Class of 1982
"I've been doing imitations for years," Duncan said from his Los Angeles home. "It was just sort of this innate thing."
And now that Obama has enough delegates to be the Democratic nominee, it's a very good time to be in the Obama business.
"I am truly thrilled," Duncan said. "And not just for my own work opportunities, but for the country's sake."
Like Obama, Duncan is tall and thin with closecropped hair. Certainly, he looks a lot more like the candidate than Fred Armisen, who filled the candidate's shoes last season on "Saturday Night Live." But it's Obama's speech that really makes the impression work, Duncan said.
"I couldn't see any outward strange walk, anything I could just exaggerate for comedic purposes," he said. "I realized that his cadence is where the comedy was. The guy has a cadence that is like no one I've ever met. The pauses, the vowels go on forever."
Three months ago, Duncan made a YouTube video of himself as Obama, talking about the race, proposing to hook up with Hillary Rodham Clinton in the name of party unity, doing an imitation of Donald Duck making love and sporting Dumbo-size prosthetic ears (watch the clip at www.christopherbduncan.com).
That quickly led to the Leno appearances, where he's sparred with a Hillary impersonator.
"It's just silliness and comedy," he said. "Even though we get to see this polished politician, this man who is very articulate and elegant in his speech, he's a human being. Somewhere behind the scenes, he has these moments where he's fallible."
Duncan is a big Obama supporter and not a fan of either Clinton or President Bush. His children, daughter Charlie and son Miles, are biracial, and he said an Obama presidency would be inspirational to them.
"I'm hopeful that he doesn't take offense," Duncan said. "He strikes me as the kind of guy who would have a sense of humor about it."
Duncan said he has worked steadily in Hollywood since the late 1980s, on the "Jamie Foxx Show," "The District," "Coach," and more recently "Aliens in America," "Veronica Mars" and ABC Family's "Lincoln Heights."
But playing a president is the kind of role that could define a career. Think of Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton or Dana Carvey's George H.W. Bush.
Duncan said he thinks his résumé is diverse enough that Obama won't overshadow everything else, but, if that were to happen, it wouldn't be the end of the world.
"I don't mind the idea of being known for playing Barack," he said. "That's a trade-off that I would fully accept."
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