Washington — It's been a bountiful season for political satire. ``Being a satirist during a time of scandal and upheaval is like being a bankruptcy lawyer during a time of economic distress,'' says Bill Strauss, leader and cofounder of the Capitol Steps, this town's premier political satire musical group. ``Right now, there's almost too much material out there for us.''
The group's latest project, not surprisingly, is a new song about the Iranian/contra arms fiasco. ``Sometimes a story needs to run its course a bit before we can think up the right song,'' says the soft-spoken lawyer who writes most of the group's lyrics.
The satirical songsmiths persevered, however, and crafted a tune based on the 1960s classic ``Who Put the Bomb,'' which includes the line: ``Who put de bomb in Teh-ran, Teh-ran, Teh-ran? Who put de ban in Iran for ayatollah? Who put de buck in de bank in Switzerland? Who put de chit in de mit de contra guy?''
The group, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this month, is made up of eight men and women - all present or former Capitol Hill staff members. They work in offices by day; but by night and on weekends, they take to the stage, performing in nightclubs and for private audiences.
They've been praised by Democratic and Republican bigwigs alike, a testament to their carefully honed bipartisan image.
The biggest problem is the rhymes.
``Have you ever tried to rhyme Boesky?'' he asks. ``Thank goodness his first name is Ivan; that's a cinch: connivin', thrivin', the possibilities are endless.''
Although the latest revelations from Wall Street or the White House offer the juiciest material, the group's nimble parodies take aim at just about any topic.
The group has a song about the global arms race called ``We Arm the World,'' sung to the tune from last year's mega-fund-raiser, and an ode to the National Rifle Association with the line: ``Boys just want to have guns,'' sung to Cyndi Lauper's ``Girls Just Want to Have Fun.''
There's also the constant challenge to stay on top of the news, an essential element in good political satire.
When American mercenary Eugene Hasenfus was captured in Nicaragua, for instance, the group scrambled to insert references to him into their song about the contras (a ditty sung to the tune of a John Denver classic and including the line: ``Thank God I'm a contra boy!'').
Strauss says at times like this, ``A good scandal is like a good English muffin, it's full of interesting nooks and crannies.'' They'll no doubt be exploring this batch for some time to come.