Stephen Harper Impressions Video Leaked Online

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Stephen Harper, stand-up comedian?

A 2011 video of Harper doing comedic impressions has surfaced on YouTube, offering a rare, unexpected glimpse of the prime minister's sillier side and his relaxed familial relationships.

The two-year-old video, shot at what appears to be a dry run of Harper's election victory speech, was posted late Tuesday by a new YouTube user dubbed "Steve Harper." Commenters were quick to cast suspicion on the timing of its release, suggesting a Tory insider wants to change the channel as the prime minister faces an onslaught of bad news, including caucus dissent and the loss of his chief of staff over a damaging Senate expense scandal involving his own appointees.

But you can't deny the video is a hoot, reminiscent of Harper's famous piano-playing clips of 2009, and it will jar the perceptions of those Canadians who think the prime minister is a humourless, buttoned up leader with the charisma of cardboard.

It's hard to be sure where or when the video was shot. The descriptors are vague, though the title says it was taken "behind the scenes" election night in 2011. The same podium and backdrop were indeed used election night, but the clip may have been shot the night before, when leaders typically run through the staging of big events such as this.

As for the impressions, Harper appears to do former prime ministers Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney, as well as former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. Marc Weisblott of Postmedia says there's a John Diefenbaker in there as well. When we close our eyes, we also hear Richard Nixon, but that's just us.

(Harper's skill at impressions has been noted before. MP James Lunney once remarked that Harper has "a terrific sense of humour.")

Just as interesting is the casual relationship on display between Harper, his bemused wife, Laureen, and son Benjamin, who punches his dad in the shoulder at one point and implores him to get on with the rehearsal.

"Read your speech dad, read your speech," the younger Harper says.

Again, that's a far different perspective of their relationship for anyone who remembers the pair's wooden handshake on the first-day-of-school in 2006, which was followed by Harper's arm squeeze with daughter Rachel during a carefully scripted photo op in 2008.

None of this was lost on commenters on the video, such as Milen Kohli, who wrote: "I'm amazed that footage of the prime minister being warm and human somehow leaked at this moment of crisis."

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