The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 4, 2010

Political satire | Capitol Steps will perform at Pasquerilla arts center

BY TOM LAVIS
TLAVIS@TRIBDEM.COM

— Politics have been the subjects of cartoons and jokes for as long as there have been politicians, but few have taken it to the lofty heights as Capitol Steps.

The acclaimed humor troupe will perform at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.

The Capitol Steps’ members are touring in support of their latest album, “Liberal Shop of Horrors.”

Mark Eaton, a co-writer and performer who joined the Capitol Steps in 1993, said the audience should be prepared for bipartisan lampooning when the cast takes the stage.

“If something offends someone’s politics, we tell them to wait a few seconds because we will be taking swings at the other side next,” Eaton said.

“We like to say we are ‘equal opportunity bashers.’ ”

The troupe’s material changes with the political climate.

“Whether a person is a Democrat, Republican or Tea Party conservative, we view everyone as fair game,” Eaton said.

“In this day and age, Republican is sacred, especially when it comes to politics.”

Most of the performance follows a precise script, but ad-libs often producing some of the show’s funniest moments.

“There’s always enough leeway in a script to allow for some ad-libs, particularly if a state or town has a controversial issue,” Eaton said.

“Depending on the issue, the ad-lib becomes part of the script.”

Capitol Steps began in 1981 at a Christmas party in the office of former Sen. Charles Percy.

A group of Senate staffers set out to satirize the very people and places that employed them.

And like most things in Congress, they never knew when to stop.

Not all the current members are former Capitol Hill staffers, but collectively the performers have worked in 18 congressional offices and represent 62 years of House and Senate staff experience.

Since they began, the troupe has recorded more than 30 albums, including their special holiday release, “Barackin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

Eaton said the performance will feature five cast members and a pianist.

“People always say that the cast seems much larger, but we get a lot of mileage out of wild wigs and bad mustaches,” he said.

Another staple of the show is a segment titled “Lirty Dies.”

“Lirty Dies” are twisted spoonerisms, where the order of the sounds is mixed up, such as flutterby for butterfly.

“The key is to make it sound as dirty as we can,” laughed Eaton.

“Some cast members are better than others and can carry on a normal conversation in that fashion.”

Although Capitol Steps is based in Washington, D.C., most of its shows are out-of-town or for out-of-town audiences, whether it’s the National Welding Supply Association, a university audience, high schoolers or state legislators.

They know that no matter who holds office, there will never be a shortage of material.

Capitol Steps has performed for the past five president.

The only complaints the troupe  receives are from politicians and personalities who are not included in the program.

The material is updated constantly.

Current examples include the Democrats’ plan to defeat the deficit (“Return to Spenders”) and our own thoughts for health-care reform (“Cash for Codgers”).

In addition, the Capitol Steps tackle such topics as Tiger Woods (“Fly of the Tiger”) and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (“Don’t Cry, I’m in Argentina”).

But 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. They are the group who puts the “mock” in Democracy.

The group has produced quarterly specials for public radio and has been featured in three national specials for public television.

Tickets are available at the arts center box office, by calling (800) 846-2787 or 269-7200, or by logging onto www.upjarts.com.

Tickets are from $12 to $35.

Onstage

What: Capitol Steps.

Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19.

Tickets: Available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the box office or by calling 269-7200, (800) 846-2787 or visit www.upjarts.org.

Cost: From $12 to $35.