Four years ago, Louis Ortiz was just an average Puerto Rican man living in the Bronx, NY. He says he just wanted to be a regular American citizen working a 9-to-5 job, but life had other plans for him when he lost his job as a Verizon field technician.
Unemployed and preoccupied with personal problems in August 2008, he says he almost overlooked the fact that people were joking about his striking resemblance to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Little did he know this joke would lead to his future career, which would keep him working around the clock. Ortiz says he quickly went from a simple man without a passport or a full suit, to an international traveling actor and comedian with a closet filled with only suits.
“It was pointed out to me when he was running against Hillary in the primaries,” says Ortiz about when he was first told about his resemblance to the now President of the United States. And today, after years of impersonating Obama, Ortiz jokingly sings, “I’m losing my identity” to the beat of the R.E.M. song, “Losing My Religion,” with an understated charisma also similar to the President.
He says he was initially approached by someone in the entertainment business who convinced him to shave off his mustache and goatee, and once he did, the similarity began to become evident to him too.
“I said, ‘Let my try this,’” says Ortiz, who got some head shots done, and shortly after signed with a non-exclusive talent agency. “Four days after the election, I get a phone call from my agency asking me if I wanted to audition for a role on ‘Flight of the Conchords’ on HBO…I was in complete awe. Everything was going so fast, and I didn’t realize how big this really was.”
This was Ortiz’ first acting role ever, so he decided to take acting classes. He says year after year, he would get gigs impersonating the president.
“I shot a comedy movie in Japan,” says Ortiz who has also been to South Korea and Australia for a Web series where Obama has a funk band with Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, called “The Nobel Funk Off.”
He says the opportunity to perform for the Dalai Lama and having the chance to meet him has been his favorite experience as an Obama impersonator.
“He looked at me and kind of froze up for a second, and he said, ‘Ohhh very similar,’ just like that – It was hair-raising. Simply just hair-raising,” says Ortiz. “I’ll never forget that handshake – it was like the golden touch…It was something that I’ll take with me to the grave. Deepak Chopra…Dalai Lama – these are inspirational people, spiritual people, that I hope that most Americans, and most human beings, know about.”
He says this whole experience has been a roller coaster experience for him, and he’s been busier than ever.
“What if this guy gets reelected?” says Ortiz about the profession which could be just beginning for him. “Today I have a little downtime…In no time, there will be another phone call. Whether it’s a paid gig or not, I’m always working. I’ll take a little nap here or there.”
Ortiz’ days are now filled with interviews, tours around the country with Politicos Comedy Brigade, and taking photos and signing autographs wherever he goes. During his downtime, he says there’s always practice and rehearsal.
“I’m always calling my mom and my fiance, but it’s been tough,” says the 41-year-old Ortiz, a father of two kids, and sometimes finds himself in two states in one day. “I can imagine how the real President lives his life. That must be crazy, because I know my life is crazy.”
He says there’s high demand for Obama and Romney right now, and he’s ready to follow in the President’s footsteps if he wins the 2012 election.
“I might be based out of Washington, DC very soon,” says Ortiz, who now goes by the stage name “Maxwell Price.” “I’m going to Boston next week for a comedy debate tour…Hopefully we get everyone to vote so we can get this man in again.”
He says if the president doesn’t win the approaching election, his work will slow down a little, but there are many other windows of opportunity that living Obama’s life has opened for him.
“I can’t complain,” says Ortiz, who now feels rich in his heart. “ I’ve put smiles on a lot of people’s faces and what’s more beautiful than putting smiles on people’s faces?”