Whether you support Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the upcoming presidential election, you probably found a few things to chortle about during the October debates.
For Elaina Newport, finding humor in Big Bird and binders full of women was more than just a diversion. As a founding member and performer of The Capitol Steps, it’s her job to turn politics into comedy.
The Capitol Steps are a comedy troupe whose members include former Capitol Hill staffers, like Newport, who tour the country singing, dancing and satirizing the Washington scene.
Go to one of their shows — The Capitol Steps will be on stage in the Richardson Auditorium on the campus of Princeton University Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. — and you might hear songs like “You Can’t Hide This Biden Guy” and “I’ve Got Big Bucks.” But Newport says they are developing new material throughout the year.
“We add about a song a week on average, and the show is constantly evolving,” she said. “Over time, we retire the song that’s getting a little dated and bring in a new one. The day after (former New York Rep.) Anthony Weiner tweeted his underwear, we had to do a whole song. That was really worthy of it.”
As Election Day approaches, Newport and her colleagues are trying to predict what material they’ll want to have prepared for their post-vote performances. Still, sometimes the unexpected happens and changes everything, like in 2000, when it took weeks for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether George W. Bush or Al Gore would be the next President of the United States.
“We had [prepared] two versions of the show, one version if Bush won and one if Gore won,” she said. “And of course the next day, we couldn’t do either one. We were scrambling to do songs about butterfly ballots and hanging chads.”
The Capitol Steps enjoyed primary season, as the Republican Party churned through a number of candidates, each producing more sound bites than the last: Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum all had their moments.
“We were like, ‘Why can’t [the Republican nominee] be Cain? We loved Herman Cain! We ended up with Mitt Romney, who we weren’t sure was the funniest of the lot,” Newport said. “But Mitt’s gonna be pretty funny.”
Newport stresses that part of the mission of the troupe is to be bipartisan. One reason: “The party in power is always going to be funnier,” she said.
“This time of year, there’s especially a lot going on, and its easier for us to be bipartisan because both sides are looking for headlines,” she said.
A reception with cast members will follow the performance. The performance is a benefit for the Princeton Senior Resource Center. To order tickets, go online to princetonsenior.org.
More information on the Capitol Steps is online at capsteps.com.