To say we could do worse - a lot worse - is meant only as praise for "Colin Quinn: Long Story Short," the mostly smart and shrewd little stand-up comedy/psychopolitical history lesson that ran downtown last summer under the more precise title "Long Story Short: History of the World in 75 Minutes."
That solo show, you may recall, was a work in progress directed by some unknown new director named Jerry Seinfeld. The buddies have slicked up the finished product for Broadway with a more ambitious cosmic curve of a set by the ever-imaginative David Gallo, with projections of ancient maps grounded with rocky golden temple steps.
Also, Quinn - best known as a genially brutal "Weekend Update" anchor on "Saturday Night Live" and as the star of his memorably nostalgic solo, "An Irish Wake," at this same theater in 1998 - has combed his hair and put on a sport jacket. But the jacket looks a little small for him, a fit that maintains his useful shlumpy Brooklyn-born façade - as if he's not quite comfortable in the role of social critic and brainiac lecturer with a historical context and a Broadway podium.
And this, along with his slow, even lazy beginning, appears to be a deliberate technique to snare theatergoers before he whips them into a fast-thinking festival of conceptual comedy and rueful, absurdist indignation about ways we got from there to here.
The subject is the fall of empires, from antiquity until a place awfully close to ours. He flips easily back to pop-culture signposts - from Antigone to Snooki, from Caesar to the mob, from Plato's cave theory to the world economic forums in Davos, Switzerland. He is stunning about the cultural significance of similar words, but I won't spoil the surprise by telling.
Oddly, he still gives Japan and Germany a pass. Otherwise, he shares his floppy presence and his acuity about societies that do the same thing, over and over, "even when it doesn't work anymore." They may not, but his show does.