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.
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. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.