Capitol Steps to mock current events at Grand Givers
- Created: Thursday, 07 November 2013 17:00
- Written by Marcia Montgomery
No matter who or what is in the headlines, you can bet the Capitol Steps will tackle both sides of the political spectrum and all things equally foolish. What more would you expect from the group that puts the “MOCK” in Democracy and sings songs such as “If I Tax a Rich Man?” The comedy group is the featured entertainment at the 2013 version of Kehilath Israel Synagogue Grand Givers, set for Saturday night, Nov. 16, at the synagogue.
The humor is not specifically Jewish humor, yet some songs and sketches may have a Jewish flavor to them. One of the five performers that evening, Brad VanGrack, is Jewish, as is pianist Marc Irwin.
Capitol Steps will perform songs from its new album, “Capitol Steps Fiscal Shades of Gray,” which will also be on sale that night. The group began more than 30 years ago, in 1981, as a group of Senate staffers who set out to satirize the very people and places that employed them. Although not all of the current members of the Steps are former Capitol Hill staffers, taken together the performers have worked in a total of 18 Congressional offices and represent 62 years of collective House and Senate staff experience.
Elaina Newport, who writes the show along with Mark Eaton, explained the show is a mix of songs and skits.
“For anyone who hasn’t seen our show, it’s the only place you can see Joe Biden sing a rock song and Barack Obama sing a show tune and Chris Christie do a classical ballet all on one stage,” she said.
You don’t really need to be a total news junkie to enjoy it.
“We will explain the news to you,” she said.
Speaking from her office in what she has dubbed “Capitol Steps World Headquarters,” in Washington, D.C., Newport said they perform about 400 shows each year, basically one every day along with an occasional lunch and dinner performance.
“We actually did a breakfast show the day the shutdown started. It was funny because it was Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 at midnight I was sitting at my computer with my hand on the send button getting ready to send lyrics to performers who, depending on whether or not the shutdown occurred at midnight, needed to know what the jokes were going to be,” Newport said.
As happens with anything involving current events, things often happen so quickly that performers have to find ways to learn their lines quickly or “cheat” their way through the performance.
“For example when Anthony Weiner tweeted his underwear, I wrote a song in the afternoon for an evening performance and I said to the woman, ‘Look, you can put this on your cell phone and you can look at your cell phone while you’re singing because you can pretend you are looking at the tweet that you got from Anthony Weiner.’ That worked perfectly,” Newman said.
Even in times when the material is so fresh and topical that the performers just plain don’t know it, Newman said the audience is entertained.
“One time we had a performer turn around and tell the audience, ‘You think this is easy? I just got this this afternoon.’ The audience just loved that moment because they knew the issue was very new. Then she backed up and started over. We get it done,” Newport said.
The Jewish VanGrack has been performing with Capitol Steps about 22 years. He travels all over the country with the group and enjoys the experience.