Political satire at its best comes to Beaver Creek with Capitol Steps show | VailDaily.com

Political satire at its best comes to Beaver Creek with Capitol Steps show

Melanie Wong
Capitol Steps was started 30 years ago by a group of Senate staffers who were looking to satirize the very people and places that employed them. The act took off, and now they do hundreds of shows around the country each year.
Michael M. Reyna | Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: Capitol Steps present “Mock the Vote.”

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13.

Cost: $58.

More information: http://www.vilarpac.org or http://www.capsteps.com.

With the country’s current political landscape, there’s no shortage of giggle-worthy material for a comedy group to work with, and veteran comedians Capitol Steps are taking full advantage.

This year’s show is called “Mock the Vote,” and regardless of your political leanings, it will have you rolling with laughter with its impersonations of everyone from Donald Trump to the Pope and its clever remakes of popular songs. (In one number, Donald Trump sings a parody of a chart-topping pop song, retitled “Shut Up and Vote for Me.”) It’s politics meets Weird Al Yankovic meets “Saturday Night Live.”

“It’s a very fast-paced look at the issues and topics of the day, and we try to have fresh material as often as the headlines change,” said Capitol Steps writer, performer and manager Mark Eaton. “We’ll have Barack come out and say a few things, then Vladimir Putin, Raul Castro and even the Pope. Of course Trump is dominating the whole discussion right now. The problem is it’s hard to be funnier than he is.”

Catch “Mock the Vote” at the Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Capitol Steps came to the Vilar Center a number of years ago, and Vilar Executive Director Kris Sabel said he’s excited to have the group return.

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“We are very excited to have them return this year in particular, as we know they’ll have an incredibly funny program using the current political dialogue that’s going on. The fact that it’s an election year will make this show a ton of fun and will give the show some added amusing material to cover,” Sabel said. “All you need to do is watch the news to realize how much unlimited, comical material they have to choose from this year.”

Off the hill

Their repertoire includes singalong favorites such as a medley from “Greece! The Musical,” where leaders of Germany, Greece and France sing a parody about the European Union’s bailout woes to the tune of the hit musical “Grease.” In another popular YouTube video, Uncle Sam sings “Buy, Buy American Pie” about the problems that arise when we buy cheap products from overseas. At the Vilar show, expect the group to tackle remakes of everything from “Frozen” to “Wizard of Oz.”

Another perennial favorite is a segment called “Lirty Dies,” where current events are read in spoonerisms. The effect, for whatever reason, is utterly hilarious.

“One of the original founders decided he’d try some headlines and topics using that kind of backwards talk. It sounds so silly, and people just love it. It’s just amusing,” Eaton said.

Since Capitol Steps began in 1981, it has recorded more than 35 albums and has been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS and can be heard twice a year on National Public Radio stations nationwide during their “Politics Takes a Holiday” radio specials.

They’re especially in demand during election years. The group is made up of about 25 performers, and some years they’ll do as many as 500 shows.

“The fall before the elections in 2008, we did 113 shows in October alone,” Eaton said.

They’ve also had the opportunity to perform for five U.S. presidents. (They say six, if you include Hillary.) Believe it or not, many thoroughly enjoyed it, especially George Bush Sr., who asked the performers to do the bits about him.

“He asked if we could do the stuff about him and sat back down. There had been some things that we were told don’t do this and this, but we did this song making fun of him for an incident where he forgot the date of Pearl Harbor. He absolutely loved it,” Eaton said.

Equal opportunity offenders

Capitol Steps began one December when a group of Senate staffers set out to create some entertainment for a Christmas party. As the group’s official bio puts it, “Their first idea was to stage a nativity play, but in the whole Congress, they couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin! So, they decided to dig into the headlines of the day and created song parodies and skits which conveyed a special brand of satirical humor that was as popular in Peoria as it was on Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Even today, many of the group members have a background in politics. Eaton was working as a lobbyist when he saw an ad for Capitol Steps members and thought it’d be fun.

“I joined in 1993 as a part-time member when I was still working on the Hill. I lost my mind in 1999 and joined full time,” he said.

The Vilar’s Sabel said the show and the humor can appeal to all audiences and ages, no matter your political bent.

“Capitol Steps has always been a (Vilar) favorite because they poke fun at both sides of the spectrum and both sides of issues — no topic or party is off limits,” he said. “They really get to the heart of the matter with their jokes, and it’s just a ton of fun to watch no matter what political connections you may or may not have.”

Not to say that some people don’t take offense once in awhile.

“I think it’s impossible not to offend someone, but if people know what we are and what we’re doing, they’d get it,” said Eaton. “We try to be equal opportunity offenders.”

Assistant Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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