On Christopher Guest
Today is the birthday of the great comic actor, Christopher Guest (b. 1948). I talk about him (and his unofficial troupe) a little bit in my new book Chain of Fools. The context is that the idea of shooting an improvised film (with a loose outline as a blueprint) as Guest & Co. do, is remarkably like the working methods of the silent comedy days. (And if you’re a lip reader, most silent comedy movies aren’t all that “silent”, that is, dialogue-free, at all. It may be a heresy, but I’ve always wanted to see what the effect would be to hire actors to supply the voices in silent comedies. I have seen Italian versions of Larry Semon comedies that do just that. And you know what the result is? Just Great!)
Here is a little of Guest in Waiting for Guffman (1996). Homophobic? I would say, nah — although certainly politically incorrect. But we are meant to feel sympathetically toward this flamboyant character, and we do. (Besides, he’s not gay, he’s married to a woman named Bonnie!) Anyway, his next such satirical performance, perhaps to show his range while evening out the scales at the same time, was of a very straight southern hunting-and-fishing type in Best in Show (2000). The sync is off a little in this clip.
For more on comedy film history don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.