The Capitol Steps
The political satire troupe The Capitol Steps was founded in 1981 by staffers to then Senator Charles Percy. They were asked to plan entertainment for a Christmas party, and as they tell it, decided on a nativity play. The problem was that in the whole Congress, they couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin. It was the Reagan era and founding members Elaina Newport, Bill Strauss and Jim Aidala figured that if entertainers could become politicians, then politicians could become entertainers. They took the headlines of the day and created song parodies and skits. They are long-time staples on NPR and at The Lyric, where they always get the New Year off to a funny start.
The Capitol Steps have a few political biases. They disdain the pompous, the self-important and the just plain silly, although they love making fun of them. 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, even if the political scene makes you want to cry.
Elaina Newport said that the Steps love coming to Florida because as a state, we keep them in material, from the hanging chads of 2000 to the general feeling that Florida is always bemused to find that there’s another election coming up. The group knows that Florida is the gift that keeps on giving.
In a 2018 interview for City Beat magazine, Newport noted that things change so quickly that a person is gone before a song is finished. “Until now, Bill Clinton was the golden age of political satire,” she said. “There was a little 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 (Lewinsky) keeping the dress. That story got more and more bizarre. The same is true today. The good news is that we’re bipartisan. If you’d seen the show in the Clinton years, you would have been like, ‘Oh, you have so many songs about Democrats.’ Now the Republicans are in power, and the party in power is always funnier.”
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.” The Washington, D.C.-based group she founded and still performs with is at home in front of a university audience and the National Welding Supply Association. They say they are proud to have performed for the last five presidents (6 if you include Hillary, and they said it, so direct all letters to them.) They are very proud that the only people who complain are people they haven’t mentioned. Yet.