Staging a political comedy show just days after the presidential election takes a quirky sense of humor and an ability to see the big picture.
Elaina Newport, co-founder and co-author of the long-running Capitol Steps political satire troupe, has both.
“There are certain things we know,” said Newport, whose traveling group of political impersonators come to Maine for three performances this weekend. “Whether Barack Obama wins or loses, we know he’ll still be president until January. And we also know Mitt Romney will still be very rich.”
Since 1981, the Capitol Steps have mocked politicians on both the right and the left, and made fun of current events with a distinct blend of songs and jokes. Over the years, they have even performed in the White House for presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the Capitol Steps will play the Waterville Opera House. Then on Friday night, L/A Arts will bring the troupe to Lewiston for a 7:30 p.m. show. On Saturday night, they’ll travel to Brownfield for a sold-out show at Stone Mountain Arts Center. To accommodate all those who want tickets, Stone Mountain added an afternoon show on Sunday.
But with just one day between the election and the first Maine performance, Newport knows they’ll have to write (and learn the new material) quickly.
“We’ll be watching the returns on election night and rewriting material,” Newport said prior to the election. “By (Thursday) hopefully, we’ll know the winner.”
“Hopefully” being the operative word. “I’m having a traumatic flashback, because in 2000, we’d written two versions of the show,” Newport said, and the winner of the presidential race wasn’t known for more than a month.
Newport said the current 90-minute show includes 30 skits, but only about a half dozen refer to Obama and Romney. Audiences can expect to see a skit about the Greek fiscal crisis set to tunes from the musical “Grease.” Airport security, Super PACs and environmentalists will also take their fair share of abuse.
Because the Capitol Steps recently celebrated their 30th anniversary, the show also includes a song that summarizes 30 years of satire, from Vice President Dan Quayle misspelling of “potato” to Vice President Dick Cheney shooting a hunting companion in the face.
The Capitol Steps, whose slogan is “we put the mock in democracy,” perform a weekly show in Washington, D.C., and travel the country performing live. The troupe has released more than 32 albums; the latest, “Take the Money and Run for President,” was released in April.
They’ve performed on NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS, and public radio listeners know them from the annual “Politics Takes a Holiday” show.
The group got its start when Newport and fellow staffers for the U.S. Senate wrote and sung parodies for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Christmas party in 1981. The show was such a hit, the staffers soon had requests for additional performances. By 1987, the group’s founders had quit their day jobs and become full-time performers.
Even the group’s name comes with humor. It’s a reference to a 1981 scandal involving disgraced Congressman John Jenrette and his wife, Rita, who famously had sex on the steps of the Capitol building.
The cast for the Maine show includes Kevin Corbett, Jon Bell, Brian Ash, Nancy Dolliver, Bari Biern and pianist Marc Irwin.
Newport said local audiences shouldn’t expect jokes about Maine’s congressional delegation, who tend to be “fairly respectable.” She added that politicians that go around quietly doing their jobs don’t make good comedy.
“Maybe the reason we need to come to Maine is to encourage your politicians to do more ridiculous things?” said Newport, who dreamed that former governor and Senator-elect Angus King might be caught running around naked.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: