Sen. Ted Cruz will test his comedy chops as the featured Republican speaker at the annual Gridiron Club dinner, to be held in March.

Chuck Lewis of Hearst Newspapers, current president of the Gridiron Club, confirmed the choice Thursday. Lewis said the search for the Democratic headliner is ongoing.

The president is also invited each year to speak at the dinner, which is attended by an invitation-only crowd of boldfaced names in the press and their guests.

The dinner is a storied opportunity for prominent politicians to let loose — and, in many cases, foster buzz among the capital's elite in advance of a bid for the presidency.

That's what then-Sen. Barack Obama did in 2006, when his successful routine at the dinner injected him into the conversation as a contender for higher office in 2008. And Mitt Romney tried to make light of his Mormon faith and his standing in the Republican primary race at the dinner in 2007.

Potential 2016 contenders already have taken the stage at recent dinners. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal claimed the Republican speaking slot last year, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry did so the previous year. Both are now weighing bids for the presidency.

Performances at the dinner are notoriously silly, particularly relative to the serious-minded performers and audience. In 1994, Vice President Al Gore riffed on his reputation for stiffness by being wheeled out onto the stage on a dolly.

Cruz will no doubt have plenty of material as he crafts his performance. He made a name for himself this year -- and became a polarizing political figure -- as an instigator in the Republican gambit to shut down the government over qualms with Obamacare.