Meet the Prez

By Don Oldenburg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 25, 2005

Moments after Jay Leno ripped President Bush in his monologue one night last week the "Tonight Show" host interviewed "the president," "via satellite" from "Kyoto, Japan."

A grinning president, looking not quite himself, appeared, greeting Leno in botched Japanese. Leno asked what he thinks of the Kyoto Accord.

"Kyoto Accord, Kias, Hondas -- Jay, all those little foreign cars, same thing," said the commander-in-chief, his shoulders doing a bumpkin-like bounce as he heh-heh-hehs.

Leno asked the purpose for the trip.

Bush: "We want to bring democracy to Japan."

Leno: "Mr. President, Japan is a democracy!"

Bush smiled wide, looked directly into the camera and with an exaggerated thumbs-up gesture replied, "Mission accomplished!"

Big audience laugh.

To look the part for his brief "Tonight Show" appearances, 42-year-old impersonator Steve Bridges undergoes 2 1/2 hours of prosthetic makeup. He's been refining his Bush impression for more than four years.

"I try to become that person in a funny way. I try to act like him, from the mannerisms to the phraseology," says Bridges, who does an amiable dullard Bush, one who answers an avian flu question from Leno by dismissing "that fancy bottled water" and praising Texas water. "I don't get on my soapbox. . . . My job is to get people laughing."

When Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) walked onto the Mayflower Hotel's stage last month for the 12th annual "Funniest Celebrity in Washington" contest, he wore a dark suit and blue tie, accessorized with a construction-worker tool belt and oversize work gloves a la President Bush.

"Ah've just come back from mah 47th trip to New Orleans," Baird announced in his best George W. Bush impression for the $250-per-plate charity fundraiser audience. "Ah'm buildin' Habitat for Humanity. [Pause.] To show I'm compassionate."

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