The Capitol Steps turn American scandal into song


Courtesy of Stephens Auditorium

Between previous and current members, The Capitol Steps have a combined 62 years of Senate and House staffing experience.

Kyle Cravens

It’s 2018, and it would seem we are living amidst a sort of contemporary renaissance concerning political satire in America.

The genre has become almost unavoidable, it has melded its way into late night talk shows, all facets of social media and even trusted news outlets. However, a political satire troupe has been turning American scandals into skit and song since 1981. The Capitol Steps was initially formed by three Republican congressional staffers who used their spare time to write parodies on current events.

Bill Strauss, Elaina Newport and Jim Aidala were soon joined by a bevy of other Republican staffers. They chose the name “The Capitol Steps” after a scandal involving former Congressman John Jenrette having sex with his wife on the steps of the Capitol Building.

Today the troupe is primarily comprised of professional singers and actors, though some of the original congressional staffers remain. They have released over 40 albums that feature parodied songs with their most recent album, “Make America Grin Again” releasing just this year. The Capitol Steps have performed in venues all over the country and on television specials. They will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Stephens Auditorium. Ames will get their chance to laugh through some of America’s great political blunders involving the Reagan administration onward.

Elaina Newport was there that fateful Christmas party December 11, 1981, the first show The Capitol Steps performed. It was the kickstart to a career Newport may never have anticipated. She is now the only founding member to have remained in the troupe since its inception.

“I’m the only remaining original member, but many of our performers have been with the group twenty or more years,” Newport said. “People rarely leave. It’s like running away and joining the circus. Plus, who would hire us for a serious job at this point?”

The audition process is one of Newport’s favorite parts of the Capitol Steps. Vocalists must be multi talented to fit in the singing troupe.

“Someone will come in and sing a song, and they’ll obviously have a great voice, so I’ll listen, then I’ll say, ‘OK, now sing that song like Kim Jong Un would sing it,'” Newport said. “They look at me like I’m crazy, but once they join the group they realize, that’s the job!”

Because of the troupes storied history, selecting which skits and song parodies get placed in a typical performance isn’t easy. Newport assures fan favorites are never forgotten although new material is showcased.

“At our live shows, we draw heavily from our newest album, ‘Make America Grin Again,’ but there are some evergreen songs from previous albums that still make the show,” Newport said. “Our show doesn’t really change based on location. It’s based on national headlines. So, we have all the major players – not just Trump and Pence, but the other side of the aisle, too – Schumer, Pelosi, and of course Bernie.”

Newport would go on to lend some insight into how they formulate skits and songs. Forty albums is a lot of material, but there doesn’t seem to be an end to the creative output.

“The process of writing a song varies,” Newport said, “Sometimes we look for a good pun, like ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea,’ or the Democrats singing ‘All About the Base.’ … I don’t listen to the news and think ‘Is this good for the country? Or bad?’ I think, ‘Is it funny? And what rhymes with it?’”

The Capitol Steps perform 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at Stephens Auditorium. Tickets are available at Stephens Auditorium box office, online at, or by calling 800-745-3000. Student rush tickets will start at $10.

“We’re looking forward to coming your way,” said Newport, “After all, Iowans are very political, and you are probably already getting visits from potential candidates for 2020. We need to encourage everyone in Iowa to support the funniest candidates.”