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Colin Quinn, Jerry Seinfeld bring ‘Long Story Short’ to Chicago

Jerry Seinfeld (left) directed his old pal fellow stand-up comedian ColQuinn “Long Story Short.”

Jerry Seinfeld (left) directed his old pal and fellow stand-up comedian Colin Quinn in “Long Story Short.”

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Colin quinn’s ‘long story short’

 Aug. 24-Sept. 10

 Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut

 Tickets, $40-$65

 (800) 775-2000;

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Updated: May 9, 2012 9:42AM

What’s funny about the World Bank? Nothing, according to comedian Jerry Seinfeld. But it took awhile to win over his pal Colin Quinn to this way of thinking.

Seinfeld is the director behind Quinn’s one-man history lesson, “Long Story Short,” and a bit about the World Bank was one thing Quinn didn’t want to cut.

“I just don’t think the World Bank is funny,” Seinfeld said, laughing, during a recent phone conversation. “But Colin was convinced it was. And we kind of struggled with that for a number of months.”

In retrospect, Quinn admits his old friend was a master at jettisoning the jokes that didn’t feed the show’s larger themes.

“Jerry helped cut the fat,” Quinn said. “I could write and talk forever. But you have to get to the point. Jerry helped me get to the laughs.”

The partnership paid off big time: “Long Story Short” enjoyed a twice-extended Broadway run and an HBO reprise. Chicago comedy fans will get to see what it’s all about when the stage-show version opens Aug. 24 for a three-week run at the Broadway Playhouse.

In the 75-minute piece, the comedian, in his signature raspy, rambling style, offers a recap of the demise of the world’s major empires. He imagines what people and politics were like back in the day and then brings them right into the present.

Quinn says he wanted to create a show that looked at “bigger picture” ideas but also was tied to stand-up.

“I’m fascinated by the fact that technology keeps advancing but human nature is exactly the same,” Quinn said in a phone conversation. “There probably was a Snooki back there somewhere in history.”

Quinn and Seinfeld go way back. More than twenty years to be exact.

They met on the busy New York comedy club circuit in the mid-’80s, frequenting joints such as Catch a Rising Star and the Comic Strip. Seinfeld was already an established stand-up; Quinn was an up-and-comer.

“The essence of comedy is all about what you see and how deeply you see beneath the surface of human behavior,” Seinfeld said, recalling those early days. “That’s where humor comes from, and Colin had a rich perspective of that world.”

The current collaboration, Seinfeld’s directing debut, came together one day over breakfast.

“Jerry was encouraging me to do another one-man show,” Quinn, 52, said. “When he found out I was finally doing one, he volunteered to produce it. Then I wheedled him into directing it.”

Added Seinfeld: “Yeah , he challenged me to direct, and I had to reciprocate. I have to say it’s been an amazing experience.”

Quinn, a Brooklyn-born Irish-American, was the proverbial “funny kid” growing up. People constantly told him he should be a comedian.

After studying for a year at Stony Brook University in the late ’70s, Quinn dropped out to pursue comedy. His parents thought it a dubious choice, and he admits it was a long, uphill battle.

“Everyone told me I was funny but I just didn’t have the nerve to do stand-up,” Quinn said. “It was just too daunting. But I finally just got fed up with my life and thought I had nothing else to loose.”

There were many bad nights in front of audiences. But his fellow comedians kept telling him he was good, and those words kept him going. Eventually, success would come in big ways.

Beginning in 1987, he hosted the MTV game show “Remote Control” for three years. He wrote and acted in a funny music video about Brooklyn with Ben Stiller, as well as co-writing and producing the movie “Celtic Pride.” And, most importantly, he was headlining in comedy clubs.

In 1995, a dream came true when he was hired by “Saturday Night Live” as a writer and featured player.

“The best thing about “SNL” is that it’s boot camp for writers,” Quinn said. “You’re forced to deal with the reality that not everything you write is gold. And that’s a really important lesson.”

Seinfeld says one of Quinn’s strengths in “Long Story Short” is his ability to “personify entire cultures and empires into one person.”

“Like this bit with a vainglorious, slightly gay guy that he uses to represent the British empire (their favorite),” Seinfeld said. “It just makes me laugh every time I see it.”

As evidenced by the World Bank discussion, friends working so closely together can often face conflict. Quinn says it was actually Seinfeld who was worried the collaboration might damage their friendship.

“If I had thought about it, I would never have done it,” Seinfeld said, laughing. “The friendship means so much more to me. But the greatest success of the show is that it had absolutely no effect on our friendship. We went from square one to Broadway, and never had a real problem.”

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