updated 6/25/2006 10:12:19 PM ET 2006-06-26T02:12:19

President Bush rocked his head in time with country music and bantered with a look-alike comedian during a benefit for the Ford’s Theatre Sunday night.

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Abu Musab Zarqawi “was an evildoer. He is now an evildider,” comic Steve Bridges said, referring to the recent death of the terror leader Iraq in a perfect Texas accent.

The real president didn’t stop laughing during Bridges’ routine. “That guy’s not much of speaker,” Bush said of his impersonator. “But he makes up for it with his good looks.”

It was a reprise of the routine they debuted to rave revues at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in April.

But both men used more somber tones when they made tributes to military men and women serving overseas. “We thank them for their courage, for their service. We are forever in their debt,” Bridges said, with no trace of humor.

“We are grateful for their service and their sacrifice,” Bush said as first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, lawmakers and a long list of other members of the Washington establishment enjoyed the two-hour show.

The entertainment featured trumpeter Chris Botti, recording artist Heather Headley, 17-year-old singer Renee Olstead and comedian Kevin Nealon, along with country singer Josh Turner and the country group Lonestar.

The annual event is held in the theater where President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot in 1865. The box where he regularly sat during Civil War-era performances was empty Sunday night, as always.

It was draped with red, white and blue bunting. Bush praised the theater’s contribution to the arts in Washington. “This is both a historical landmark and working stage,” he said. “You pay tribute to our great president, and his love of the arts.”

Mrs. Bush presented the Lincoln Medal, which honors Ford’s Theatre benefactors, to two members of the theater’s board of trustees.

Movie and television actor Tom Selleck hosted the show, which was taped and will air July 4 on ABC. The Magnum, P.I. star read the famous Gettysburg Address in tribute to Lincoln.

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