By Tanner Stransky
November 09, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST
Carol Rosegg

This past summer, former Saturday Night Live comedian Colin Quinn enjoyed a successful Off Broadway run with Colin Quinn Long Story Short, his one-man show directed by Jerry Seinfeld (original review). Now arriving on the Great White Way, Long Story Short manages to hold on to its small-scale appeal while also comfortably filling a much larger stage.

Alone on stage for a fast 75 minutes, Quinn offers up a zippy, very edited version of civilization’s great empires, kicking off with jabs at the inventors of the Olympics. ”The ancient Greeks were the first ones to say, ‘An unexamined life is not worth living,”’ Quinn says. ”They didn’t tell you what we found — that the examined life is not really that fascinating either.” That line perfectly represents what Quinn does very successfully in this show — bring some modern relevancy to dusty old history. He works his way through the Romans, the British, and the Arabs, among many other empire builders, covering topics from theater to democracy.

Despite the show’s short length, the first half of Long Story Short is a bit slow and meandering, but Quinn seems to hit his stride when he gets to the modern day, when his comedy reaches a surprisingly incisive boil. When he arrives at his segment on the U.S., he simply refers to the country as ”the bouillabaisse of fallen empires” — which is both cutting and smart. His observations about America’s current predicaments rarely disappoint, as he utters many of the semi-offensive things many of us have been thinking. ”We want our kids to compete with China and India in math and science,” he says. ”The only kids here that have a chance would be our Chinese and Indian kids.”

Quinn’s bon mots only continue, culminating in an imagined — and very biting — conversation between the empire of America and the empire of Greece after a night drinking together at a bar. After seeing Quinn in Long Story Short, it’s hard to fathom why the star didn’t succeed with his two major post-SNL ventures — the three-episode-long NBC sketch-comedy series The Colin Quinn Show and post-Daily Show political gabber Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn. Perhaps the medium is to blame. Judging by Long Story Short, Quinn seems more in his element on stage. B

(Tickets: or 800-432-7250)