Comedy Troupe Performs in Sanders

Upholding a decade-long tradition, the political satire comedy troupe Capitol Steps performed yesterday afternoon before a packed Sanders Theatre.

During the two-hour show entitled "Who Put the Mock in Democracy?," the professional comedians of Capitol Steps were quick to capitalize on the comic material Harvard offers.

In one skit, a member of the troupe, dressed as a private eye, joked about the changes President Bush has made in the nation's capital. For years Harvard graduates would travel back and forth between Washington D.C. and Boston; now 10,000 Harvard alumni all move in one direction--back to Boston--to make room for Bush's friends from Texas, the detective quipped.

Much of the performance focused on the recent presidential election between Bush and Democratic nominee Al Gore '69.

One performer joked that Harvard seniors need not worry if their test scores were too low for acceptance to graduate school--the new tradition is to demand a recount.

Capitol Steps' annual Harvard performance has special meaning for its director, William A. Strauss '69, who noted that he graduated with Gore, who is now prime fodder for the Steps' antics.

Strauss--a founding member of the Capitol Steps--said he remembers sitting in Sanders Theatre as a Harvard first-year, and now enjoys performing on the very same stage.

The Capitol Steps had an inauspicious beginning at a Christmas party in December of 1981. Several Congressional employees planned to entertain their guests with scathing impersonations, songs and skits, mocking their Capitol Hill employers.

In the early 1980s, Capitol Steps actors were all former Congressional staffers.

Strauss said he remembers "colorful" skits with his co-workers in the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee.

"If politicians can be entertainers, then entertainers can be politicians," Strauss said.

After enjoying nearly two decades of nationwide success, Capitol Steps now takes on professional actors and pianists, and even performers who have no experience working on Capitol Hill.

The group has recorded twenty albums and has appeared on "Good Morning America," "The Today Show,"

"20/20" and "Entertainment Tonight."

--Contributing writer Robert M. Annis can be reached at annis@fas.harvard.edu.