The 2016 presidential election has been a wild ride, with unexpected twists, strong personalities and more candidates than you can shake a stick at. And for political comedy writers, this campaign season has offered a smorgasbord of material.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Elaina Newport, co-founder of the Capitol Steps.
The Washington-based political satire musical group comes to Lansing Monday for a show benefitting the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. The Capitol Steps, which bills itself as putting “the mock back in Democracy,” comprises former and current U.S. Senate staffers. Its members work for politicians by day and skewer their bosses on stage by night.
When the group was founded in 1981, only performers with political experience could audition, but today members come from diverse backgrounds. Newport worked as a legislative assistant for seven years until Capitol Steps was big enough to become a full-time job.
Newport and her co-founders were initially worried that their employers would be bothered by the project.
“We thought the senators would say, ‘Hey, stop this,’” recalled Newport. “But they didn’t say that. They thought it was fun and invited us to perform.”
The group’s most recent album, “What to Expect When You’re Electing,” was released in April. The 17-track collection is full of songs about this year’s abundant cast of would-be presidential candidates, including “Hello, Is It Mitt You’re Looking For?” and “Kasich is the Hardest Rhyme.”
As the election season develops, so do Capitol Steps’ shows.
“Over the primary season, we had a lot of our favorite songs drop out of the show,” Newport said. “It’s very sad for us when we lose Jeb Bush or someone like that.”
As the race for the presidency heats up, the Capitol Steps’ writers aim to roast each side equally.
“We enjoy twice the jokes that way,” said Newport. “There are times in our history where it’s been a challenge. The party in power is always funnier, and you have to reach to find the joke on either side.”
Monday’s show promises Capitol Steps’ version of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Both candidates offer unique opportunities for performers — the female cast members are excited to portray a presidential candidate for once — but writers are careful not to put their thumb on the scales.
“From a comedy standpoint, we’re very conflicted,” said Newport. “What’s good for the country is not necessarily good for us. I learned my lesson in the ‘90s when I rooted for Bob Dole because he was funnier, not knowing that the Lewinsky scandal was yet to come.”
Whichever side of the party line they may sit on, attendees are promised a chance to laugh at their candidate and the other guy.
“If you’ve ever wanted to see Hillary Clinton sing a rock song or Trump sing a pop song,” Newport teased, “then this is the show for you.”
The Capitol Steps
11 a.m.-noon Monday, Oct. 3
Causeway Bay Hotel 6820 S. Cedar St., Lansing
(517) 323-1045, capsteps.com