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The Capitol Steps comedy troupe.

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During the past few years, members of the Capitol Steps comedy troupe have been accused of training their satiric sights a little too regularly on George W. Bush and his Republican pals in Washington. But Mark Eaton, a member of the group for more than a decade, maintains that the Steps are just as nonpartisan as they've ever been.

"We've always tried to be equal opportunity offenders," he said in a telephone interview. "But in the last few years it's been the Republicans in power, so they're the ones who have been making most of the headlines."

Fortunately, the current election year is providing plenty of bipartisan fodder for the song parodies and other silliness in the "Special 2004 Election Tour" that the Washington-based group will bring to the Franciscan Theatre & Conference Center of Lourdes College in Sylvania on Sunday evening.

"Where else are you going to see John Kerry doing country line dancing to the song 'Fakey Purple Heart' (to the tune of 'Achy Breaky Heart') or George Bush singing 'Ain't No Surplus, Now It's Gone' (to the tune of 'Ain't No Sunshine')?" asked Eaton.

The comedy troupe was formed in 1981 when three Senate staff members got together to provide entertainment for a Christmas party.

The operation eventually grew from a handful of moonlighting staff members to full-time professional troupes that make hundreds of appearances a year across the country.

Eaton himself has a decade of Capitol Hill experience, much of it on the staff of North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms. After leaving Helms' staff, Eaton said, "people were surprised to find that I could actually walk upright."

Over the years, the Steps have released two dozen albums, chronicling, among other things, the Clinton years, the reign of George the First, and, of course, The Gipper. This year's album, titled "Papa's Got a Brand New Baghdad," includes such offerings as "Ain't No Surplus, Now It's Gone," "Help Rwanda," "Kobe Bryant Jewelers," and "I Wish I Was on Oxycontin."

Last year's album, called "Between Iraq and a Hard Place," featured titles like "Hang Down Your Head Tom Daschle," "Clinton Thinks the French Have a Lot of Gaul," and "God Bless My SUV."

Most of the group's albums are available on the group's Web site (www.capsteps.com) and at its shows.

The Steps also have published a book, Sixteen Scandals: 20 Years of Sex, Lies and Other Habits of Our Great Leaders, which promises to take readers back to a simpler time, "when Russia was still the 'Evil Empire,' ketchup was a vegetable, and there was barely one George Bush, let alone two."

The Capitol Steps comedy troupe will appear at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Franciscan Theatre & Conference Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd. in Sylvania. Tickets are $35. Information: 419-824-3999.

Contact Mike Kelly at: mkelly@theblade.com

or 419-724-6131.

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