NEW YORK (AP) – One had a "wide stance" and another was "hiking the Appalachian Trail."
Those were some of the excuses put forward by politicians caught in recent sex scandals. Mario Correa, a political junkie who worked on Capitol Hill in high school and college, has turned them into comedy gold.
Correa, a co-host of Entertainment Weekly's daily "News & Notes" program on SiriusXM, stitched together four such sad tales to create "Tail! Spin!" at the Culture Project starring "Saturday Night Live" alumna Rachel Dratch. It closes Jan. 4.
The show skewers former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, former U.S. Rep. Andrew Weiner of New York, former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley of Florida and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who is now a congressman. All were ensnared in sex scandals and initially feigned innocence.
The script uses only the public comments, tweets, statements, instant messages, emails and text messages from the disgraced politicians. The Associated Press asked Correa about the play's deeper meanings.
AP: How much were these four men representative of the politicians you encountered?
Correa: To me they were outliers. They fascinated me because, in my eyes, they had it all. I mean, what am amazing honor it is to be a member of Congress or to be a U.S. senator and have all this responsibility in your hands. And then to go and do these stupid things, it always struck me as 'Why?'
AP: Some of the texts and messages in the play are pretty lurid.
Correa: There's worse and there's more. We had to keep it rated R and not NC-17. There's no dearth of material when it comes to congressional sex scandals.
AP: You even incorporated cooking recipes, TV appearances, Clinton-era voting records and speeches. How hard was it to dig?
Correa: I sometimes say Google is my collaborator. I fell into a lot of Internet wormholes. One thing will lead you to another. You'll find a strange Larry Craig recipe somewhere and it will lead you to a link of him somewhere at a Spanish-American cook-off. It was so clear to me watching his behavior that something more fundamental was happening there and I tried to juxtapose that with his public persona in a way that I hope works.
AP: Beyond the humor, what can we take away from the play?
Correa: What I take away from it is: The truth in politics comes out, whether you're talking about a substantive policy issue or whether you're talking about sex lives that are very different in private than someone's voting behavior. I think in any political situation, the truth will come out.
AP: In each case, the fumbled cover-up was more excruciating than the hypocrisy. You're exploring more than just randy politicians, right?
Correa: I do think the play is about power more than it is about sex. We all make dumb choices in our personal lives. I know I have. What I saw in these guys is that they thought their power would protect them. So when Larry Craig hands a cop a U.S. Senate business card in the airport men's room, he really honestly thought he was going to get away with it.
AP: It might sound like a naive question, but do you think we'll have more such scandals?
Correa: I think we'll have many more of these and other scandals because politicians have to come to grips with the fact that power is not the ultimate protector — it's a responsibility. When they do think it's a protector, then they will continue to make bad choices. They will think that giving a guy a business card will get them out of it.