The political satire troupe The Capitol Steps, founded in 1981 by a group of Capitol Hill staffers, has a definite political bias. They disdain the pompous, the self-important and the just plain silly, regardless of political affiliation. They skewer political figures and hangers-on of both parties in equal measure. The only sure thing is that whatever your political preferences, they will make you laugh.
The group began when staffers to then Senator Charles Percy were asked to plan entertainment for a Christmas party. As they tell it, their first idea was a Nativity play, but in the whole Congress, they couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin. Please direct all comments about irreverence to the Capitol Steps, Washington, DC. They work in song parodies and are long-time staples on NPR and at The Lyric, where they always get the year off to a great start.
Elaina Newport, a founding member of the group, loves Florida because we keep them in material. From the days of hanging chads to the feeling that Florida is bemused every time Election Day rolls around, as if it’s the first ever held, the group knows that Florida will have something to give.
In a 2018 interview for City Beat magazine, Newport noted that things have been changing so rapidly of late that they sometimes write a song and the person is gone from the scene before the singer has learned the song. (Think Anthony Scaramucci.) People like Paul Manafort (“I’m So Indicted”) and others have ebbed and flowed in the ongoing drama. Still, the Steps have covered six presidents and the high bar for satire is set.
“Until now, Bill Clinton was the golden age of political satire,” she said. “There was a little bit of the same thing going on with Clinton as with Trump; it was hard to be more ridiculous than the actual stories, with Linda Tripp putting a wire in her bra and Monica (Lewinsksy) keeping the dress. That story got more and more bizarre. The same is true today. The good news is we’re bipartisan. If you’d seen the show in the Clinton years, you would have been like, ‘Oh, you’ve got so many songs about Democrats.’ Now the Republicans are the party in power, and the party in power is always funnier.”
No one is too powerful to escape the Steps treatment. There may be songs about small hands or bad hair and the subject need not be American. Vladimir Putin had his turn with “Putin on the Blitz.” Beto O’Rourke was popular last year and all of the men wanted to play him because of his youthful good looks. Newport noted that they all hoped they were handsome enough. She also said that the good news is the presence of more women in the troupe because there are more women in power. You can probably figure that Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be immortalized in song very soon.
Of course, things change very quickly in Cap Steps world. People we don’t even know about may break through and find themselves getting the Cap Steps treatment. It really is a sign they’ve arrived.
As for Newport, she has always maintained that she is completely nonpartisan. She worked for two Republican senators, Chuck Percy and Al D’Amato, both of whom were defeated. She is married to a former Clinton appointee and considers herself “an extreme moderate.” Whether you tilt left, right or are just down the middle, you’ll find the Capitol Steps the antidote for whatever ails our political system.
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