TORONTO – Just For Laugh’s JFL 42, a 10-Day comedy festival in Toronto featuring 42 different acts, kicked off this week– and I made the trek through the rain from Kitchener this weekend for my first night of coverage.
Colin Quinn performed Unconstitutional, his one-man show on the American Constitution, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. And if anyone had doubts Quinn could make American history funny and entertaining to a theatre packed full of Canadians, he proved them wrong. Unconstitutional was a funny, thought-provoking and tight hour of comedy that proved Colin remains one of the masters of observational humor.
As great as Long Story Short was, Unconstitutional was even better. Rather than jump from topic to topic, Colin went through the history and content of the Constitution to brilliantly and hilariously demonstrate how it affects the current national character of the US. Even the preamble, he quips, demonstrates aspects of the country’s personality, such as American Exceptionalism. “We wanted to form a more perfect union. Not a perfect union, mind you. Perfect, that’s fine for other countries. We’re going to be even more perfect.”
While ostensibly a history lesson, Quinn never forgets first and foremost to make the audience laugh. The conceit of the show merely provides a structure on which Quinn hangs his incisive, laser-accurate social observations and one-liners. Grousing on the fact that America is too divided into partisan Republic or Democrat lines, Colin jokes, “I’m pro-abortion, pro-death penalty, pro-gay marriage and pro-gun. Does that make me a Republican or a Democrat? I think that just makes me against overcrowding.”
Other targets of the show included political correctness, the gun debate and the three branches of American government. Perhaps the most compelling bit of the show was when Quinn explained why modern-day communication is banal. To him, it seems people speak in sentences with subjects, but not objects. The subsequent bit deconstructing how we talk was not only a funny and bleakly-accurate caricature of the breakdown of language, but it also shed light on the the rationale behind Colin’s legendarily banal Twitter character.
Throughout his set, Quinn warned that the USA was going to be torn apart if things didn’t change, and warned us Canadians that we wouldn’t want Americans to come up and take over Canada if that happened. I’m not sure if he was adjusting his show for the local Toronto crowd or not, but this recurring theme of Canada’s relationship to the US led flawlessly to the brilliant final bit of the night, in which Colin wrapped everything up in a funny, warm and satisfying comedy bow. I won’t spoil it for you, but rest assured it was the perfect ending to a great night of comedy.