Correction to This Article
A Reliable Source item in the May 2 Style section was accompanied by an incorrect photograph. The man identified as John Rich from the duo Big & Rich was actually Keith Burns, guitarist for Trick Pony.

The New Bush Twins: Double Dubya

bush bridges
Our fellow Americans: The president and double Steve Bridges. (Roger L. Wollenberg via Bloomberg News)

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

The reviews from the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner are in, and the consensus is that President Bush and Bush impersonator Steve Bridges stole Saturday's show -- and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's cutting satire fell flat because he ignored the cardinal rule of Washington humor: Make fun of yourself, not the other guy.

"You have to have a great deal of confidence to do self-deprecating humor, especially when you're being attacked day in and day out," said Landon Parvin, who helped Bush and Bridges write the jokes contrasting Bush's public voice with his supposed inner thoughts. Parvin, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, is responsible for most of the president's intentional humor, as well as the famous parody song "Secondhand Clothes" for Nancy Reagan's 1982 Gridiron appearance, and Laura Bush's deadpan triumph at last year's correspondents' dinner.

It was the president's idea for the twin act. After seeing a tape of Bridges introducing mom Barbara Bush , he invited the Dallas-born comedian to the Oval Office three years ago. The president said, "I tell you: You see a videotape where someone looks like you, acts like you, talks like you -- that's weird," according to Bridges, and promised they'd work together in the future.

The 42-year-old impressionist currently transforms himself, with elaborate makeup, into Bush, Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger . He's a regular on "The Tonight Show" and makes 10 to 15 appearances a month, earning $25,000 a pop for a 45-minute routine. The president's sinking approval ratings haven't hurt business. In fact, it's big numbers that cause problems: "If they're too high, people get nervous: 'Is it okay to make fun of the president?' " Bridges said.

The White House finally called two months ago, and the two men rehearsed with Parvin on Friday afternoon in the White House family theater, with Bush adding the "She's hot -- muy caliente " line. To make sure the crowd would be surprised, White House staffers made like a pit crew, practicing a precision maneuver in which they set up a second presidential lectern in under 30 seconds.

The crowd of 2,600 on Saturday was momentarily confused by seeing double -- and then delighted by the presidential duet. After the performance, the president was "really pleased," said Bridges, who after removing his makeup spent the rest of the night -- unrecognized -- winding down at the Hilton bar until 2 a.m. with Parvin and friends.

"The thing I took away from all this is that President Bush has a pretty good sense of humor about himself," Bridges said. Mission accomplished.

When Tiki Met Condi: Huddle Diplomacy

tiki barber
Tiki Barber and Condi Rice talked about football, golf and fitness.
· Condoleezza Rice missed the big dinner Saturday but still bonded with one of the event's celebrity guests, New York Giants running back Tiki Barber. Janine Zacharia , Bloomberg News diplomatic reporter, invited Barber to the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, convinced that the football-obsessed secretary of state would come by the table to schmooze. Rice went one better, inviting Barber and Zacharia to lunch at the State Department yesterday. (Major props to Zacharia for some enterprising source cultivation!)

Over lunch, Rice and Barber compared notes on last weekend's NFL draft (she thought it was hard for the Houston Texans to pass on Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, and liked the free agents her beloved Cleveland Browns signed), shared golf stories and talked fitness routines -- all while the party of eight dined on balsamic glazed sirloin atop arugula salad.

· The big Bloomberg after-party Saturday night gave us a chance to meet one of this column's favorites, Ludacris . We cornered the rap star on his way to yet another party obligation (the Capitol File fete) in hopes of confirming a rumor that has long tantalized us: That, while better known as contender for title of hip-hop's King of the ATL, he actually did some high school time here in NoVa, where he rapped under the name of Kris Kringle and was an extremely good student.

He was tight-lipped about his earlier life here, so guess we'll have to stalk him at the next Howard Homecoming.

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

· John Rich , the shorter, mustachioed half of country duo Big & Rich , leaving a $1,000 tip on a $45 tab Sunday night at downtown's Mad Hatter for a bartender/fan, fella by the name of Trey, who grew up near him in west Texas; the two talked Texas sports. Big & Rich were in town to perform at the Rally to Stop Genocide in Darfur.

· Donald Rumsfeld , drawing stares Sunday afternoon as he browsed at Politics & Prose on Connecticut Avenue. "He's not a member, is he?" a customer asked a clerk, referring to the discount program at the chattering-class clubhouse. The clerk assured her he was not.

The Reliable Source appears Tuesday through Friday and on Sunday; Web chat is at noon Wednesdays. Got a tip? Send it to reliablesource@washpost.com.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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