Skip to main Content
Alaska Life

Capitol Steps skewer Alaska on the shish-ka-bob

  • Author: Linda Billington
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published January 24, 2009

Alaska's very own "governor and would-be VP" took aim at a moose in the Atwood Concert Hall on Friday, but that wasn't the biggest potshot of the night.

After all, when the Capitol Steps squint into the spotting scope, everybody's fair game.

A mainstay of the D.C.-based comedy troupe is twisting the lyrics of well-known songs into acidic commentaries on current events. They're equal-opportunity gorers: When they take the stage, oxen run for cover.

On Friday, their targets included the Supreme Court's most geriatric members; Joe the Plumber; the health risks of everything from produce to toys; the shoe-hurling Iraqi journalist; and a range of American politicians from men's room denizen Sen. Larry Craig to failed GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. Just three days after Barack Obama unpacked his toothbrush in the White House, they incorporated his new job -- and his new secretary of state, Hillary Clinton -- into the routine.

Predictably, the capacity crowd roared whenever the Steps focused on Alaska's contributions to current affairs, which have been prominent of late.

Even before performers Mike Tilford, Bari Biorn, Mike Carruthers, Ann Johnson and Andy Clemence and pianist Marc Irwin took the stage, a disembodied voice noted that the Steps had been "featured on 'Extreme Makeover,' the Ted Stevens edition."

The "hottest governor from the coldest state" made an appearance sporting a red jacket accessorized by an ammo bandolier and a rifle. Biorn made a pretty darn entertaining Sarah Palin, rebutting campaign-trail carping about her lack of foreign-affairs experience: "Do I not serve Russian salad dressing at my home? ... I met Dick Cheney's daughter, and she's a Lebanese!"

Biorn also warbled a musical complaint about the lack of good shopping in Alaska: "I got no hankerage to stay here in Anchorage ... Neiman's is a girl's best friend."

Palin, Todd and the kids also popped up in a version of the Steps' signature "Lirty Dies." The solo piece, performed with tongue-twisting elan by Tilford, is a topical rant made funnier -- and bluer -- through transposition of letters. McCain, it seems, went Para Salin' for his running mate. Asked Tilford, "Was that a dot in the shark, or what?"

The Steps, in their various incarnations, have been doing this kind of thing since 1981, when some congressional staffers did a Christmas party show at the office of former Sen. Charles Percy. Nowadays, several troupes tour under the Steps' aegis.

Not all their bits are created equal. Among Friday's high points were "Obama Mia" and "Leader Like Barack," songs honoring the new commander-in-chief; "Help Me Honda," a plea from Detroit automakers; and "God Bless My SUV," from a good ol' boy celebrating his honkin' hunk of Detroit iron.

Less successful was a skit involving Secretary of State Clinton, Chinese leader Hu Jintao and a translator, which featured some entertaining body English from Carruthers as Hu, but dragged on too long.

However, that's a quibble. The Capitol Steps' mix of mania and musicianship had the audience laughing for two hours, a welcome respite in these tumultuous days. The Anchorage Concert Association needs to keep these guys on speed-dial. After all, who knows what Palin will be doing in 2012?

Daily News copy editor Linda Billington can be reached at


Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.