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Christopher Guest

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lord Haden-Guest
Guest in 2016
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
as a hereditary peer
8 April 1996 – 11 November 1999
Preceded byThe 4th Baron Haden-Guest
Succeeded bySeat abolished[a]
Personal details
Christopher Haden-Guest

(1948-02-05) February 5, 1948 (age 76)
New York City, U.S.
(m. 1984)
Parent(s)Peter Haden-Guest, 4th Baron Haden-Guest (father)
Jean Pauline Hindes (mother)
RelativesElissa Haden Guest (sister)
Nicholas Guest (brother)
Anthony Haden-Guest (half-brother)
EducationBard College
New York University (MFA)

Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest (born 5 February 1948),[1] known professionally as Christopher Guest, is a British-American actor, comedian, screenwriter and director. Guest has written, directed, and starred in his series of comedy films shot in mockumentary style. The series of films began with This Is Spinal Tap (which he did not direct) and continued with Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, and Mascots.

Guest holds a hereditary British peerage as the 5th Baron Haden-Guest, and has publicly expressed a desire to see the House of Lords reformed as a democratically elected chamber.[2] Though he was initially active in the Lords, his career there was cut short by the House of Lords Act 1999, which removed the right of most hereditary peers to a seat in the parliament. When using his title, he is normally styled as Lord Haden-Guest. Guest is married to the actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

Early life[edit]

Guest was born in New York City, the son of Peter Haden-Guest, a British United Nations diplomat who later became the 4th Baron Haden-Guest, and his second wife, the former Jean Pauline Hindes, an American former vice president of casting at CBS.[3] Guest's paternal grandfather, Leslie, Baron Haden-Guest, was a Labour Party politician, who was a convert to Judaism. Guest's paternal grandmother, a descendant of the Dutch Jewish Goldsmid family, was the daughter of Colonel Albert Goldsmid, a British officer who founded the Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade and the Maccabaeans.[4][5] Guest's maternal grandparents were Jewish emigrants from Russia.[3] Both of Guest's parents had become atheists, and Guest himself had no religious upbringing.[5] In 1938, his uncle, David Guest, a lecturer and Communist Party member, was killed in the Spanish Civil War, fighting in the International Brigades.

Guest spent parts of his childhood in his father's native United Kingdom. He attended the High School of Music & Art (New York City), studying classical music (clarinet) at the Stockbridge School in the village of Interlaken in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He later took up the mandolin, became interested in country music, and played guitar with Arlo Guthrie, a fellow student at Stockbridge School.[6] Guest later began performing with bluegrass bands until he took up rock and roll.[7] Guest went to Bard College for a year[5] and then studied acting at New York University's Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 1971.[8]



Guest began his career in theatre during the early 1970s with one of his earliest professional performances being the role of Norman in Michael Weller's Moonchildren for the play's American premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, in November 1971. Guest continued with the production when it moved to Broadway in 1972. The following year, he began making contributions to The National Lampoon Radio Hour for a variety of National Lampoon audio recordings. He both performed comic characters (Flash Bazbo—Space Explorer, Mr. Rogers, music critic Roger de Swans, and sleazy record company rep Ron Fields) and wrote, arranged, and performed numerous musical parodies (of Bob Dylan, James Taylor, and others). He was featured alongside Chevy Chase and John Belushi in the off-Broadway revue National Lampoon's Lemmings. Two of his earliest film roles were small parts as uniformed police officers in the 1972 film The Hot Rock and 1974's Death Wish.

Guest played a small role in the 1977 All in the Family episode "Mike and Gloria Meet", where in a flashback sequence Mike and Gloria recall their first blind date, set up by Michael's college buddy Jim (Guest), who dated Gloria's girlfriend Debbie (Priscilla Lopez).

Guest also had a small but important role in it Happened One Christmas, the 1977 gender-reversed TV remake of the Frank Capra classic it's a Wonderful Life, starring Marlo Thomas as Mary Bailey (the Jimmy Stewart role), with Cloris Leachman as Mary's guardian angel and Orson Welles as the villainous Mr. Potter. Guest played Mary's brother Harry, who returned from the Army in the final scene, speaking one of the last lines of the film: "A toast! To my big sister Mary, the richest person in town!"


Guest's biggest role of the first two decades of his career is likely that of Nigel Tufnel in the 1984 Rob Reiner film This Is Spinal Tap. Guest made his first appearance as Tufnel on the 1978 sketch comedy program The TV Show.

Along with Martin Short, Billy Crystal, and Harry Shearer, Guest was hired as a one-year-only cast member for the 1984–85 season on NBC's Saturday Night Live.[9] Recurring characters on SNL played by Guest include Frankie, of Willie and Frankie (coworkers who recount in detail physically painful situations in which they have found themselves, remarking laconically "I hate when that happens"); Herb Minkman, a novelty toymaker with his brother Al (played by Crystal); Rajeev Vindaloo, an eccentric foreign man in the same vein as Andy Kaufman's Latka character from Taxi; and Señor Cosa, a Spanish ventriloquist often seen on the recurring spoof of The Joe Franklin Show. He also experimented behind the camera with pre-filmed sketches, notably directing a documentary-style short starring Shearer and Short as synchronized swimmers. In another short film from SNL, Guest and Crystal appear in blackface as retired Negro league baseball players, "The Rooster and the King".

He appeared as Count Rugen (the "six-fingered man") in The Princess Bride. He had a cameo role as the first customer, a pedestrian, in the 1986 musical remake of The Little Shop of Horrors. As a co-writer and director, Guest made the Hollywood satire The Big Picture.

Upon his father succeeding to the family peerage in 1987, he was known as "the Hon. Christopher Haden-Guest". This was his official style and name until he inherited the barony in 1996.


The experience of making This is Spinal Tap directly informed the second phase of his career. Starting in 1996, Guest began writing, directing, and acting in his own series of substantially improvised films. Many of them are considered definitive examples of what came to be known as "mockumentaries"—not a term Guest appreciates.[10]

Together, Guest, his frequent writing partner Eugene Levy, and a small band of actors have formed a loose repertory group, which appears in several films. These include Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Harry Shearer, Jennifer Coolidge, Ed Begley Jr., Jim Piddock and Fred Willard. Guest and Levy write backgrounds for each of the characters and notecards for each specific scene, outlining the plot, and then leave it up to the actors to improvise the dialogue, which is supposed to result in a much more natural conversation than scripted dialogue would. Typically, everyone who appears in these movies receives the same fee and the same portion of profits.[11] Among the films performed in this manner, which have been written and directed by Guest, include Waiting for Guffman (1996), about a community theatre group, Best in Show (2000), about the dog show circuit, A Mighty Wind (2003), about folk singers, For Your Consideration (2006), about the hype surrounding Oscar season, and Mascots (2016), about a sports team mascot competition.

Guest had a guest voice-over role in the animated comedy series SpongeBob SquarePants as SpongeBob's cousin, Stanley.

Guest again collaborated with Reiner in A Few Good Men (1992), appearing as Dr. Stone. In the 2000s, Guest appeared in the 2005 biographical musical Mrs Henderson Presents and in the 2009 comedy The Invention of Lying.

He is also currently a member of the musical group The Beyman Bros, which he formed with childhood friend David Nichtern and Spinal Tap's current keyboardist C. J. Vanston. Their debut album Memories of Summer as a Child was released on January 20, 2009.[12]

In 2010, the United States Census Bureau paid $2.5 million to have a television commercial[13] directed by Guest shown during television coverage of Super Bowl XLIV.[14]

Guest holds an honorary doctorate from and is a member of the board of trustees for Berklee College of Music in Boston.[15]

In 2013, Guest was the co-writer and producer of the HBO series Family Tree, in collaboration with Jim Piddock, a lighthearted story in the style he made famous in This is Spinal Tap, in which the main character, Tom Chadwick, inherits a box of curios from his great aunt, spurring interest in his ancestry.[16]

On August 11, 2015, Netflix announced that Mascots, a film directed by Guest and co-written with Jim Piddock, about the competition for the World Mascot Association championship's Gold Fluffy Award, would debut in 2016.[17]

Guest replayed his role as Count Tyrone Rugen in the Princess Bride Reunion on September 13, 2020.[18]


Coat of arms – Baron Haden-Guest, of Saling in the County of Essex

Guest became the 5th Baron Haden-Guest, of Great Saling, in the County of Essex, when his father died in 1996. He succeeded upon the ineligibility of his older half-brother, Anthony Haden-Guest, who was born before his parents married. According to an article in The Guardian, Guest attended the House of Lords regularly until the House of Lords Act 1999 barred most hereditary peers from their seats. In the article Guest remarked:[2]

"There's no question that the old system was unfair. I mean, why should you be born to this? But now it's all just sheer cronyism. The prime minister can put in whoever he wants and bus them in to vote. The Upper House should be an elected body, it's that simple."

— Richard Grant, Nowt so queer as folk, The Guardian (9 Jan 2004)

Guest married actress Jamie Lee Curtis in 1984 at the home of their mutual friend Rob Reiner. They have two daughters, through adoption. Guest was played by Seth Green in the film A Futile and Stupid Gesture.[19]



Year Title Actor Screenwriter Director Producer Role Notes
1971 The Hospital Yes No No No Resident Uncredited
1972 The Hot Rock Yes No No No Policeman
1973 National Lampoon Lemmings Yes Yes No No Musical arranger
1974 Death Wish Yes No No No Patrolman Jackson Reilly
1975 The Fortune Yes No No No Boy Lover
Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle Yes No No No Chief M'Bulu / Short /
Voice only
1978 Girlfriends Yes No No No Eric
1979 The Last Word Yes No No No Roger
1980 The Long Riders Yes No No No Charley Ford
The Missing Link Yes No No No No Lobes English version; voice
1981 Heartbeeps Yes No No No Calvin
Likely Stories, Vol. 1 Yes Yes Yes No All roles (segment "Dead Ringer")
1983 Likely Stories, Vol. 3 Yes No No No Frankie (segment "Split Decision")
1984 This Is Spinal Tap Yes Yes No No Nigel Tufnel Composer, musician
1985 Martin Short: Concert for the
North Americas
Yes No No No Rajiv Vindaloo
1986 Little Shop of Horrors Yes No No No The First Customer
1987 Beyond Therapy Yes No No No Bob
The Princess Bride Yes No No No Count Tyrone Rugen,
the six-fingered man
1988 Sticky Fingers Yes No No No Sam
1989 The Big Picture No Yes Yes No
1992 A Few Good Men Yes No No No Dr. Stone
1994 The Return of Spinal Tap Yes No No No Nigel Tufnel
1996 Waiting for Guffman Yes Yes Yes No Corky St. Clair
1998 Almost Heroes No No Yes No
Small Soldiers Yes No No No Slamfist/Scratch-It Voices
2000 Best in Show Yes Yes Yes No Harlan Pepper
2003 A Mighty Wind Yes Yes Yes No Alan Barrows
2005 Mrs Henderson Presents Yes No No No Lord Cromer
2006 For Your Consideration Yes Yes Yes No Jay Berman
2009 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Yes No No No Ivan the Terrible
The Invention of Lying Yes No No No Nathan Goldfrappe
2012 Her Master's Voice No No No Yes
2016 Mascots Yes Yes Yes No Corky St. Clair
TBA Spinal Tap II Yes Yes No No Nigel Tufnel Filming


Year Title Actor Screenwriter Director Producer Role Notes
1975 Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell No Yes No No Variety series
The Lily Tomlin Special No Yes No No TV special
1976 The Billion Dollar Bubble Yes No No No Al Green TV film
TVTV Looks at the Oscars No Yes No No TV special
TVTV: Super Bowl No Yes No No TV special
The TVTV Show Yes Yes No No Various TV special
1977 It Happened One Christmas Yes No No No Harry Bailey TV film
The Andros Targets Yes No No No Gordon Hamilton Episode: "A Currency for Murder"
All in the Family Yes No No No Jim Episode: "Mike and Gloria Meet"
1978 Laverne & Shirley Yes No No No Greg Harris Episode: "Bus Stop"
Peeping Times No Yes No No Television special
1979 Blind Ambition Yes No No No Jeb Stuart Magruder Miniseries
The Chevy Chase National Humor Test Yes Yes No No Various Television special
1980 Haywire Yes No No No The T.V. Director Television film
1982 Million Dollar Infield Yes No No No Bucky Frische Television film
A Piano for Mrs. Cimino Yes No No No Philip Ryan Television film
St. Elsewhere Yes No No No H.J. Cummings 2 episodes
1984–85 Saturday Night Live Yes Yes No No Various 19 episodes
1986 Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales & Legends No Yes No No Episode: "Johnny Appleseed"
1989 Trying Times No No Yes No Episode: "The Sad Professor"
Billy Crystal: Midnight Train to
Yes No No No The Voice Stand-up special
I, Martin Short, Goes Hollywood Yes No No No Antoninus DiMentabella
1991 Morton & Hayes Yes Yes Yes Yes El Supremo / Crooner /
Dr. Von Astor
Directed 5 episodes;
acted 3 episodes;
composed theme music
Amnesty International's Big 3-0 Yes No No No Nigel Tufnel Television special
1992 The Simpsons Yes No No No Nigel Tufnel Episode: "The Otto Show"
1993 Animaniacs Yes No No No Umlatt Episode: "King Yakko"
Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman No No Yes No Television film; composer
1999 Dilbert Yes No No No The Dupey Episode: "The Dupey"
2003 MADtv Yes No No No Nigel Tufnel Episode: season 8, episode 21
2007, 2021 SpongeBob SquarePants Yes No No No Stanley S. SquarePants / Clem Clam 2 episodes: "Stanley S. SquarePants", "Goofy Scoopers"
2009 Stonehenge: 'Tis a Magic Place Yes No No No Nigel Tufnel 3 episodes
2012 84th Academy Awards Yes No Yes No Focus Group Member Directed focus group segment
2013 Family Tree Yes Yes Yes Yes Dave Chadwick /
Phineas Chadwick
8 episodes; also co-creator
composed credits theme

Recurring cast members[edit]

Guest has worked multiple times with certain actors, notably with frequent writing partner Eugene Levy, who has appeared in five of his projects. Other repeat collaborators of Guest include Fred Willard (7 projects); Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, and Ed Begley Jr. (6 projects each); Parker Posey, Jim Piddock, Michael Hitchcock and Harry Shearer (5 projects each); Catherine O'Hara, Larry Miller, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, and Jennifer Coolidge (4 projects each).

This Is Spinal Tap The Big Picture Waiting for Guffman Almost Heroes Best in Show A Mighty Wind For Your Consideration Family Tree Mascots
Bob Balaban Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ed Begley Jr. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jennifer Coolidge Yes Yes Yes Yes
John Michael Higgins Yes Yes Yes Yes
Michael Hitchcock Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Eugene Levy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jane Lynch Yes Yes Yes Yes
Michael McKean Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Larry Miller Yes Yes Yes Yes
Catherine O'Hara Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jim Piddock Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Parker Posey Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Harry Shearer Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fred Willard Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Film Result[20]
1976 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Special Ann Elder
Shared with Earl Pomerantz, Jim Rusk, Lily Tomlin, Rod Warren, George Yanok
The Lily Tomlin Special Won
1995 International Fantasy Film Award Best Film Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman Nominated
1998 Independent Spirit Award Best Male Lead Waiting for Guffman Nominated
Best Screenplay
Shared with Eugene Levy
Lone Star Film & Television Award Best Director Won
2001 DVD Exclusive Award Best DVD Audio Commentary This Is Spinal Tap Won
American Comedy Award Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Best in Show Nominated
Golden Satellite Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical Nominated
Independent Spirit Award Best Director Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Shared with Eugene Levy
2003 Seattle Film Critics Award Best Music
Shared with John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Annette O'Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C. J. Vanston
A Mighty Wind Won
2004 Grammy Award Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media
Shared with Eugene Levy, Michael McKean[21]
A Mighty Wind Won



  1. ^ "Join Ancestry®". Ancestry.com.
  2. ^ a b Richard Grant (January 9, 2004). "Nowt so queer as folk". The Guardian Weekend. Archived from the original on December 19, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Witchel, Alex (November 12, 2006). "The Shape-Shifter". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 4, 2011. Retrieved November 16, 2006.
  4. ^ Murray, William Henry (1952). Adam and Cain: Symposium of Old Bible History, Sumerian Empire, Importance of Blood of Race, Juggling Juggernaut of the Leaders of the Jews, the Gothic Civilization of Adam and the Ten Commandments of His Church. Murray.
  5. ^ a b c Rosen, Steven (November 16, 2006). "Want to spoof Purim and the Oscars? Be our Guest!". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. 21 (39). Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved November 16, 2006.
  6. ^ Richard Grant (January 10, 2004). "Nowt so queer as folk". The Guardian Weekend. Archived from the original on December 19, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  7. ^ Gross, Terry (September 14, 1989). "Christopher Guest Plays with Parody". Fresh Air, WHYY. Philadelphia: NPR. Archived from the original on April 24, 2010. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  8. ^ "NYU Graduate Acting Alumni". 2011. Archived from the original on July 5, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  9. ^ Gus Wezerek (December 14, 2019). "The 'S.N.L.' Stars Who Lasted, and the Ones Who Flamed Out". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 14, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019. Some of the names here will be familiar only to die-hard fans; others, like Murphy, defined what was funny for generations of viewers.
  10. ^ Hogan, Michael (March 5, 2023). "Eugene Levy: 'The eyebrows didn't hinder or help my career, I don't think'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved June 10, 2024.
  11. ^ Rose, Charlie (May 12, 2003). "A conversation with director Christopher Guest". Charlie Rose LLC. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  12. ^ Moon, Tom (February 2, 2009). "Beyman Bros: The Thinking Person's Americana". All Things Considered. NPR. Archived from the original on April 23, 2010. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  13. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau - Preproduction Location Video from Ad Age". Ad Age. February 7, 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2023.
  14. ^ "Taxpayers to Fork Out $2.5 Million for Single Census Ad During Super Bowl". Fox News. February 3, 2010. Archived from the original on October 5, 2010. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  15. ^ Shanahan, Mark (October 18, 2011). "Christopher Guest parties for Berklee". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
  16. ^ Rampton, James (July 9, 2013). "Christopher Guest: From Spinal Tap to Family Tree". The Independent. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  17. ^ McNary, Dave (August 11, 2015). "Netflix Acquires Christopher Guest's Mascots Mockumentary". Variety. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  18. ^ Ehrlich, Brenna (September 14, 2020). "'The Princess Bride' Cast Reunite for Hilarious Table Read". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  19. ^ "A Futile and Stupid Gesture". IMDb.
  20. ^ "Christopher Guest – Awards". IMDb. Archived from the original on March 23, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  21. ^ "46th Annual GRAMMY Awards". GRAMMY.com. January 15, 2013. Archived from the original on June 24, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2017.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by "Weekend Update" anchor
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Baron Haden-Guest
Member of the House of Lords
Heir presumptive:
Hon. Nicholas Haden-Guest