lot of hostile humans
making due with antiquated and often stolen equipment and under the regime of
a repressive interplanetary force.

Firefly was the name of one renegade spaceship. And on some of the backwater
planets Firefly visited, colonists rode horses and shot old-fashioned guns.
Even the theme song had a Western flavor. OK, so it was a very strange show.
But the characters were fascinating and the acting by a cast of largely
unknowns was first-rate. And just like "Buffy," "Firefly" served up plenty of
surprises, laughs and suspenseful moments.

When Fox showed "Firefly," it didn't treat the series with the respect it
deserved. The network presented the episodes all out of sequence and didn't
even show the telemovie pilot for three months. The boxed set restores the
originally intended order which is the same welcome trick Tom Fontana pulled
when releasing the first two seasons of NBC's similarly mistreated "Homicide:
Life on the Street." Yet "Firefly" offers something that "Homicide"
couldn't: three complete, polished and very entertaining episodes that never
made it to television. Add that to some of the other extras, including a
documentary on the show and some outtakes, and you've got a treasure of
discovery as well as one of rediscovery.

The same double treat comes from one final new release, the complete set from
Warner Bros. of another short-lived Fox TV series, "The Ben Stiller Show."
This series, which premiered in 1992, was yanked after 12 episodes. This new
set includes 13, including the final episode never shown by Fox and lots of
deleted scenes and complete unaired sketches. The cast was hip then and is hip
now. Or whatever the new word for hip is. Stiller's co-stars were Janeane
Garofalo, Andy Dick and Bob Odenkirk, and the guests included Sarah Jessica
Parker, Garry Shandling, Dennis Miller and Colin Quinn.

(Soundbite of "The Ben Stiller Show")

Mr. COLIN QUINN: Ah, tai chi, Ben. You know what it's all about, Ben? Ha,
ha. Balance. To balance your work life with your personal life.

Mr. BEN STILLER: Right. Right.

Mr. QUINN: That's what you don't have yet, Ben, balance.

Mr. STILLER: Right, Colin. OK. All right, Colin.

Mr. QUINN: That's what you need. I'm going to--let me show you a little
something, Ben.

Mr. STILLER: No, I don't want to do any tai chi. Thanks, but, no.

Mr. QUINN: Come on, Ben. A lot of us have to do a lot of things we don't
want to do. But that's what tai chi's about.

Mr. STILLER: Colin. Ow! Colin, I don't...

Mr. QUINN: Doing things we don't want to do, Ben. For instance, me, I have
to be on the road 50 weeks a year to make my money...

Mr. STILLER: Right.

Mr. QUINN: ...because I don't have a TV show.

Mr. STILLER: I know. I know.

Mr. QUINN: I want one, Ben.

Mr. STILLER: I know.

Mr. QUINN: But I don't have one.

Mr. STILLER: OK, why don't we just...

Mr. QUINN: You have one, Ben.

Mr. STILLER: I know. I know. I don't know why.

Mr. QUINN: Why do you have one of these plastic noses and I don't have one,

BIANCULLI: With boxed sets like these, it's not a matter of deciding whether
to give them to your closest friends, it's more a question of which ones to
give. And in that respect I can't help you. You know your friends better
than I do.

(Soundbite of music)


BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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