Friday, December 11, 2009

The Capitol Steps

I caught the Capitol Steps comedy troupe in Scottsdale, AZ, around Thanksgiving. The group was formed by staff members for lawmakers in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s. Today there are still members who were former staffers, but the act has become professionalized. See their info at .

The show I saw was 90 solid minutes of parody in songs, many laugh-out-loud funny. Much of the material is sophomoric – weak jokes that you would expect from a college skit. The quality was uneven. Some of it was deliciously wicked however and those are the moments that justify the ticket price ($50).

There were several jokes set to Beatles tunes. A healthcare parody went well with “When I’m 64.” And Paul McCartney’s “Let it Be” is a natural for ribbing erstwhile presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Those phrases were made for each other. The quality of the singing was remarkably good, enjoyable in its own right. The piano accompaniment (actually leadership) was a driving force.

Of course nearly all the jokes were political, which is the whole point of the show, but there were a few fat and diet jokes that didn’t really fit in, and weren’t too funny either, but they probably realized they were playing to an older audience and couldn’t go wrong there.

Most of the material was surprisingly outdated. There was a number on Sarah Palin promoting her new book, and that was about as recent as they got. Otherwise, there were allusions to old news stories and scandals going back a year or two. Perhaps they choose material that is already well established in the public consciousness, otherwise the allusions would not be funny. The main source of their humor is to flatter the audience with allusions that only the moderately well-informed would understand, so they have to be careful to skirt obscurity. But making fun of Kim Jong Il is really old hat. Cartoon characters do that now.

The material goes by so fast and it is all a collection of non-sequiturs anyway, so it is difficult to remember what was presented. There were the obvious and well-worn Joe Biden and Nancy Peolosi jokes, plenty on health care. Very few on Obama, and what they did have was not very funny. Maybe he is still too new to satirize well. There was a rousing parody of the Beach Boys’ tune, “Help Me Rhonda” but the diction was not very good on that one and I wasn’t sure what it was about. It might have been “Help me ‘Bama” but I’m not sure. There was a very nice piece based on Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina (exceptionally well-sung, too), that substituted Appalachia for Argentina and parodied a recent sex scandal involving a senator.

Anyway, I laughed until I had tears in my eyes, so I was satisfied. The material was not that sharp overall, but there were enough zingers to keep it lively.

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