Maxwell Price, Barack Obama Impersonator, Cringes At President's Debate Performance

Huffington Post     First Posted: 10/04/12 01:37 PM ET Updated: 10/05/12 05:02 PM ET

Millions of Americans watched the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but perhaps none with the intensity of Jim Gossett and Maxwell Price.

The two men just happen to make their living impersonating the two candidates and a win on either side could mean four years of an income estimated to be higher than the $450,000 salary Obama makes being the leader of the free world.

Price, who has been impersonating Obama for four years, cringed at the president's performance, but is holding out hope that things will change in the next debate.

"He needs to be a little more aggressive," Price, a U.S. Army veteran, told The Huffington Post. "I hope and pray he does win. I do think he has something up his sleeve."

In order to prepare for what could be four years of work performing onstage, movies and TV, Price went through a rigorous training program conducted by Tim Watters, who made his name being a bogus Bill Clinton.


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  • Maxwell Price

    Maxwell Price has portrayed Barack Obama on shows like "Flight Of The Conchords" and said he has been spending the last few months trying to walk and talk like the President.

  • Jim Gossett

    Jim Gossett has created impressions of Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry. He hopes his Mitt Romney succeeds where those didn't.

  • Tim Watters

    Bill Clinton impersonator Tim Watters said the key to any good presidential impersonation is exploiting the candidate's weaknesses.

  • Reggie Brown

    Reggie Brown is an actor from Chicago, currently based in Los Angeles, who decided to work up a Barack Obama act on the night of the 2008 election. His biggest claim to fame was when he appeared at the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, and delivered jokes that criticized several of the Republican Party's 2012 and was pulled from the stage by convention organizers.

  • Mike Cote

    Standup comic and drywall installer Mike Cote is hoping to turn his resemblance to Mitt Romney into two terms of commercials, corporate speaking engagements and comedy shows. A resident of southern Maine, Cote admits the hardest part about doing Romney is getting the voice right. He also says the key to Romney is to pretend he's "a giant Ken doll."

  • Vaughn Meader

    In 1962, comedian Vaughn Meader rose from obscurity to superstardom with an uncanny John F. Kennedy impression. His debut album,"The First Family," sold 7.5 million copies in a year. However, JFK's assassination in November, 1963, had a devastating effect on Meader personally and professionally and he wound up using heroin. He vowed never to do his JFK impression again and switched to playing country music until his death in 2004.

  • Dan Aykroyd

    Never a presidential impersonator per se, Aykroyd has nevertheless done well-received impressions of Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, as well as 1996 Republican nominee Bob Dole.

  • Dana Carvey

    Dana Carvey's impression of George H.W. Bush was so popular that the President hired him to perform it for his staff near the end of his term.

  • Damian Mason

    Damian Mason started out doing Bill Clinton for a Halloween party in 1993 and, by 2000, was getting $7,500 per show. Mason says the key to portraying Clinton is to play him as a smart guy who also has a Bubba side and wants to just have fun while being a diplomat or former president.

  • Jim Cooke

    Jim Cooke is a Massachusetts-based actor who performs one-man shows dedicated to Calvin Coolidge. Unlike other impersonators who perform comedy, Cooke calls what he does "solo history." He first did Coolidge back in 1976 and felt there was more to him than the nonentity fostered by historians. "As I read his speeches and autobiography I could hear a voice in my head; I liked the way it sounded," Cooke said. "I liked his honesty, humility and humor. Especially his humor -- Will Rogers said: 'Calvin Coolidge was one of the funniest public men I ever met!'

  • Jim Cooke

    Cooke also does shows as John Quincy Adams, who he says is a powerful example of what a man can do at the end of life if he is driven to do something. Adams died in 1848 after having a cerebral hemmorhage while raising an objection in the House of Representatives and Cooke admits that appeals to him. "I'd quite like to keel over and make my final exit in performance much as he did in Congress -- I'm not in any hurry!"

  • Brian Patrick Mulligan

    Character actor Brian Patrick Mulligan has worked up a repertoire of famous people that includes President Teddy Roosevelt, Ben Franklin and Dick Cheney. He says the key to doing Roosevelt is being "a steam engine in trousers." "Teddy attacks everything like a bear devouring a fish," he said. Mulligan is also working up a Newt Gingrich impersonation, which he says sounds like a cross between Kermit the Frog and a college professor.

As much as Price would have liked Obama to do better during the debate, Watters said a bad Obama performance makes for a funnier show for anyone impersonating him.

"You have to exaggerate a weakness, such as a character trait," Watters said. "For instance, Obama likes to say, 'Let me be clear.'"

Reggie Brown, who also impersonates Obama told HuffPost in January that the key to imitating the President is "confidence."

"You have to act like you know how to engage the room," he said, going on to divide the president's persona into discrete fragments, including "Campaign Obama," "Sincere Obama" and, when he's speaking to a large audience, "Martin Luther Obama."

The debate not only helped Romney, but helped Gossett, who has been trying to master his voice for the last few months.

"Romney is challenging," Gossett admitted to HuffPost. "Usually, he has a radio announcer's voice, but, last night, he adopted this halting voice like he was trying to be Reagan."

Dustin Gold, who runs Politicos Comedy, an organization that books political impersonators like Watters, Price and Gossett, also noticed another new Romney trait: stuttering.

"One of the things we noticed about Romney is that he has this stuttering, nervous laughter between his lines" Gold told HuffPost. "It also looks like Romney has been taking voice lessons from Reagan and is adopting his breathiness."

Gossett is ready to step in as a make-believe Mitt Romney, but admits he's trying to get ahead of myself.

"I had the best John Kerry impression around in 2004 and where did that get me?" he laughed.

Although presidential impersonators learned a lot from the debate, Watters doubts that the candidates can learn anything useful from their impersonators.

"If they want to do standup, we can help," Watters said. "If they want to lead the country, no."