By Alison Baumgartner
Before they became The Capitol Steps, the joke is that they were just three put-upon staffers trying to put on a nativity play for a Congressional Christmas Party. But when they couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin, they decided to satirize their employers with song parodies and skits. Only the latter half of that is true, but it makes a good story.
From the very beginning, The Capitol Steps have always been on the cutting edge of political humor, even when it came to choosing their name. The year they were formed, a congressman was being lambasted for allegedly having relations on the steps of the Capitol Building. The scandal was just too much to pass up.
The members of the Capitol Steps didn’t quit their day jobs as staffers to pursue the stage until their day jobs quit them. Or to be more accurate, the senator they worked for lost his reelection bid and they were out of work. After that, they released an album and then dedicated themselves to the Steps full-time in 1987. Since their inception, The Capitol Steps have expanded their group to include other House staffers on both sides of the political spectrum, delivering some of the best political comedy around.
As art sometimes imitates life, they have been at the mercy of the things they satirize. In a sketch called “Pack the Knife, ” a nun is harassed as she tries to get through the TSA line at the airport. The nun leaves, and comes back with a suitcase that says “Acme A-Bomb” and then proceeds to waltz through, mocking the efficacy of airport security. That exact “Acme A-Bomb” prop got them into trouble at an actual airport, even though it was just a cardboard cutout, and sent them to airport security. Fortunately, a visit from the FBI hours later cleared it all up, and they were able to continue on their way.
Since their failed nativity play, The Capitol Steps have recorded over 30 albums, appeared on NBC, CBS, ABS, and PBS, and can be heard on NPR twice a year on Politics Takes a Holiday. They also have delivered their unique brand of comedy to Presidents.