Capitol Steps Brings Political Satire to Campus

Nothing was off limits last Thursday when Capitol Steps came to campus to put the “mock” in “democracy.”

Capitol Steps is a comedy troupe that satirizes political issues, scandals, news and officials. The performers hail from Washington, D.C., and according to their website, began performing in 1981, when they exclusively consisted of congressional staffers. They have since recorded over 30 albums and have been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS.

Thursday’s show, which was this year’s final Witt Series event, brought about 200 people to the HPER Center — most of who were Springfield residents — and ran about 90 minutes.

The performance threw jabs at politicians and elected officials of all stripes, mostly through spoof songs that played on language surrounding scandals or polarizing issues.

A National Security Agency [NSA] officer, for example, tweaked Police’s “Every Breath You Take” to poke fun at the recent revelations that the government participated in Internet and phone surveillance.

“Every click you make, every porn site break, Instagrams you take, each sick day you fake — I’ll be watching you,” Brian Ash, one of the performers, sang.

Foreign affairs and leaders were also on the receiving end of the comedy — most notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was portrayed as a shirtless, belly-scratching narcissist.

Just before performing an age-old Russian folk song that was purportedly written by him, he said he could not meet U.S. officials because he “got Snowden,” playing off the harsh weather of Russia, as well as their government’s willingness to grant temporary asylum to political dissident Edward Snowden. The joke was met with laughs, cheers and jeers.

Though this was just one of the many polarizing topics prodded through one-liners, the show was well received overall.

“It was terrific,” Sherrin Brown, Springfield resident said. Brown, who has seen the group before, said they never disappoint. “They are always funny.”

Freshman Meredith Hood shared a similar sentiment.

“The show was definitely worth my time,” Hood said. “I rarely stopped laughing.”

When Hood wasn’t laughing, she was sending her father quotes from the show.

“They were too good not to repeat,” she said.

Prior to the performance, chair of the political science department Staci Rhine sent a campus-wide email encouraging people to attend, citing their funny, engaging and entertaining commentary on relevant issues.

“Speaking as a political scientist and beleaguered news junkie, a good dose of humor is necessary, as campaign 2016 is already underway,” she wrote.

Politicians were the punch lines of most jokes, but the group reminded the audience that the joke was actually on them. To end the show, the five performers flaunted a sign that read: “You elected them!”

Beyond political issues, the group also made jokes on pop culture icons.

“Is he white or is he black?” the group asked of Michael Jackson.

During the “Lirty Dies,” a monologue in which the speaker switches the first letter of adjacent words to create and play on near-obscenities, Ash spent a few moments remarking on Bill Cosby and the controversy surrounding the various sexual assault and rape accusations.

Though Capitol Steps didn’t pull any punches, most said it was all in good fun.

“I think their jokes were more than fair,” Hood explained. “They weren’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings; I think they just genuinely wanted to make the audience happy.”

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