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Colin Quinn

Update: It’s been 6 years ago to the day since Ken Ober shuffled unexpectedly off this mortal coil. It’s not quite Thursday yet, but I’m going to throw it back early and in his honor tonight. I’ve also updated the video with a recently unearthed episode of the actual show which features what was always my all time favorite category: Sing along with Colin.

Kenny Wasn’t Like The Other Kids. TV Mattered, Nothing Else Did.
Girls Said Yes But He Said No. Now He’s Got His Own Game Show.
Remote Control!
And Now It’s His Basement, His Rules, His Game Show.
The Quizmaster Of 72 Whooping Cough Lane – Ken Ober!

The summer of 1988 was a tough one for your old friend, Dave. Being 13 years old is all kinds of awkward all by itself, but I had just moved to small town U.S.A. from Canada – a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My social life that summer consisted of a remedial Algebra 1 class at Minuteman Tech and watching MTV for hours on end. There was no such thing as reality television in the late 80s, and with the exception of a handful of game shows they actually played music videos. One of those videos was Never Gonna Give You Up. One of those game shows was Remote Control.

Gettin’ Silly Behind the Scenes of Remote Control

I will always remember Ken Ober and Remote Control fondly because they made me smile during a brief adolescent era when I really needed it. Today I’ll tell you that going to 4 different high schools is character-building, but at the time I wanted to swallow antifreeze and follow Heather O’Rourke into the sweet hereafter. Pre-SNL wiseacres Colin Quinn and Adam Sandler helped make up the cast of hilarious recurring characters and the whole mess was held together by Ober’s quick-off-the-draw and bone dry humor at the podium as the show’s seemingly reluctant host.

“Ken Ober was one of the sharpest, quickest, sweetest guys I ever met. He was always a great friend and I will miss him very much.” – Adam Sandler


“Kenny Ober was and always will be the quickest wit in the room. As the star and host of Remote Control, he was a welcoming ringmaster who helped to kickstart the careers of numerous talents, including Adam Sandler, Colin Quinn and myself. He will be remembered always by each of his friends not only for his massive talent but for his true, deep and enduring friendship.” – Dennis Leary

Ken’s post-MTV production career has already been well-documented in various pop obituaries. Most notable was his work on one of my all time favorites, Tough Crowd. He was a long time friend and collaborator of Mr. Quinn’s, and Colin must be having a very bad day today. And that was just written by someone whose molar just split in two. Ober also had film roles in a forgettable Lethal Weapon spoof (although next to today’s send-ups like Disaster Movie it comes off like Gone With the Wind) and the forever-awesome Who’s the Man?

The official word right now is “found dead in his home at age 52,” after experiencing “flu-like symptoms”. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Thanks for the laughs, Ken. You’ll be remembered far beyond the reruns.


Tough Crowd’s Last Episode Taping.

by Dave on November 5, 2004

in Television

I’ve gotten 200 hits today from people looking for information on Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn’s last episode, so I want to post something before I lose consciousness. We were in the car for a total of 10 hours today, and I’m shattered right now – but I’ll get something up and add to it tomorrow.

It was pissing rain all the way from Boston to New York City. Our directions were terrible. We got so lost, that at one point we almost gave up. But we decided we’d come all this way and we were at least going to find Sony Studios and let them tell us to frig off. By some miracle of God we found our way to a parking garage in the neighborhood a good hour and a half after we were told to be at the taping. We fought our way through the drenched, Blade-Runner-esque umbrella congested streets until we found it – a small, plain looking building near 9th and West 53rd. As we jogged towards the building, we noticed a woman with a headset and called out to her as she was heading back inside.

You’re too late. We’re already taping the first segment” she said. We calmly told her we’d driven all the way from Boston to see the show. She was impressed, and probably a little creeped out, but she made a call on her walkie and told us we’d be allowed in to sit on the steps between the rows of seats during the next break. We raced to the nearby bathroom and then got back to the stage door just in time to be let in.

I’ll add to this article tomorrow. In the meantime – there’s a picture of Los Angeles, 2019 taken quickly as we were hunting replicants. And a blurry photo of Colin I took without a flash before I was jumped on and beaten by a stage hand. Then, Brunelli, Keith Robinson and myself outside after the show. His handler didn’t want him to stop for the photo (he had a train to catch), but he smiled when we told him we’d driven from Boston and posed with us while she hailed a cab. None of the other regulars came outside (Colin was in a BAD mood), so Keith’s gesture was much appreciated. More detail tomorrow. What an exhausting day – but fully worth it.


Colin Quinn gets a bad rap. (Update: more than a decade after I wrote this he’s become a best-selling author and has also conquered Netflix, Broadway and dominated every roast he’s ever been asked to participate in. He doesn’t need my misguided sympathy anymore.) So I’m going to tell you why I’m a big Quinn supporter, and an enormous fan of his Comedy Central show – “Tough Crowd” – which I was recently horrified to hear is in grave danger of being canceled.


A friend of mine, Troy, grew up with Quinn’s younger brother, Mike, in NYC. And I have it on very good authority that Colin is beyond a great guy. I love the fact that he messes up his lines. I love the fact that he mumbles and constantly self-depreciates. He’s a tough, salty, stand-up comedian who’s been walking the boards with uncomfortably sized balls since he was a teenager. And he truly cares about and intuitively understands the state of the planet today.

A lot of people don’t “get” him. But I find his uncomfortable, choppy, blue-collar style to be unique and honest – and have since I first saw him on MTV’s Remote Control in 1988. I had a comedy special he did for MTV, “Colin Quinn Goes Back to Brooklyn” on VHS and watched it for years. I wish I still had it. Anyway, my point is – me and Colin go way back. (Update: Some absolute saint of a human being has uncovered and uploaded B2B since I first wrote this post 11 years ago):

“Then use the fish as a reward!”

Tough Crowd is, in no uncertain terms, a brilliant show which we desperately need. That show used to be Jon Stewart’s Daily Show before it turned into the “Jon-Stewart-shows-a-clip-of-a-politician-he-doesn’t-agree-with-and-smirks-pompously-for-a-laugh” show. The Daily Show in the era of Steve Carell was one of the most consistently funny things on TV. But it’s become little more than a mildly disguised partisan send-up and I just can’t watch it anymore. I don’t refuse to indignantly – I simply can’t.

I would have also stopped watching the Daily Show if it had swung exclusively to the right instead. If I wanted to remain unchallenged, and have my opinion spoon-fed to me like pablum, I’d watch The O’Reilly factor while snorting Xanax or read nothing but the New York Times. Partisan comedy is not dangerous. It’s not challenging. And it’s most certainly not funny.

Enter Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on Comedy Central every weeknight at 11:30 p.m. – or at least it will be for a few more weeks. The format is as follows: Four little-to-fairly well known celebrities, usually enviable veteran stand-ups who’ve been on the circuit for years and are extremely quick on their feet, sit facing each other while Quinn poses questions dealing with current events to which they then hash/lash out. It’s unscripted, save for the occasional skit-like segment, it’s brash, offensive to those who choose it to be, envelope-pushing, no-holds-barred and hilarious.

No one is safe, and no punches are pulled. The guests are from all walks of life – blacks, whites, hispanics, gays, liberals, conservatives etc. – and it can get pretty vicious. In one episode I sincerely thought Dennis Leary was going to punch Greg Giraldo in the face. In another Judy Gold (a Liberal/Jewish/Lesbian) took on Patrice O’Neal (a Black/(arguably) Conservative/Bostonite) in a battle over whose people have been more oppressed over the years. They hit hard, and they’re honest, and they’re always funny.

The Infamous Giraldo vs. Leary Encounter

There’s always an underlying respect among the guests – perhaps because many of them know each other from slugging it out on the brutal national comedy circuit for years – which makes this entire exercise possible and productive. There’s never any political correctness or sugar-coating, and everyone always walks away friends. It’s a bit tough to describe, and I suppose the main point of this article is to get you, dear reader, to watch the show and form your own opinion. (Update: the show has been off-air for a decade but luckily there’s a wealth of archival footage. The interwebnets are a beautiful thing.)

I read that the reason Comedy Central wants to cancel Tough Crowd is because it doesn’t retain enough of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show audience which precedes it at 11 p.m. To me that is tragic. To me that’s akin to canceling a Dylan show because everyone is going to leave after the opening act, N’Sync. I’m not criticizing Stewart’s lefty audience. I am criticizing those members of his audience that are sitting in their high chair waiting for Mom to open that next jar of Gerber‘s, skewing the demographics. And I am vehemently criticizing Comedy Central for catering to them.

Tough Crowd is like watching your friends, who all love and respect each other, argue in a bar on a Friday night. They speak their mind, they challenge each other’s opinions, and they all leave friends. Debate is healthy and we all need it in our lives. I cherish Tough Crowd, but it looks like the curtain is falling. Kudos to Colin – I’ll be watching wherever you end up.