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Q&A with Comedian Colin Quinn

Comedian Colin Quinn writes about growing up in Brooklyn in his recently-published The Coloring Book.

Former Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” host and comedian Colin Quinn writes about the skewed world of the politically correct in The Coloring Book (Grand Central Publishing). Below are some excerpts from the just-published book, which was written, says Quinn, because “here’s what the political correctness doesn’t see: the absurdity and beauty of New York in all its crazy glory.”

Growing up in Brooklyn:

Today it may look like a Swiss Village, but Park Slope, Brooklyn, in the 1970s was maybe the most mixed—integrated, they called it—neighborhood in the history of the world. Park Slope in the seventies was magical in a weird way. It was a special place to grow up. Everyone felt it, except the murder victims.

I would walk home from Intermediate School 88, past Puerto Rican blocks, black blocks, Italian blocks, Irish blocks, the Arab deli, the Chinese takeout place, the first Dominican bodega, and the remnants of what was once a big Polish neighborhood.

One block would look as bombed-out as the South Bronx and the next would look as clean and affluent as … Park Slope today. My block was Puerto Rican on one corner, black on the other, and Irish, Italian and Jewish in the middle. From kindergarten through high school, we had every kind of kid in my house all the time. So I should be the only person in the country allowed to talk about race.

The Coloring Book by Colin Quinn
The Coloring Book by Colin Quinn (©Hachette Book Group, Inc.)

On politically correct language:

I’m tired of humorless activist people decreeing that we only use these words and never those … in case we say the wrong thing and “trigger” someone. Supposedly nonjudgmental judgmentalism used to be what Southern California was for, but now it’s encroaching even here in New York—where people are supposed to come to judge things. New Yorkers used to be straight shooters and loudmouths. They spoke their mind. The opinionated cabbie. The construction workers. The counterperson. The merchant. The old man at the bar. The guy selling pretzels. What made the New York pretzel the best was the sarcastic attitude of the guy selling it.

On the beauty of Queens, etc.:

Different cultures are different. If you go to Queens, you can see restaurant signs with pictures of exotic fish with human faces, flamingos fighting over a burrito on Roosevelt Avenue, roasted guinea pigs hanging on a clothesline in Elmhurst, a mongoose spitting from a fire escape. That’s what I want to talk about.

My Perfect Day

Daytime » Wake up. Go to George’s on Greenwich St., eat and talk to Billy, the owner, about how there is no place like George’s. Walk over to Aroma Espresso on Church St., drink tea, go on Twitter and try to think of the most aggravating things to say. Next, Equinox gym: Bust out 215-pound weights like they’re nerf weights, strut out. Take the E train to the Village and have a slice at Joe’s Pizza.

Nighttime » Go over to the Comedy Cellar and have what are possibly the best wings in the world. Do a set with new material, expain to a disappointed crowd that I’m working on new stuff and this is what the Cellar is about. Take pics with the comedy fans who say, “Well, I thought it was funny.” Decide to walk home for cardio, bail after two blocks and grab a cab to TriBeCa.