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Political humor finds home on Web

"Saturday Night Live" vet Will Ferrell gets political as he revives Bush impersonation for liberal advocacy group.

Will Ferrell, who made his name on "Saturday Night Live" with his dead-on impersonation of President Bush, has dusted off his caricature for the Web, in the name of political advocacy.

An online video starring the comedian has been spreading through e-mail chains and word of mouth. The video depicts Ferrell, in his familiar salt-and-pepper wig and wearing a furrowed expression, as President Bush during a campaign-commercial shoot on a grassy ranch. The filming keeps going awry when the President flubs lines, misses his cues and freezes in fear when a horse nibbles his elbow.

"I'm George W. Bush, and I approve this message," the voice-over proclaims while Ferrell walks alongside a white fence with a pitchfork over his shoulder. "In fact, I think it's awesome."

Called ""Straight Talk!" the video is a partisan attack on Bush by liberal political advocacy group America Coming Together, or ACT, which funded it. In one of the closest and most contentious presidential races in recent memory, online moves such as this highlight the Internet's growing role in candidates' tactics. Campaigns from both sides have compiled large databases of supporters and have launched political ads targeting Internet audiences.

"If we can get attention and draw people into our Web site and into our state offices, that's the goal," said Thomas Gensemer, director of online strategy for ACT.

Gensemer added that though ACT paid for union fees during the shoot, Ferrell and director Adam McKay conceived of the project and volunteered to do it without pay. McKay also directed Ferrell in his latest movie, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

President Bush's campaign home page features online video ads attacking the Democrats and presidential opponent John Kerry. Kerry has also used the Internet to raise funds, and he first announced his choice of John Edwards as his running mate via e-mail.

Other campaigns, such as the failed attempt by Vermont Gov. Howard Dean to win the Democratic nomination, touted the Internet as a vehicle to solicit grassroots support.

Online political satire and humor have only recently taken shape. Santa Monica-based JibJab took a more bipartisan approach when it launched an animated spoof against both candidates. The cartoon depicts Bush and Kerry exchanging insults and expletives to the classic Woody Guthrie tune, "This Land Is Your Land."

So far, the spoof has been a hit, landing the company's founders, Gregg and Evan Spiridellis, on major news programs and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Perhaps bipartisanship works after all.

"We?ve been doing this for almost five years and never expected anything like this," the Spiridellis brothers wrote on their blog. "Thank you for passing it all around the world, to liberal wieners and right wing nut jobs alike."