The Capitol Steps Find the Musical Comedy in American Politics

1 min
The Capitol Steps, former DC staffers turned comedians, will perform at Montalvo Arts Center's Carriage House Theatre Concert Series April 14, 2019 in Saratoga. (Cover detail courtesy Capitol Steps)

The Capitol Steps began almost 40 years ago as a Christmas party stunt by U.S. Senate staffers in Washington, D.C. The apocryphal story: their first idea was to stage a nativity play, but in the whole of Congress, they couldn't find three wise men or a virgin.

If that made you groan, you can stop reading here. Or maybe that's your thing. If so, prepare for a night of jokes musical and otherwise that make you groan and guffaw in equal measure. Hey, when was the last time you found yourself laughing at politics? I'm not laughing watching John Oliver. I'm crying. You?

The troop (some of them actual veterans of politics) tours with a set list of 30 or so familiar songs set to fresh lyrics ripped from the headlines. Word is there's a new one about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which has to make you curious about the rhyming, just to start.

Mark Eaton, who manages as well as writes and performs for the Capitol Steps, says the Trump Era has been exhausting.

"It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. There’s almost a story daily. Then the next day, people have already forgotten about it and moved on to something else," said Eaton.

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There's a fair bit of truth in that. Who's still talking about Paul Ryan? Or Hillary Clinton? Well, President Donald Trump is, suggesting some of these songs can become relevant again if you wait just a minute or two.

Have Americans become too politically polarized to appreciate the way the Steps lampoon everyone on the national stage? People with no sense of humor about politics tend to steer clear of their shows. "People who see our show, they know what we're doing," said Eaton. But they still get complaints, mostly about their costumes.

"We had a bit where a person comes through in a shark outfit, and somebody said 'Oh, it’s not cool, because they’re endangered.' So typically, it’s not the abuse of politicians that people complain about. It’s something bizarre."

Humans, on the other hand, are fair game. Take the aging liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court bench.

Since they began, the satirical comedy troupe has recorded more than 30 albums, including Campaign and Suffering, Take the Money and Run for President, and I'm So Indicted. They've been featured on public radio stations nationwide during their Politics Takes a Holiday radio specials. But most of their live performances take place in (where else?) Washington, D.C. Thankfully, they do travel beyond the Beltway on occasion. So take advantage.

The Capitol Steps perform 'Make America Grin Again' at the Montalvo Arts Center on Sunday, April 14, 2019. For more information, click here.

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