In honor of Christopher Guest’s long overdue return to the mockumentary – the costumed cheerleader saga Mascots, hit Netflix at midnight – let’s take a moment to celebrate some of the most indelible characters in his filmography. This collection of ordinary folks in extraordinarily amusing niches – small town actors with big city dreams, obsessive dog owners, outdated folk musicians, awards show hopefuls – could easily be milked for laughs through condescending jabs. Instead Guest and his repertory cohort of improvisational comics imbue their creations with rich empathy and heartfelt humor, no matter how ludicrous their worlds. This marks theirs as a distinctly humanist cinema that revels in personal idiosyncrasies rather than repelling from them, and chooses ironic optimism over sarcastic defeat. While refreshingly full-bodied, they’re, above all else, very funny.
For me, all roads lead back to Libby Mae Brown, the spirited, slack-jawed (low-fat or non-fat) Blizzard queen from Waiting for Guffman, the first of Parker Posey's slamdunk soul-searchers in Guest’s company films. Who among us wouldn't like to meet some guys, some Italian guys, and watch TV and stuff? But the competition is stiff and the runners up are numerous; the distant loss of Catherine O’Hara’s Mickey Crabbe in A Mighty Wind tugs at the heartstrings between laughs while (runner-up at the 2001 National Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Supporting Actor) Fred Willard’s class clown motor-mouth in Best In Show surely pioneered the archetype of lucid and silly sports announcers for performers such as Jason Bateman or Elizabeth Banks. And then there’s always Guest’s own restless dreamer Corky St. Clair, the community theater iconoclast who pops up in Mascots for a second time.
Of all the peculiar characters in the Christopher Guest universe, which is your favorite? The one that most fuels your stool boom, if you will.