In his clever new comedy show, “Colin Quinn: Small Talk” (now in a limited engagement at the Lucille Lortel Theatre), Colin Quinn hilariously argues that while charisma is a dying skill, it is, nevertheless, an important one. It’s the art of survival, how to verbally ad-lib no matter your environment, be it the most white-collar of offices, an elevator in your apartment building, or your local bodega. And it can make the very difference between whether someone likes you or not, or whether you land or lose out on a fabulous job offer. “Colin Quinn: Small Talk” dissects one life truth: your personality and how you converse with the people around you will get you farther in life than just brains or skills.
To open his show, Quinn simply states the day of the week, “Friday,” the city, “New York City,” and the time of day, “7:00 pm.” His pointing out the obvious is met with instant cheers and applause from the audience, anticipating the laughter to come. Then Quinn breaks down the strategy behind his opening, calling it out for the small talk it is. “Small talk,” Quinn voices, “is stating the facts.” But it’s how and when you state them that matters. And, of course, only a native Brooklynite like Quinn can turn the word “talk” from “small talk” into two syllables without even trying: “taw-uck.”
There is an unwritten set of rules agreed on by anyone with any social etiquette. Say you’re in an elevator with a neighbor you don’t know well. If you want to pass some time by chatting about the weather, telling them truthfully that you want to discuss the weather will freak them out. So what do you do in this situation? You relax them with your body language, and exhale in a friendly way to let them know what’s about to happen, before launching into, “Crazy weather out today, huh?”
Honoring the nuance of these social contracts is such a fabric of our identity, we cannot even pretend to ignore it. It’s a challenging world, but small talk can make even the most uncomfortable situations bearable. We all do it! And chuckling along in agreement with every little nugget that Quinn hits on is how we, as audience members, own up to our participation in small talk.
For those of us who often choose to forgo small talk in favor of acting busy on our phones, Quinn provides ample reminders of why it’s better to look up from the glowing screen. Even if the conversations are trite or the lines are rehearsed, attempting to connect with real people is still a connection.
There has been recent discourse about whether small talk is unnecessary or fake. But Quinn offers that the most authentic version of us is something nobody sees: our browser history. And since we don’t want that broadcasted for the world to see, we might as well try to communicate with the people around us. Furthermore, we should accept that small talk helps pleasantly pass the time while presenting a persona more polished and agreeable than the one we have when we’re alone.
Get your tickets for “Colin Quinn: Small Talk” online HERE.
January 3rd, 2023, through February 11th, 2023