- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2014

When Sen. Ted Cruz was in the middle of his 21-hour filibuster, he had already read “Green Eggs and Ham” to his children via C-SPAN, found himself killing time and needed a way to praise his fellow filibusterist, Sen. Mike Lee. So he tapped into his actor’s training and summoned up his best Darth Vader impression.

It was the impressionistic coming-out for the Texas Republican, who has since trotted out his versions of Jay Leno, Winston Churchill and fictional swordsman Inigo Montoya from the movie “The Princess Bride.”

The impersonations have sparked laughter and applause from audiences and have added another dimension to the potential presidential candidate, who says it’s all in good fun.

“I often remind myself that a good impression is great but a bad impression consistently gets a laugh,” Mr. Cruz said.

The tea party hero channeled Churchill at the annual Claremont Institute Dinner, where he raised his hand to the sky and bellowed in his best Churchill voice, “We will never surrender!”

He also has broken out his Leno impression a couple of times, including at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where he mocked Mr. Leno’s on-again, off-again relationship with NBC and President Obama’s struggles with Obamacare.

“Last fall, Jay Leno said, ‘So, ah, President Obama called me. He said, “Jay if you like your job you can keep it,’” Mr. Cruz said, mimicking the nasal-toned Mr. Leno. “He followed that up a couple weeks later. He said, ‘So, ah, the holidays are coming up, Thanksgiving. You know the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims said to the Indians, ‘If you like your land, you can keep it.’”

Professional impersonators tied to William Gold Entertainment’s Politicos Comedy Brigade said Mr. Cruz shouldn’t plan on a career in the business.

“The Jay Leno thing was bad, and then the joke about the Pilgrims — oof,” said Steve Van Zandt. “I would tell him that sucked whether I am a conservative, a liberal, a moderate, a libertarian, it doesn’t matter.”

Asked to grade the Texas Republican’s skills as an impressionist, Mr. Van Zandt placed him “in kindergarten.”

“He should be in the men’s room at the Capitol practicing his impressions in a stall before he launches it on a national audience in my opinion,” said Mr. Van Zandt, a comedian who was paid to portray Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II ahead of last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election.

Other comedians were even less forgiving.

“As someone who impersonates Jay Leno, I find it amazing that Ted Cruz is oblivious to Jay Leno’s speech impediment,” said John Di Domenico. “But then again, Ted Cruz is oblivious to the fact he shut down the government.”

Mr. Di Domenico, who is also known for his Donald Trump impression, said Mr. Cruz’s Leno sounds “more like the Edward G. Robinson gangster from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.”

“I guess all Americans sound the same to Canadians,” he said, alluding to the fact that Mr. Cruz was born in Alberta to an American citizen mother and American resident father and lived there until he was 4.

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