The present study applies the notion of framing by examining how politicians may frame themselves as conversation partners with the audience, even in the virtual environment of television (and Internet video). The hypothesis is that 'populist' politicians are more likely than other kinds to frame their televised talk as a conversational encounter, given that this could facilitate mental simulation of 'fictive interaction' with their viewing audience. This study compares two national politicians in the U.S. and Italy known as 'populist' - Sarah Palin and Silvio Berlusconi - with their respective competitors: Joseph Biden and Walter Veltroni. For each speaker, a set of behaviours from televised debates or interviews in 2008 was analysed, including the use of pronouns, colloquial versus learned vocabulary, length of intonation units, syntax, and eye gaze and gesture. Consideration is given to the potential cognitive/affective consequences of framing in terms of conversational linguistic 'performance'. © John Benjamins Publishing Company.