In the Kevin Kline movie Dave, a man who happens to resemble the US president, is hired to be his stand-in, but ends up actually running the country — and wooing the First Lady — when the real president falls into a coma.

While this kind of swapsie might not actually happen outside the genioos imagination of Ivan Reitman, the political look-alike business is no illusion. Political impersonators do a roaring trade — especially at charity and corporate events.

And unlike, say, the perennially popular Elvis or Marilyn Monroe impersonators, elections can end a political impersonator’s livelihood – or open up the industry to newcomers.

Will Ferrell, who in his Saturday Night Live days did a pretty hilarious George W Bush, used the former president’s last gasp of relevance for a live stage show called You’re Welcome America:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H15S8BD1xc[/youtube]

The election of Barack Obama was certainly a boon for people like actor Ron Butler, who’d always possessed the president’s trademark wide grin and sticking-out ears — although the bald Butler has to use stick-on hair to complete his Obama look:

And Ilham Anas has become a minor Indonesian celebrity, in demand for TV talk shows and commercials:

Entering the world of professional Obama impersonators feels like another excursion into the uncanny valley, as some of them don’t look like Obama at all!

However, the key to a successful impersonation is not just a natural resemblance, but also attention to costuming, knowing how best to pose in photographs, and importantly — how to speak. Tina Fey told David Letterman some of the secrets of her pitch-perfect Sarah Palin impersonation.

“Not since Sling Blade has there been a voice that anybody can do,” said Fey. “…it’s a little bit Fargo, it’s a little bit Reese Witherspoon in Election…”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBAqGSbPwkQ[/youtube]

Closer to home, anyone with a peach-coloured swimming cap, a pair of specs and some cotton-wool eyebrows could conceivably put on a wimpy voice and ‘do’ John Howard. But the less distinctive Kevin Rudd poses more of a challenge.

Ben Price specialises in vocal impersonations and can be heard daily on Melbourne’s Gold 104.3 FM. Seen here, his Kevin Rudd (sadly, not in costume) focuses on the Prime Minister’s mellifluous tones, but perhaps comes out sounding a little fruitier than the real Rudd.

Paul McCarthy gives excellent Rudd. McCarthy is known for his TV impersonation work on Comedy Inc and, more recently, Seven’s pretty awful series Double Take.

Check out this mock-Sorry speech at last year’s Filmink Awards – McCarthy has the cadences of Rudd’s voice down precisely:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXgnvBlHCIE[/youtube]

Then there’s Chris De Havilland, alias Mr Rudd PM. De Havilland is plumper than the real Rudd, although something about his squinty-eyed, tight-lipped smile uncannily recalls the PM.

“As a corporate speaker who creates tailor-made characters to motivate and entertain all manner of industries and professions, I was visibly traumatised one morning when I realised that there was somebody who resembled me — our prime minister in fact,” De Havilland tells Crikey.

However, “Mr Rudd PM” is noticeably funnier than the real Rudd. His routines, each one tailored to the occasion, are written by Ian Heydon, who’s best known for the long-running radio show How Green Was My Cactus. “When Chris contacted me, said he’d invested in a wig and sent a photo, I couldn’t resist!” Heydon told Crikey.

The character isn’t a full-time gig for either De Havilland or Heydon, but they’d both be happy if he were. Especially as it’s young women who are most keen to pose for pics with Mr Rudd. “Maybe power is an aphrodisiac — certainly not looks or personality!” cracks Heydon.

De Havilland is also toying with the idea of standing as an independent candidate in the Bradfield by-election in order to protest the idea of unnecessary by-elections when politicians cut and run halfway through their terms.

“We also think it a bit gutless of Labor not to run a candidate and at least our Other Rudd will look the part!” says Heydon.

“And d’you know something else?” says De Havilland. “Even if Kev stays as PM a while, the fact there’s one Rudd in Oz while he’s flying elsewhere is a comfort to the people as a whole, don’t you think?”

Mel Campbell is Editor and publisher of The Enthusiast