Reel Estate

"Colin Quinn: The New York Story" gets a lot of things right about city living

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | November 30, 2016 - 11:59AM

Comedian Colin Quinn, who was born and raised in Park Slope, has a new stand-up special on Netflix called The New York Story, and it's a must-watch for both newbie New Yorkers and veteran city-dwellers like Quinn himself. (It also happens to have been directed by Jerry Seinfeld, whose own eponymous sitcom may be the most accurate depiction of New York City living ever seen on the small screen.)

Quinn gives his comical spin on the history of the city, from the Lenapes to today. No one is safe from his jokes: Dutch, German, Irish, Jewish, Italian, Puerto Rican, Greek, Dominican, Haitian, Jamaican, Chinese, and Korean immigrants all get skewered. And while he doesn’t focus much on real estate, there is one funny—and, yes, vaguely offensive—bit about Jews buying buildings when no one else would (we cringed, but somehow also laughed).

Quinn accurately paints New Yorkers as straight-talking, opinionated, rude, impulsive, fast-talking and somewhat cynical. (“Exuberance is the West Coast,” he says. “You can’t be nice and last in this city.”) 

Here are some of our favorite parts that really nail what it’s like to live in this unabashedly chaotic spot.

Cars vs. pedestrians

"It's a pedestrian city. It's a city for walkers, not cars. That's why, you'll notice, every car acts like a person and every person acts like a car. Pedestrians are in charge. You've seen it 100 times, they walk on the street, cars just stop. The driver's like 'ooh, I almost got hit by that person, I almost killed myself'."

A town of grumpy people

"How did the New York personality form?...First of all, you have to realize that all the people who came here, came here because they were miserable where they were. So now you’ve got a city filled with miserable people."

We still think we’re better than everyone else

"New Yorkers think they’re better, smarter than everyone else. This is the only city that has blue collar snobs. You could take someone, two years of high school, put them in a room with MIT professors. After an hour, you'll be like 'what'd you think of them?' they'll be like 'they're not New York....They're educated, I give them that. They're smart, but they don't get it'."

"Everyone else, they go on vacation, and say 'Can you imagine if we lived here?' We go on vacation we tell people, 'Can you imagine if you lived in New York?'"

Subway woes

Quinn refers to the subway turnstile as the "misery creator." "It takes nice, midwestern girls—peppy, life-coach, motivational speaker personalities—after nine months on that subway, one day, you're on the subway, they're on the subway, and you hear that announcement 'Sorry for the delays, someone jumped on the track and killed themselves,' and they're like 'you gotta be shittin' me right now'."
Getting in the turnstile when others are exiting is not easy, he says. "No one ever lets you in. ...You have to wait for someone whose eyes look weak and vulnerable enough ... some middle-aged Canadian tourist lady."

And there's always the battle of the express vs. the local, says Quinn. “I think I’m better than people if I’m on the express. People walk across the platform trying to catch it, they look like suckers. Idiots. Pleading eyes, weak.”

New York then and now

"There are poems on the subway now... In those days, the MTA put up signs, 'Remember it’s chain-snatching season, so tuck your jewelery into your clothing and turn your rings around so the stones don’t show'.”
"The subway was so bad people would blame you if you got jumped on the subway… 'I was in the last car'. 'Last car???!!! You deserved what you got'.. Even transit cops wouldn't go in the last car." 

"If you told someone 'I saw your mother on 42nd Street', they would physically try to kill you, that was the biggest insult you could say. People would fight all the time over that. Now, they’d be ''yeah, she works at the New York Times, they’ve got the graduate center, she’s doing something for Playwrights Horizons over there'."

"The pimps would be lined up like CitiBikes... 42nd Street was porno, drug dealers and then just 20 shirtless guys swinging nunchuks, because there were five martial arts stores...The city was a hellhole but it seemed more authentic.”

My, how Brooklyn’s changed

“If you don’t want to see color go to Brooklyn, it’s 100 percent white now. When did that happen?...I’ve seen white kids yell 'Black Lives Matter' at black cops."

"When I was a kid you wouldn’t go near the L train…. Go on the L train now at 2 in the morning it looks like a ski lift."

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