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Colin Quinn dishes about “SNL” days

Becky Hogan | Wednesday, April 11, 2007

With his Brooklyn accent and gruff manner, former “Saturday Night Live” star Colin Quinn has kept audiences entertained for years – and he managed to do just that Tuesday night as part of the Student Union Board’s SNL Speaker Series.

Quinn opened up his lecture in DeBartolo Hall to a question and answer session – giving students the opportunity to grill him on his days as a writer and cast member of SNL.

After writing for the show “In Living Color” Quinn was hired as a writer for “SNL.”

“I did stand-up for my audition, but got hired as a writer,” Quinn said. “[I got the job] because I knew somebody. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Famous for his Clinton sex scandal jokes, Quinn joked that preparing the Weekend Update was easy while President Clinton was in office.

“I would read the papers all week and try to find the hot stories of the week – the only problem was if something happened on Tuesday, [David] Letterman and [Jay] Leno would ruin it by the time they got to me,” Quinn joked.

Quinn said some of his favorite sketches on “SNL” included Will Farrell as the voice in modulation character and the Hulk Hogan Talk Show.

“There were so many things that were funny, but a lot of sketches didn’t get on – that’s what would kill me the most,” he said. “A lot of the best sketches came when people were screwing around and people would say, ‘you should do that on the show’.”

Quinn also said he felt “SNL” was often overproduced because each sketch is constantly being rewritten.

“By the time [a sketch] is on the show, whatever magic it had is gone – during the process it loses a lot.”

Quinn said it took a lot of work to get his comedy career up and running.

“I grew up in Brooklyn. I was always the class clown-type personality. Everybody thought I should be a comedian,” Quinn said.

He said after attending college for a year, a friend of his suggested that they brave the comedy world together.

“Immediately I was like, ‘wow – this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing,'” he said.

Quinn described some of the struggles that amateur comedians face when they are first starting out.

“The first night I did [stand up], the MC said, ‘you’re a natural – come back in a year.’ It takes at least a year to get going – that’s how you get started in comedy, doing it every night,” Quinn said. “It’s harder to do it now because there’s just so many comedians – when I started it was a lot easier.”

Of the current “SNL” show, Quinn said, “I haven’t watched it – but it looks pretty bleak. I’ve seen some funny things on it but I haven’t really watched the show. I don’t even know who’s doing Weekend Update now. Once you’re there you just can’t watch it.”

When asked about his current projects, Quinn said jokingly that he thought the bowling alley in South Bend would make a good comedy room. He said he stays busy doing stand-up acts and categorizing all of his material.

“I’m taking all my material over the years and categorizing everything into race, religion immigration. And I’m going to put it out into CDs,” Quinn said. “I’m always writing. I’m psychotic. I write all the time.”

He spends so much time writing, in fact, that he said he refuses to be in anything.

“When I was on “SNL,” Mike Myers wanted me to be in Austin Powers. I told him, ‘That’s great, but I’m working on my own stuff.’ That was the only time it really bit me in the ass.”

Quinn said that it is “individual moments” that inspire him comically.

“It inspires me when I see people pull something off that’s funny, and it’s just subtle,” he said. “I feel like you have to actively pursue what’s going to inspire you. It’s there but it’s so delicate.

You can’t rely on a person – it has to be those moments.”