Pensacola, Florida
Sunday August 19th 2018

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Step Up

By Jennie McKeon

If you’ve been following the news, there’s a good chance you need a good laugh.

The Capitol Steps offers both—news and comedy.

Since 1981, the comedy/musical group has been performing their political satire hits all over the country. Their newest album, “Orange is the New Barack” features songs such as “Putin on the Ritz,” “Wake Me Up in Mar-a-Lago” and “We Warm the World.”

Believe it or not, the Capitol Steps was born out of a Senate Christmas party.

“It was the early days of Reagan,” said Elaina Newport, one of the founding members of the Capitol Steps. “He went from acting to politics; we went from politics to acting.”

Newport and fellow staffers of Senator Charles Percy were tasked with coming up with a skit for the holiday party. Thirty-six years later, they are a regular touring company with a large catalog of songs.

“No one told us to stop,” Newport said with a laugh.

In its early days, working on Capitol Hill was a requirement for any of the performers, but when the demand for shows became greater, the rules relaxed.

“The first 15 years, you couldn’t join unless you worked on Capitol Hill, but then we got so busy we needed performers,” Newport said. “So now, we’re half former staffers and half professional performers.”

No matter the political background, auditions can sometimes be a little odd.

“Someone can come in and sing a beautiful song, but then we’ll say ‘Sing it like Kim Jong Un,’” said Newport.

The Capitol Steps is an equal opportunity offender poking fun at both sides of the aisle.

Newport said it’s the kind of show where you can see Donald Trump sing a rock song or Bernie Sanders belt out a show tune. Self-described as an extreme moderate, Newport said she believes both sides can be “very silly.”

But the Capitol Steps, and political satirists in general, were blessed in a way with the 2016 election. The group took a stab at the Republican primary with its rendition of “76 Trombones” remade into “76 Unknowns.”

It’s often a question asked of anyone in the comedy world if President Donald Trump is a gift of endless jokes. While Newport said there is a goldmine of one-liners, keeping up with the news coming out of Washington can be exhausting.

“Think of all the things that have happened last year,” she said. “Remember when Anthony Scaramucci was communications director for 10 days? We wrote a song about him. We thought he was going to be the funniest character. People like Ben Carson and Rick Perry would be funny under a normal administration.”

There’s also a skill to impersonating the President, especially one with such a large personality. Like most satire, the Capitol Steps will exaggerate a politician’s character, but as Newport said, Trump already has a pretty big personality.

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