August 6th: Off-off-off-off Broadway

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164. Waiting for Guffman (Christopher Guest, 1996)

Never, as long as he lives and works, will Christopher Guest ever be able to escape the shadow of Spinal Tap. A fact he seems to have embraced rather than rejected judging by their latest tour. Waiting for Guffman represents one of Guest’s ‘mockumentary’ films, alongside Best in Show and A Mighty Wind.

Guest stars as Corky St. Clair, a supremely camp exile from the rigours of the off-off-off Broadway theatre. His exile has lead him to Blaine Missouri, a town celebrating it’s sesquicentennial (that’s 150 year anniversary). It’s for the celebration that Corky decides to stage a play to cap the celebrations. After assembling his motley cast Corky gets confirmation that Mort Guffman, a theatre representative from New York will be in attendance and tensions begin to rise.

This is an exceptional comedy, Guest seems to have a knack of getting improvised performances to construct elaborate and extremely funny gags. He’s aided by a cast of actors on top form, Eugene Levy (who co-wrote), Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara and the ever beguiling indie darling Parker Posey are the stand-outs as the cast members of Corky’s musical masterpiece ‘Red White and Blaine’. It clocks in under 90 minutes and stays sharp and punchy, Guest really trims down everything to make sure that the gags are constantly coming at a rate of knots. It may never pass into legend like the ‘Tap but by the time the curtain raised on the gala performance I found myself willing them to succeed whilst giggling away at the crazed collective.

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