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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Capitol Steps puts the mock in de-moc-racy

The often somber tones and jargon of politics wouldn’t make such great material for comedy, right? Wrong.

Capitol Steps is evidence enough that when you pair up witty references and uncanny impersonations of politicians to lyrics and songs, it can be a golden recipe for uncontainable laughter. The troupe will perform at the historic Crest Theatre in Sacramento on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Described as a musical political satire group from Washington D.C., Capitol Steps features songs derived from relevant headlines and events. They have performed for every president since Ronald Reagan and have been acknowledged by former president George H.W. Bush, who said, “The Capitol Steps make it easier to leave public life.”

“They perform skits, sing satire, and mock just about everything that does not make sense in the news,” said Robert Emerick, owner and director of Crest Theatre. “All of their material is straight from the headlines.”

It all began at a Senate office Christmas Party back in December of 1981 when staffers for Senator Charles Percy decided to incorporate comedy into their line of work. Among these founding members was Elaina Newport, who currently produces and writes more than half of the sketches for Capitol Steps.

“We were making fun of politicians – the very people who employed us – so we figured someone would tell us to stop, or fire us, or both,” Newport said. “But no one did, and we’re still performing.”

Thirty years later, Capitol Steps continues to go after politicians on both sides of the political spectrum.

“Although over the years the cast has changed, of course, we’re still going after politicians on both sides of the aisle,” Newport said. “It’s a little odd, being in this line of work.  I write about half of the material, so if I wake up in the morning and hear a story on the news, my first thought is not about whether it is good for the world, or bad for the world, but ‘Is it funny?’ and ‘What rhymes with it?'”

Capitol Steps has recorded over 31 albums since they began, including their most recent album, Desperate Housemembers. Wednesday night’s performance will include many songs from their newest release, including sketches about recent headlines in which they recreate the real-life characters.

The comedy sketches take on heavy topics, like the oil spill addressed by President Barack Obama, as well as other news featured in the popular media, such as interviews with actor Charlie Sheen, who has dominated many headlines.

“And the woman who plays Sarah Palin in our show might also play Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi,” Newport said.  “So, she’s changing wigs really fast, and for Nancy Pelosi she has to freeze her face!  That’s my favorite role because you can get a big laugh just doing the whole Botox thing. We also have a duet between Charlie Sheen and Muammar Gaddafi – who’s crazier? You decide! And songs about pretty much everything in the headlines.”

Along the lines of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” or Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” or even NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” Capitol Steps channels the timely humor of political mockery. But, according to the Washington Post, Capital Steps has an even better grip on the department of satirical humor.

“The show is constantly changing to keep up with the latest headlines, but unlike ‘SNL’ and ‘The Daily Show,’ the actors and actresses in this show sing their satire. The show features songs that would make Weird Al Yankovic proud,” said Amy Orndorff of the Washington Post in 2008.

This show will mark Sacramento’s Crest Theatre’s first show under the new management of Emerick, who is a UC Davis alumnus. Emerick believes the theater is the perfect place to host a live performing act such as Capitol Steps.

  “The music is satirical, the skits are hilarious, and all of the events are current,” said Emerick. “They are really looking forward to performing in front of a Sacramento audience.  After all, how often do you replace a bodybuilder-actor-governor with a rerun that none of us are old enough to remember, including me? California offers a lot of material for mockery.”

For more information about Sacramento’s Crest Theatre or how to purchase tickets, visit www.thecrest.com, or visit www.capsteps.com for more information on Capitol Steps.

UYEN CAO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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