The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 8, 2024

Q&A with Mark Eaton of political comedy group Capitol Steps

The Black & White interviewed Mark Eaton, who writes and performs for the Capitol Steps. The musical and political humor group will perform at Whitman March 10, with proceeds benefiting Post Prom.

The Black & White: How did the Capitol Steps get started? Get their name?
Mark Eaton: We started a Senate office Christmas party back in 1981. We wanted to do a traditional nativity play, but in all of the Congress we couldn’t find 3 wise men or a virgin. The name came from a famous sex scandal of day where Cong. John Jenrette and his wife Rita claimed to have “fooled around” on the steps of the Capitol Building.

The Capitol Steps perform in Asheville, NC. They will be performing at Whitman March 10. Photo courtesy blog.ashevillechamber.org.

B&W: Did you work on Capitol Hill? What brought you to D.C.?
ME: I did work on the Hill for nearly 10 years. I have lived in northern VA for most of my life and worked summer jobs on the Hill. So it seemed logical, and I was a Political Science major.

B&W: When did you join the group?
ME:I joined in 1993 as a part-time performer. In 1999 I lost my mind and started doing it full-time.

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B&W: What is it about politics – and this city – that creates such great fodder for comedy?
ME:People always love laughing at the powerful and the rich. It’s just a way to make us all feel better. If we didn’t laugh at some of the issues of the day, we’d probably be crying about them.

B&W: Do you come from a music/acting/improv background? What about the rest of the cast?
ME:I don’t. I did some high school and community theatre, but never was in drama or thespians and never took it that seriously. Much more of the office wise guy. While we originally started with everyone having to work on the Hill, we now have mostly professional performers who have done various singing, acting, etc. as a career.

B&W: As a writer, what is your role in creating a show? What’s the process like – how do you work with the other performers?
ME:The writing process can come about in many ways. You might hear a song on the radio and decide it will work well, or you have a random idea and jam it into a popular tune. Or you just know a subject needs to be addressed and you try just about anything to see what strikes a chord with the audience. We give our performers a lot of lee weigh in interpreting the song/skit, and let them find a way of doing it they are comfortable with.

B&W: Does the show change every night? How do the Capitol Steps keep skits relevant and current?
ME:It doesn’t change every night, but we like to think it changes as the headlines change. We keep it relevant by picking up a newspaper !

B&W: What song or skit did you have a hand in creating that you’re most proud of?
ME:I always loved an early George Bush song I wrote to “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee. Laura warns George “Don’t go faking you’re smart.” George says, “I couldn’t if I tried.”

B&W: What’s your schedule like as a member of the Capitol Steps? What’s it like touring with the group?
ME:I don’t perform nearly as much as some of the other folks since I also work in the office. Unlike some group that get on a bus and then route out a trip, we do lots of stand alone shows or a couple in the same area. But we don’t do a month on the road or anything like that. During Presidential election years, the fall can be very busy and a cast might be on the road for 25 out of 30 days – but that includes lots of early morning flights and driving between venues.

B&W: Are other parts of the country as keyed-in to political humor as Washingtonians?
ME: I think Washingtonian are a bit more keyed in simply because everything revolves around politics and DC, and most families have somebody that either works for the government, or you certainly know a bunch of folks that do.

B&W: Give Whitman students and parents a reason to come to the show March 10.
ME: A very fast-paced look at the lighter side of politics. We are equal opportunity offenders. So if you don’t like us making fun of the GOP, just hold on because we are going after the Democrats next.

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