Back to Arts

Political song and dance

Capitol Steps, celebrating 30 years of making fun of government, has never had a shortage of material

CAPITOL STEPS: The comedy troupe has Olympia in its crosshairs.

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

When your job is making everything from elections to war to environmental disasters into a joke, it really does color your worldview.

"I don't look at the Egyptian protests and think, ‘Is this good for the world or bad for the world?' " says Elaina Newport, co-founder of the Capitol Steps, performing today in Olympia. "I think, ‘Is it funny, and what rhymes with it?'

"Nothing rhymes with Mubarak," she adds.

The Steps, who bill themselves as "the only group in America that attempts to be funnier than Congress," find humor in even the darkest subjects, she says. Take the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We did a song and we had to dress up like giant Gulf shrimp," Newport says. "I remember standing backstage dressed as a giant shrimp and thinking, ‘You know, I did go to college.' Nobody looks good in a shrimp outfit."

The song? "Under BP," performed to the tune of "Under the Sea" from Disney's The Little Mermaid.

Newport's banter taps out in a perfect rhythm and faster than I can type: Setup, punch line; setup, punch line.

Perhaps that's not surprising considering this is the 30th year Newport and the Steps have been at it.

"We considered going back and doing some of the greatest hits," she says, "but I don't think those Rumsfeld songs will really hold up. It's not as much fun to do Ronald Reagan anymore."

The Steps did make a quick return to the '80s recently, though. "Last week, we did ‘Walk Like an Egyptian,' " Newport says.

All that humor has a way of spreading. Even the group's "press secretary general," Bill Hurd, has great comedic timing.

Last week, he was at work even though he was ill. "Maybe that's not a good thing," he says. "But I have a can of Lysol, and I'm about to go crazy."

Working with the Steps is never dull. "Myself and the accountant are the only two people in the office who don't perform," Hurd says. "Even the gentleman who does our travel arrangements is a performer. It's very interesting here.

"I've always thought of myself as political," he says. "I always tried to keep in step with the news. The thing that rubs off on you here is that you're not supposed to take it as seriously as some people do. It's a very nice thing."

The group, out with a new album called Liberal Shop of Horrors, is best known for its song parodies.

Egyptian-themed songs aside, the most popular genres are classic rock and show tunes. Two tunes that have been used multiple times:

  1. Elvis Presley's "Return to Sender," renamed "Return to Spender" for liberals and "Return to Center" when former President Bill Clinton was elected
  2. "Maria," from West Side Story, renamed "Korea" and "Scalia."

"Sca-LI-a," Newport warbles. Even without another word, the new song is funny.

"We have Ruth Bader Ginsberg madly in love with him," she says. "Sometimes we take these little liberties."

Yes, even romance is fair game for the Steps.

"I remember last summer when Al Gore and Tipper announced that they were separating," Newport says. "I remember thinking, ‘That's not funny; they seem like nice people and all,' but the angle that occurred to me was, ‘What is Al Gore going to be like on the dating scene?'

"He'd be going to a dating service and filling out the questionnaire. He'd be like, ‘Well, I've won a Nobel Prize.' ... He thinks he invented the Internet, so if he uses an Internet dating service, he's going to mention that."

The Capitol Steps

Thursday, March 3, 7:30 p.m., $17.25–$42.50
Washington Center for the Performing Arts
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Read next close


American Chronicles

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search