Friday, February 1, 2008

INTERVIEW: The Sixth Borough

Philadelphia sketch comedy group The Sixth Borough have a new show, “Saving Philly’s Soul”, opening this weekend at the Shubin Theatre. Comic Vs. Audience recently caught up with Tabitha Vidaurri, Corey Cohen, Emily McGraw and Gregg Gethard of the group (with some comments from Greg Maughan of the Philadelphia Improv Theater) during their last rehearsal before the opening night. Topics included comedy, fat vaginas and Philadelphia.

We realize that this is long, so hunker down and get through it.

So this is your one-year anniversary show. How did you initially form?

Tabitha Vidaurri: I really wanted to do sketch comedy ever since I was 13. And I wanted to get something together in Philly and there was this theatre that I took a workshop with Ali Farahnakian and I met Gregg there. And I knew Emily was from working at Eastern State [Pennituary], we were tour guides and I met through Corey through doing random improve stuff at this theater called the Ric Rac. And basically I just got a group of people together that I knew and liked that were talented-

Corey Cohen: Except you didn’t know me, or know I was talented.

TV: Well, I met you, fuck you- anyway I just got a group of people together that I thought were good and would work together good in a sketch comedy group and they didn’t know each other really, but it ended up that people had weird connections with each other, like one of Gregg’s best friends was Emily and I’s old boss at Eastern State.

CC: Yeah and I had previously met your roommate. Well, you know Philadelphia is a small town so we just also had weird secondary connections were realized over time.

Gregg Gethard: We’re like the “Lost” of sketch comedy groups.

CC: Hook Gregg Gethard on that.

GG: We all have daddy issues.

CC: And in that we all heal immediately.

TV: Anyways, I went to U Arts with Jason, so I knew him from school. And Pat I had just been friends with and Pat had done stand-up comedy and I had been talking to him for at least a year about doing something together and we finally got something together and we met last January and our first show was last March, so this is pretty much the anniversary.

You said since you were 13 you wanted to do sketch comedy, where did that come from?

TV: Kids in the Hall. I’m obsessed with them pretty much.

What are your other influences?

CC: Well I actually really liked Stella a lot and that was sort of what got me paying attention to people doing sketch comedy now. And I was taking improve classes in New York and seeing stuff up there.

Greg Maughan [putting up lights]: Tell him you were blowing David Wain.

CC: And I was totally sucking off David Wain.

The TV show? Or the videos?

CC: No, back in 2000 or 2001.

TV: The shorts.

CC: Yeah, it was when the shorts were really popular on the internet before they hit College Humor. I wanted to do sketch and I actually tried to form a sketch group, but as anybody in this group will tell you, I shouldn’t be in charge of anything. So I was thankful to be able to get into a group where someone else was in charge.

[To Tabitha] Do you like being the leader of the group?

CC: Yes she does.

TV: I’m getting probably five ulcers, but in a good way.

CC: Their names are Gregg, Emily, Corey, Jason, Pat.

TV: Yeah, I have little names for all of them. No, I have always fallen into the role of leadership. I used to write and direct plays and when I was little I used to make my brother and sister be in the movies that I made on our videocamera-

CC: Tabitha is what David Bowie would call a Queen Bitch.


How have your past shows gone?

TV: Our first show that we did around this time last year was at the [Connie's] Ric Rac [on the Italian Market] which is now not open anymore. It was open for a very tiny window of time. But we did a show there. And we did a fringe festival run of shows there, but that was when it wasn’t open, so there was this special thing of getting a permit and then we have done shows here at the Shubin before. And we did a show up at the Rotunda in West Philly, that was our Halloween show and-

GG: Greg [Maughan] wants us to plug that we did it with the Philly Improv Theater.

TV: Oh yeah!

CC: We did it with the Philadelphia Improv Theater.

TV: Thank you Philadelphia Improv Theater!

CC: Thank you Greg Maughan and the Philadelphia Improv Theater!

GG: Thank you so much Greg Maughan!

Greg Maughan: Don’t plug me, I want you to plug the theater.

TV: So when I mean Shubin, I mean the Philadelphia Improv Theater at the Shubin. And our last show before this was at The Balcony [The Troc’s side stage].

How’d that go?

TV: Really well, it was our Christmas show. It was all new and we only did it once.

Do the crowds get rowdy if you play somewhere that has alcohol?

Emily McGraw: It got a little bit rowdy but-

CC: Well you know the crowds that always surprise are not our friends and fans and people that regularly come to shows, but when we were doing the Fringe Festival and there would be a 50-year old couple that probably just went out to dinner and came to a show afterwards and they were really responsive which is kind of strange. Especially since the theme of the last Fringe Festival show was “adults”, so it was about growing up and I guess that resonated with the older folks and they really seemed to like it. It was kind of weird, I thought that older people were going to hate it and think that it was immature.

GG: Well we did have that one old couple that walked out during that one show.

CC: That was during which sketch though?

TV: Fat Vaginas.

CC: Yeah that was Fat Vagina, which got mixed, there were some nights where the audience was like “ok.” And there were some nights where they said “no.”

TV: The people that had Fat Vaginas left.

EM: Yeah, when they left I was looking and the woman’s silhouette cast a big shadow and I realized that it was a Fat Vagina.

CC: Right, so we really only upset people because they had Fat Vaginas.

GG: We really found a particular demographic with that sketch that could really get really up in, but Pat had an aunt that came to see him that had a Fat Vagina and she loved it. She was raving to him about it, like “oh dear god, I loved it.” And he was in the sketch too, “you nailed it, you nailed it, it’s like having a Fat Vagina.”

EM: Well Tabitha and I had to explain what a Fat Vagina was because clearly we have perfect vaginas.

CC: It’s true, they have perfect vaginas. Great vaginas. But for clarification a Fat Vagina is when you are getting older and everything’s sagged a bit and you’ve tucked your under-fat stomach into your pants which makes it look as if you have a Fat Vagina.

GG: I’ve also referred to it as a Bubble-gine (Ed note: may not be the correct spelling) or Gunt.

CC: Gunt’s my personal favorite.

GG: And I wrote that sketch and I regret writing it because, first, it alienated a lot of people, probably people of money. And then I ended up being in it and I had to portray a woman and I sucked at it.

TV: Oh Gregg, shut up.

GG: No, I did, that sketch sucked.

Greg Maughan: I saw that sketch. And in Gregg’s defense, it did suck.

GG: Yeah, I owe up to it.

EM: On behalf of the ladies in the group, I just want to say that I don’t think that the Sixth Borough should be defined by Fat Vaginas.

CC: No, we’re so much more than that.

Like what?

CC: Um…there’s other things. [Laughs]

TV: Yeah there’s a lot of other stuff.

CC: There’s got to be other things.

TV: Well, we do satire.

CC: Yeah, that’s definitely our main motive of when we are writing and have ideas. We want everything to have a satirical edge. There’s a lot of sketch comedy that is really silly but there’s no point, or vice versa it’s intelligent but they’re not really making a point and we try to make a point of making a point.

TV: And we don’t do parody.

GG: I think what also helps with the group is that you can tell by watching us that each of us bring different things to the table and we all have our own unique personalities. Seeing different shows, you can’t really tell who’s who and it all kind of blends in, but with us we are all totally different, weird people and I think it shows.

Does everyone write?

CC: Yeah, pretty much.

EM: I just write songs.

CC: Yeah, any song that you’ve ever heard, but there are no songs in this one.

EM: So I wrote nothing for this one.

TV: No, you wrote the whole opening. Emily’s an idea woman.

CC: Yeah she tends to work conceptually.

TV: And she’s character-based.

CC: She’s our Gilda Radner. I know you don’t want me to say that, but..

Your shows are usually themed. Does it make it easier to write material that way?

CC: Well, I think it’s more about it gives us a sort level of cohesiveness, it connects the sketches without directly correcting them. Which gives the whole show a polish that just seems more professional when everything is oriented in one way. But it does make it a little bit easier to write. But it’s also challenging because we’ll come in with something that really has nothing to do with the theme and we either have to reject it or make it work.

TV: Or sometimes a theme can be so intimidating, like Adults was such a broad, huge theme and it’s like, what does that mean to you.

CC: Right, but that was just fun because we all wrote different sketches for that and had different ideas so it really was all of our opinions and thoughts on what it meant to be an adult.

So it’s all based off something?

CC: Yeah, we try to keep it that way.

So what is the new show, "Saving Philadelphia Soul", about?

CC: It’s basically much looser because it’s a greatest hits show-

TV: Well, our first show last year was all Philly themed and since this was a year later, we wanted to come back to the theme of Philadelphia but put a new spin on it. So a couple of our best sketches from the first show are in this show, and then some of the sketches that we only got to perform once, like something that we performed at Die, Actor, Die and something from our Halloween show. So this is for people that have seen some of our stuff, but we have put together kind of a best of. But it’s framed by the story that the Philadelphia Soul indoor football team has been kidnapped.

EM: The soccer team?

CC: No, it’s indoor football, arena football.

EM: There’s indoor football?

TV: Yeah, that’s kind of the joke-

EM: Doesn’t the ball hit the ceiling?

CC: It’s a very high ceiling.

GG: You can play it off the wall

CC: And if somebody in the crowd catches it and throws it back, it’s still in play.

GG: Pat has season tickets. But he’s never gone to a game.

TV: Anyway, it’s up to the Sixth Borough to save the Philadelphia Soul and in essence saving Philadelphia’s soul.

CC: Yeah it’s really heavy. And essentially we do that through our sketches.

TV: Yeah, by doing live comedy in Philly, we are saving the city.

Does Bon Jovi [real owner of the Philadelphia Soul] make an appearance at the end?

TV: Um, maybe…

CC: Yeah, let’s just say maybe. We’re only going to say maybe because we don’t want you to know and because we aren’t entirely sure.

Is there something inherently funny about Philadelphia?

CC: Yeah.

TV: Oh yeah, you can’t have this many murders in a city every fucking year and not have it be hilarious.

CC: No, I have a theory on why Philadelphia is the way it is. See, Philadelphia, we were leaders for so long, and I think everyone in this city on some level still holds a grudge against some other place. I mean, Philadelphia is all about hating some other cities really. You hate New York, or you hate L.A. or you hate Pittsburgh or you hate New Jersey. I think that everyone in Philadelphia thinks that they are second-best.

TV: Yeah it’s a city with a chip on its shoulder. A city that’s probably the most made fun of city in the country, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

CC: Yeah, it’s true. And everything is based in New York and part of it is because it’s the entertainment hub. But it’s frustrating because New York has its whole own thing, it has its own microcosm where as Philadelphia is more representative of the real world.

EM: Plus people look really funny here.

CC: Yeah, we’re really ugly.

EM: And people have Philly Face. Where they look really grumpy and worn-down by life. But then they open their mouth and say “how ya doin’, hun?” And that’s funny, because I thought you were going to be really crusty and mean, but you’re really not, you’re kind of nice. You just have Philly Face.

TV: It’s just an original city. There’s crap that happens here that I don’t see anywhere else.


TV: Well, the Mummers, the level of sports’ loyalty here is unparalleled.

CC: Corruption.

TV: Well, yeah.

GG: My friends in college from Philly were going to bars at the age of 13.

CC: Can we note that Tabitha just spit her water.

GG: I know two people that lost their virginity before their first kiss. And they lost it outside, behind a Kmart in the Northeast.

The Sixth Borough will be performing their new show, “Saving Philly’s Soul”, presented by the Philadelphia Improv Theater at the Shubin Theatre (407 Bainbridge St.) Fri. 2/1 at 8PM, Sat. 2/2 at 10PM, Fri. 2/8 at 8PM and Sat. 2/9 at 10PM


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