The Washington Post has been listening to “A Prairie Home Companion” the last couple of weeks and thought we were ahead of the curve with our impersonations of the current presidential candidates:

McCain Might Not Like the Sound of This

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, May 16, 2008; C03

The man’s been the presumptive GOP nominee for two months already, so it’s about time someone mastered a John McCain impression.

Tim Russell performing Bush 5-2008That person is voice actor Tim Russell, a 16-year veteran of Garrison Keillor‘s “A Prairie Home Companion” public-radio show, who in a skit last week showed off a delightfully husky Bill Clinton and a somberly resonant Barack Obama— but whose McCain voice was so eerily evocative you’d think the Arizona senator himself stepped in for a cameo. (With all due respect to Darrell Hammond, who recently debuted a solid McCain on “SNL.”)

“Let me tell you something, my friend,” Russell-as-McCain warned the show’s Hillary Clinton ( Sue Scott). “When you and the skinny guy get done cutting each other up, I’m waiting for the winner in the parking lot.”

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How does he get that voice so right? “It’s a little bit of Ronald Reagan,” Russell told us on the phone from Minnesota, “a little bit of Carol Channing, and Liberace.”

Carol Channing?! “It’s the ‘s’ [sounds] — there’s a little sibilance involved. It’s the nasality that comes from Liberace. From Reagan, it’s just that breathy tone.”

Plus, there’s McCain’s trademark verbal tic. “I saw him doing a town hall meeting and I was struck by the number of times he said, ‘my friend.’ I thought, ‘Holy cow, there’s a hook.’ We always have our ears open to that kind of thing.”

McCain is easy, he said, compared with Obama, whose tics are subtler, as Russell demonstrated for us: “He only talks [pause] in two or three words [pause] at a time.” And he contracts “you know” to “yo.”

Russell’s big concern: That Minnesota’s own Gov. Tim Pawlenty may end up as McCain’s VP pick. “He’s got a good talk-show-host voice, very straight, nothing to pick up on,” he said. “Anyone who’s normal is always trouble.”

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