The timing of the Naples performance of Capitol Steps couldn’t be better. For starters, it’s a presidential election year.
And, for a musical that satirizes politicians, Halloween seems like the perfect night.
The comedy troupe began 30 years ago when a group of Senate staffers decided to satirize their bosses, who seemed to supply never-ending material, at a Christmas party.
In December 1981, staffers for the late Sen. Charles Percy, R-Ill., created the first Capitol Steps show, and the cast kept going, creating and performing political parodies in skits and song.
Capitol Steps founding member Elaina Newport worked for seven years on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant to Percy and then for Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y.
Not every current cast member of the Capitol Steps is a former Capitol Hill staffer, but collectively, the performers have worked in 18 congressional offices and have more than six decades of House and Senate staff experience.
Newport is excited to come back to the Philharmonic Center for the Arts for the show in Naples on Wednesday.
“It’s a gorgeous part of the world. The audience is great, and the facility is beautiful,” said Newport, who considers herself an “extreme moderate.” “We’re having a great time with the election this year. Primary season was fantastic, and both sides get very ridiculous when they get very far out on the fringes.”
Where: Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31
To buy: 239-597-1900 or online at ThePhil.org
Newport said it’s usually easier for them to create a performance if they have a clear idea of who will win the election, but sometimes it’s very close, such as the Al Gore vs. George W. Bush race in 2000. In those cases, they create two versions of the show and perform the appropriate one the winner is determined. In pre-election Naples, however, they will get to tell jokes on both sides.
Newport, her cast and writers look for who the funniest candidates are, which ones they can parody and what rhymes with their names.
“It’s great when we can rhyme with the names, and for that reason we were dreading a Tim Pawlenty presidency,” she said, laughing.
“Any segment (of history) can be funny. The point is to make the characters look ridiculous,” she said of Capitol Steps’ brand of humor. “For example, we took the musical ‘Grease’ and made our own musical called ‘Greece’. It wasn’t a funny subject to begin with, but we made it that way.”
There is a fast turnaround on creating current material for Capitol Steps, and there is a lot of rewriting involved. Sometimes, the candidates seem to hand them an abundance of material. When news outlets reported Mitt Romney had once strapped his dog in a carrier to the roof of a car, a Capitol Steps cast member donned a dog suit and jumped atop a car to sing “Up on the Roof.”
“It’s election year, and with the world as it is, you need a laugh, right?” Newport said. “No president will solve all of the problems of the world, so might as well vote for the funniest guy.”
Capitol Steps have recorded more than two dozen albums, and their latest is “Take the Money and Run — for President.” Some of their better-known musical parodies include Joe Biden singing a rock song, Obama belting a show tune, and Mitt Romney rapping.
One of Newport’s favorite songs over the years was called “Boris Yeltsin is the Hardest Rhyme.”
The show is PG-13, but the bipartisan show does cover topics like the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal.
Capitol Steps is headquartered in Washington, D.C., close to the sources of the show’s material. Newport said many people see the show a number of times because it’s fresh, changing often.
“It’s a really fun moment when the audience realizes that something is really new, but we also don’t get ahead of the audience — we wait until the story settles in,” she said.