The Hippo


Jun 2, 2020








Capitol Steps actors, ehem, President Barack Obama and Michelle taking selfies. Mike Reyna photo.

See The Capitol Steps: Live

Dana Center for the Humanities, Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm Drive, Manchester: Friday, Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m., tickets $39.75,; a prize will be awarded to the most creative and best executed costume of a world political leader to celebrate Halloween
Flying Monkey Performance Center, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth: Friday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m., $45,
The Music Hall, 128 Chestnut St., Portsmouth: Saturday, Feb. 7, at 5 & 8 p.m., tickets $35-$45,
Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord: Friday, March 27, at 8 p.m., tickets $13-$39

Political satire
Capitol Steps continue to put the ‘mock’ in democracy

By Kelly Sennott

 It’s no Clinton administration, but finally, finally, President Barack Obama has given The Capitol Steps some material to work with.

“Barack Obama has gotten funnier this past year,” Elaina Newport, the show’s producer, co-writer and founding member, said in a phone interview. “The health care website scandal, the guy jumping over the White House fence. … We’ve really had a pretty good year.”
The Capitol Steps is a D.C.-based touring company that produces songs and skits that poke fun at Capitol Hill. It’s sort of like Saturday Night Live, except that each show  consists of more music, specifically, 30 song parodies performed by five actors. 
The company began more than 30 years ago when a group of Senate staffers went out to satirize the “very people and places that employed them,” as described on the company website. They were planning entertainment for a Christmas party, and nixed the first idea to stage a nativity play. (They reportedly “couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin.”) It became such a hit they never stopped performing, and to this day, about half the cast are Capitol Hill alums.
A quick preview for the upcoming show at the Dana Center for the Humanities on Halloween: Hillary Clinton will sing “Let it Go” with lyrics set against Joe Biden running for president; Obama will sing a showtune; Biden, a rock song; Vladimir Putin will take off his shirt; and Chris Christie will perform ballet.
Newport says Capitol Steps writers construct about a song a week. Since its start, the company has recorded more than 30 albums and been featured on NBC, PBS, ABC, CBS and NPR, among others. They’ve also performed for five U.S. presidents.
Initially, you couldn’t become part of the club unless you worked on Capitol Hill, but in 1996, at the “height of Bill Clinton,” they began allowing in area actors due to increased demand in shows.
“Historically, Bill Clinton is the funniest political figure we’ve ever had. With Hillary running, we are so happy he can still appear in our show as — First Lady? What would you call him? I don’t know. … And there are so many things you can do with Hillary. She’s so well-known. It’s easy with people who’ve been around for that long. People know a lot of things about them,” Newport said.
On occasion, a non-political celebrity will make his way the mix; the guys from Duck Dynasty and Paula Deen made appearances last year. Content is dependent on what covers Page 1.
“We don’t look at the news like normal people. We look for, is this guy funny? And what rhymes with his name? Kerry we liked because he rhymed with so much stuff. Nothing rhymes with Dennis Kucinich,” she said.
Naturally, some news items are easier to parody than others. Everyone loves a sex scandal, but finding a funny angle on Ebola? That’s difficult. What will people laugh at? What will they crawl back from in offense? What will hit too close to home?
“When Mitt Romney ran for president, there was a story about how he carried a dog on the roof of his car. We made a funny song, dressed a guy up in a dog suit and had him go on the roof of a car,” she said.
The audience wasn’t impressed.
“We thought we couldn’t miss — you have a guy in a dog suit! — but people love their dogs. We’ve made fun of wars, hurricanes, things that are so much less funny,” she said.
In the company’s history, politicians have had surprisingly good responses.
“The only senator who got mad was because we didn’t have a song for him. Politicians have to have an ego to be a politician. They wouldn’t want to be ignored,” Newport said. 
As seen in the October 30, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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