David Manning Trivial Liars of the Month for February 2004

The Capitol Steps

As we plunge into the political climate of an election year, we can expect to hear more from The Capitol Steps. Yes, this celebrated political satire group is pretty harmless, it’s true. The original troupe was made up of Capitol Hill staffers whose wit was usually more on pitch than their singing, but that was the appeal: conventions and other clients were amused by the novelty of political "insiders" using song parodies to bite the hands that fed them.

But over time, the competitive nature of the musical satire market forced The Capitol Steps to replace virtually all of its Christmas party skit-quality amateurs with real performing professionals, full-time actors and singers from the Washington D.C. theater scene, and that’s what the group is made up of now. They sing better, their timing’s better, but they have no more Capital Hill experience (and usually less) than the audiences in front of them. Still, the group learned that the rubes were more supportive (and less demanding) when they thought they were watching real live Hill staffers who happened to sing a little, rather than actors who sometimes couldn’t explain the rudiments of the policy or news story they were spoofing. More to the point, the Hill staff connection was a vital marketing asset. So The Capital Steps promotional material and it website baldly states:

The Capitol Steps, the only group in America that attempts to be funnier than the Congress, is a troupe of current and former Congressional staffers who monitor events and personalities on Capitol Hill, in the Oval Office, and in other centers of power and prestige around the world and then take a humorous look at serious issues while providing a nationwide laugh for millions…

This is false, and they know it, but you will still hear the Steps described this way, for example, when they are heard on National Public Radio. Does it matter? Let’s ask David Manning.

Justin Timberlake

Let’s see…the song he was singing promised to have a woman "naked by the end of this song." He emphatically and cleanly pulled off a detachable piece of Janet Jackson’s costume, exposing her naked right breast, at the "button" of the number, the choreographed musical beat that signals a song’s end. A back-out followed on the next beat. The previous choreography on display had been so explicit and raunchy that only something dramatic, representing an escalation of action, could serve as the climax of the song.

Following the performance, Mr. Timberlake leeringly alluded to the move being "quick, slick, and to the point." Yet we are supposed to believe his craven mea culpa with the excuse that there was "a wardrobe malfunction."

Talk about adding insult to injury.

Mr. Timberlake’s proper course was to take responsibility for his role in Janet Jackson’s surprise strip like an ethical adult. Instead, he chose to emulate the old joke in which a husband is caught in bed with another woman and protests to his wife, "Which are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" His absurd lie, in contradiction of both the videotape and his own comments, shows that he lacks common sense and character as well as ethics.

View the definition of Trivial Liars and a list of "winners" from previous months.



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