Florida has long been a breeding ground for odd comic material. Maybe that's why the Capitol Steps love coming to the Sunshine State, which has offered some of the best political hijinks in recent years, helping the troupe beef up its act.
"You were really strong in 2000," said Elaina Newport, co-founder of Capitol Steps. "I actually got to play a hanging chad, which I really enjoyed."
While playing a chad, she sang a medley called "You Keep Me Hanging On."
While the troupe is in town, performing at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Tuesday, Newport hopes Florida will try harder to get involved on the political front. Especially when the competition for mockery has been so fierce.
"Now you're a little less funny than Alaska and South Carolina," said Newport, who spent seven years working as a legislative assistant to Sen. Charles Percy and later to Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.
The troupe is returning to Sarasota after a five-year hiatus. Its show, which has moved on to fresher material in the ever-changing political landscape, is nearly sold out.
For those not in the know, Capitol Steps found its fame through song parodies — at the expense of politics. The group began at a Christmas party for former Sen. Charles Percy in 1981. Three congressional staffers got together, one of them being Newport, and created song parodies and skits based on the events of the time.
Soon word spread fast about the politically polished group, making them the hottest ticket on Pennsylvania Avenue. Since then, the troupe has been featured on public television and radio.
The latest songs include "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea," using the familiar tune from "The Sound of Music," and a Joe Biden-inspired tune "Return To Spenders," using an old Elvis hit. Then there's the troupe's newest holiday album, "Barackin' Around the Christmas Tree."
Even pop culture isn't immune. The troupe has poked fun at Tiger Woods through its "Eye of the Tiger" parody.
If American politics and pop culture were a musical, it would definitely be something similar to the hilarity Capitol Steps offers.
"We're like 'Glee,'" Newport said of the troupe. "It is a very weird way to make a living, of course. Whenever I walk around listening to the news or something, I'm not thinking what's good for the country or what's bad for the country. I'm thinking what's just happened and what rhymes with it to make it funny."
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