Those of you who enjoy the lighter side of politics — and this time around it’s better to laugh than cry — there’s a troupe of pundits known as the Capitol Steps out of Washington D.C. who present politics in a way that shows the humorous side of things. They will be coming to Maine for a couple of shows and an interview was arranged with Mark Eaton, who was reached at the company’s office in our nation’s capital. He was more than happy to chat about his group and what they do so well.

Q: I understand you guys are coming up our way to do a show at Kents Hill School.

Eaton: Ah, we are — that’s correct!

Q: Fantastic!

Eaton: Yeah, no kidding. Where’s Kents Hill?

Q: Over in western Maine outside of Augusta. Have you ever been up in that area before?

Eaton: You know, we’ve done several spots in Maine, but I don’t know about that general area.

Q: Well, it’s very beautiful up there.

Eaton: Good, good. I guess we’re on our way to Orono the next day so we’ve got a little Maine double-header.

Q: Oh, that’ s good to know. I wasn’t aware of the show in Orono. Is it at UMO?

Eaton: Yes, it is.

Q: Oh, great. But where do I begin? I mean I love what you guys do immensely and have been a fan for a long while, too, so I have to ask: Is this election cycle a godsend or what?

Eaton: (Laughter) Well, it certainly is. I mean, rarely have we had two candidates who are so target rich. I always laugh that people say, “Oh, it doesn’t get any better than this, does it?” Well, people have been telling us that since Reagan was in office, since Bush senior came in with Quayle, since we had the motherlode of all political comedy in Bill Clinton, since we had George Bush. So we kind of get used to people saying, “Oh, it doesn’t get any better than this!” But as far as probably just two candidates that have a lot of fodder — yes, this is as good as it gets.

Q: Yeah, I realize that both of them have their own amount of baggage, but it just seems to me that you could do an entire show on Mr. Trump alone.

Eaton: Yeah, and that gets to be a little bit of the issue, you know. How much do you have him in the show? I think he makes three appearances in our show currently, and I think Hillary does about the same. A couple of weeks ago we tried a Trump tax return song and come out and just sing “Please Release Me,” and so we did it and it worked very well and it was fine. But then it was getting too one-sided. You’ve got to be equal opportunity offenders at some point.

Q: How long does it take you to come up with the material? I understand from the gentleman who set up this interview that you are the principal songwriter for the troupe.

Eaton: Well, there’s basically two of us that are the writers in the group. Eliana Newport is one of the founders and myself do the majority of the writing. But to answer your question, sometimes a song idea hits you and you write it in five or 10 minutes. Sometimes that’s the funniest stuff. Other times you grind it out and it takes you a month or so. We just have to hurl stuff at audiences. There’s plenty of things that we think are funny that just get you blank stares and polite golf applause as you leave the stage. So the audience is the ultimate arbiter of what goes in or what goes out of the show.

Q: Speaking of shows, how many do you do over the course of a year?

Eaton: Oh generally, probably around five hundred shows.

Q: Wow!

Eaton: We’re a mix-and-match bunch, and we can be in several places at once. And in an election year we might be about to do 600, maybe even a little more. From the first day of September through election day we’re pretty darn busy.

Q: How many troupes do you have?

Eaton: We have the ability to be in four places at once. In the fall it’s a little harder, but typically you might do a show with four other cast members. The next time you show up there’s one person who was there before and three different people. We kind of like to be mixed up so that people don’t fall into ruts as performing stuff exactly the same way all the time.

Q: Well, that makes sense in that it keeps things fresh for all of you as well as the audiences.

Eaton: Yeah, exactly.

Q: How many folks will be coming up to Maine?

Eaton: There will be five performers along with a pianist, so six people you actually see, and then we have an extra crew person for the heavy lifting.

Q: When did the Capitol Steps start?

Eaton: We started in 1981 originally at a Senate Christmas party. As legend would have it, we wanted to do a traditional Nativity play, but in all of Congress we couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin.

Q: I think we’ve touched all the bases unless there’s something that we haven’t touched on that you think we should.

Eaton: Only that if folks have not seen us, what they particularly want to know is kind of how the show works, and I always tell folks in a 90-minute show — which is what we’ll be performing at Bodham Performing Arts Center — there might be probably like 26 to 30 different song parody skits. It’s very fast-paced. Four people might come on and sing a song, and Barack will be coming on right after them, and when he’s done two other people come on. You might see Vladimir Putin, you’re going to see the Pope, you might see Tim Kaine, you’re going to see Hillary, you’re going to see Trump. So it’s a very fast-paced, moving cavalcade of characters.

Q: Is there anything you would like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Eaton: I don’t know. Maybe if you like to pimp people’s websites, we always like to tell folks to drop by because we have some of the songs on there. Sometimes there’s an old, archival song. But our website is, and we like to tell people if there’s breaking news, they can come to our website and find out what rhymes with it!

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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