Brian Quinn, cast member of the hit hidden-camera TV series Impractical Jokers, one-third of the long-running Tell ‘Em Steve Dave podcast, and co-host of the What Say You? podcast, displays a unique comedic sensibility — namely, a smart mix of honesty, bravado, and self-deprecation. It often combines with his unabashed love for pop culture, especially the story of Jedi, Rebels, and Sith in a galaxy far, far away. To wit, on a recent episode of What Say You?, Quinn was asked what he would do if he found out that he had a set amount of time left to live. Would he try and keep busy? Continue working? Maintain a daily routine? His answer: “I’d rather watch Star Wars.”
A proud Staten Island native — like this article’s author — Quinn recently spoke with StarWars.com about why he loves Ewoks, the blend of light and dark in The Empire Strikes Back, and impersonating Yoda (while pretending to be a bouncer) on national television.
StarWars.com: It’s clear from listening to Tell ‘Em Steve Dave that you’re a big comic book and sci-fi nerd. Where does Star Wars rank among all that for you?
Brian Quinn: Pretty high, man. It’s not something we get to talk about a lot on Tell ‘Em Steve Dave, but I can’t even count the times I’ve seen the movies. At least once a year I’ll just burn through all of them.
Empire‘s probably my favorite, but not by much. I love them all. I hope they never stop making [Star Wars] movies. I would never get tired of it.
StarWars.com: Going way back, how did you first come to know of Star Wars and get into it?
Brian Quinn: Well, I don’t remember seeing the first one in theaters. My main memory of watching Star Wars is when it was on like, channel 11, over and over again. I was born in ’76, so I vaguely remember seeing Empire Strikes Back in theaters. But I remember just being obsessed with Return of the Jedi and having my parents bring me to see it — at least four times in theaters — and being excited about the Ewoks, and coming home to play with the toy Ewok Village.
StarWars.com: So you’re not an Ewok hater.
Brian Quinn: No! How could I be? I loved them so much when I was a kid. That would be like turning on your imaginary friend. It just doesn’t make any sense.
I was fascinated by Return of the Jedi. I was just in awe of that movie. The Millennium Falcon being piloted by other people — Lando and Nien Nunb. It was amazing that other people were in the cockpit.
StarWars.com: That someone else besides Han and Chewie could do it.
Brian Quinn: Yeah. And when it hit the inside of the Death Star, and the little radar dish on top got bumped, I remember being upset that they managed to scratch the Millennium Falcon. It was a pretty intense love affair with the Millennium Falcon [for me] when I was a kid.
StarWars.com: Were there specific characters you connected with?
Brian Quinn: I think when I was super-young, it was Threepio and Artoo all the way. I used to have an argument with my brother that I could understand what Artoo was saying. I would like, interpret what Artoo was saying as we watched the movie together. And, of course, it was just complete nonsense. I was just making it up.
StarWars.com: I’m sure that did not annoy him at all.
Brian Quinn: [Laughs] No, right? I probably ruined the movie experience for him while we were watching it. God bless my brother for not punching me in the face.
Then as I got older, it just became Han Solo. He’s like the coolest guy around. But it’s funny because now that I’m hitting 40, it’s right back to the [droids]. For Christmas, I got a talking R2-D2 as a gift. It’s that one you can talk to, and it dances for you and stuff like that.
StarWars.com: And do you think you can understand what he’s saying back to you?
Brian Quinn: [Laughs] No, and I don’t think he understands me. Because every time I talk to him, he just dances.
StarWars.com: Now, just to prove to you how Staten Island I am: where would you have been buying Star Wars toys as a kid? Would it have been at Smiling Sunnys or at KB Toys?
Brian Quinn: KB Toys! Nice reference! And not the one in the mall, either. The one in Hylan Plaza. I still have them. Most of them are in a box in my attic.
StarWars.com: Has your view of Star Wars changed as you’ve gotten older?
Brian Quinn: I think, as I get older, I appreciate how great Empire Strikes Back is. You know, because you realize, man, that is a dark movie and it ends on such a dark note. And this has been talked to death, of course, about how great Empire Strikes Back is and how dark a movie it is, but it’s relentlessly bleak at the end. I mean, there’s mutilation.
That had to be a big [risk]. Because the first Star Wars is a pretty optimistic movie. It took some courage to be like, “You know what. Now here’s this. Here’s a real total shift.” Now they’re losing, and now they’re on the run, and things ain’t going so well for them, either. Oh, and here’s Lando and he’s a charming character, and wait, he just betrayed everybody. And here’s Han Solo getting tortured. It’s crazy. It’s crazy dark.
StarWars.com: You’re totally right. I do think, though, that as bleak as the movie is, it still has humor and fun to it. It still strikes a balance that a lot of movies struggle to hit.
Brian Quinn: Oh, yeah, definitely. The interaction between Threepio and Han Solo is hysterical. I was convinced that Threepio was dead and gone when he got blown to bits. And then they make him comic relief — his head’s on backwards and he’s screaming at Chewbacca. There’s definitely a bunch of lightness in there.
StarWars.com: How deep does your fandom go? Have you collected anything over the years?
Brian Quinn: Yeah. Recently, I bought a Han-Solo-in-carbonite bank. I have a bunch of figures and stuff like that that I’ve bought over the years. One of the last things that I bought, that got stolen from me, was one of those lightsabers that they have in the display cases. It was stolen from my car. Actually, now that you said that, it reminds me that I want to get one of those again.
I remember when the prequels were coming out, the night of the first one, me and my buddy went to Toys R Us and bought those telescoping lightsabers. We went to the theater and we were jumping around on the seats like idiots with them.
StarWars.com: So was I.
Brian Quinn: We all were.
StarWars.com: Don’t worry. This is a safe place to talk about all that stuff.
Brian Quinn: [Laughs] You know, I played all the video games, too. X-Wing and TIE Fighter, and all the Super Nintendo side-scrollers.
StarWars.com: I loved the Super Star Wars trilogy on Super Nintendo. But I go back and play them now, and it’s like, “This is the hardest thing ever created. How did I do this?”
Brian Quinn: It was so impossible! Like, it was just unbelievable. You have to hit those turrets and stuff and jump around… It was insane. I still have the games, too, and just dug out the Super Nintendo. So, I’ll probably jump into them again now that we had this conversation, but they were hard. They were hard.
StarWars.com: On Impractical Jokers you did a Yoda impression while working as a bouncer, and you seemed to have it at the ready. Can you talk about that sequence?
Brian Quinn: It’s funny that you brought that up. The reason that we did it is because I had been impersonating Yoda quite a bit around that time, because I’d rewatched the movies. Yoda is the man. I think it was on the tip of [the other Jokers’] tongues, because I had been walking around doing it. I do stupid things like that, where I’ll just start doing voices, and that was the one of the moment.
I mean, who doesn’t have a Yoda impression at the ready? If you don’t have a Yoda impression ready to go, then it’s just like, I don’t really want to know you. [Laughs]
They aired most of that bit. We were a little nervous, because you never know if you’re going to be able to use it or not. We don’t know much about making a TV show now, and back then we really didn’t know anything. So who knew if we were even going to be allowed to use a Yoda impression? That was something we’d just done for ourselves to have fun, and then it was kind of a pleasant surprise when it made the show.
StarWars.com: Finally, if you were going to cast Star Wars using the cast of Impractical Jokers — you, Joe, Sal, and Murr — who would play which roles?
Brian Quinn: That’s a good question. Am I going for parody here?
StarWars.com: Whatever feels right to you. You make it however you want.
Brian Quinn: [Laughs] Well, in that case, I’m gonna go with Joe as Han Solo, Murray as Princess Leia, Sal as C-3PO, and then… Oh, man, who do I want to be? This is the question of the ages.
StarWars.com: I’m surprised you didn’t pick Han for yourself!
Brian Quinn: I would love to say me as Han, but I would want to see Joe Gatto’s version of Han Solo. I think it would be hysterical.
You know what? Who’s the guy with the implants on his head in Cloud City?
Brian Quinn: Yeah, I’ll take Lobot. I’ll just walk around and not say anything so I can watch everybody else.
StarWars.com: So you’d be Lando’s weird robot-man butler?
Brian Quinn: [Laughs] Yeah. I’ll do that. That sounds good to me.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer, and spends his days writing stuff for and around StarWars.com. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.