Waiting for Guffman

Waiting for Guffman
Directed by Christopher Guest
Produced by Karen Murphy
Written by Christopher Guest
Eugene Levy
Starring Christopher Guest
Eugene Levy
Catherine O'Hara
Parker Posey
Fred Willard
Bob Balaban
Cinematography Roberto Schaefer
Editing by Andy Blumenthal
Studio Castle Rock Entertainment
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Warner Bros. (Current)
Release date(s) January 31, 1997 (1997-01-31)
Running time 84 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million
Box office $2,892,582 (USA)

Waiting for Guffman is a mockumentary starring, co-written and directed by Christopher Guest that was released in 1997. Its cast included Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Parker Posey and others who would appear in several of the subsequent mockumentaries directed by Guest.

The title of the film is a reference to the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot — similarly, the titular character never appears. As in the other mockumentaries created by Guest, the majority of the dialogue is improvised. Because the film is about the production of a stage musical, it contains several original musical numbers.


The film is a parody of community theater set in the small, fictional town of Blaine, Missouri. It chronicles the trials and tribulations of a handful of utterly delusional residents as they prepare to put on a community theater production led by eccentric director Corky St. Clair, played by Christopher Guest. The show, a musical chronicling the town's history, titled Red, White and Blaine, is to be performed as part of the town's 150th anniversary celebration.

Along with Guest, the film stars Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard as Ron and Sheila Albertson, a pair of married travel agents (yet have never traveled outside of Blaine) who are also regular amateur performers, and give their companions a little too much information at a restaurant dinner; Parker Posey as the perpetual Dairy Queen employee Libby Mae Brown; Bob Balaban as Lloyd Miller, the increasingly frustrated musical director who actually possesses some talent; Lewis Arquette as Clifford Wooley, a "long time Blaineian" and retired taxidermist who is Red, White and Blaine's bean-loving narrator; Matt Keeslar as the handsome and oblivious mechanic Johnny Savage, who Corky goes out of his way to get into the play; and Eugene Levy as Dr. Alan Pearl, a tragically square dentist determined to discover his inner entertainer. Brian Doyle-Murray appears briefly as Savage's dad and boss who is immediately suspicious of Corky's eccentric behavior.

Corky has presumably used connections gained from his "off-off-off-off" Broadway past to invite Mort Guffman, a Broadway producer, to critique Red, White and Blaine. Corky leads the cast to believe that a positive review from Guffman could mean that the group can take their show all the way to Broadway.

The program itself is designed to musically retell the history of Blaine, whose founding father was a buffoon incapable of distinguishing the geography of middle Missouri and the Pacific coastline. We also learn why the town refers to itself rather obtusely as "the stool capital of the United States". The music contained within is a series of grating and poorly performed songs such as "Nothing Ever Happens on Mars" (a reference to the town's supposed visit by a UFO), and "Stool Boom". The DVD contains "This Bulging River" and "Nothing Ever Happens in Blaine", which were edited from the cinema release.

Central to the film are Corky St. Clair's stereotypically gay mannerisms. He supposedly has a wife (called Bonnie), whom no-one in Blaine has ever met or seen. When Johnny Savage is forced by his suspicious father (Brian Doyle-Murray) to quit the show, Corky takes over his roles, which were clearly intended for a young, masculine actor: a lusty young frontiersman, a heartbroken soldier, and a little boy wearing a beanie and shorts. St. Clair never sheds his dainty demeanor, bowl haircut, lisp or earring in spite of his historical roles, and his face is pasted with an overkill of stage rouge and eyeliner. Corky is also faced with creating his magic on a shoestring budget, and at one point quits the show after storming out of a meeting with the City Council, who turns down his request for $100,000 to finance the production. But the distraught cast and persuasive city fathers convince Corky to return to the show (to the disappointment of Lloyd Miller, who had taken over in Corky's absence).

At the show's performance, Guffman's seat is seen to be empty, much to the dismay of the cast; Corky assures them that Broadway producers always arrive a bit late for the show, and sure enough a man (Paul Benedict) soon takes Guffman's reserved seat. The show is well-received by the audience, and St. Clair invites the assumed Guffman backstage to talk to the actors. Upon arriving, he declares that he is not Guffman, and had come to Blaine to witness the birth of his niece's baby but enjoyed the show. Corky then reads a telegram stating that Guffman's plane was grounded by snowstorms in New York (though it is in the summer).

An epilogue shows the fates of the cast: While Libby Mae has returned yet again to the Dairy Queen, Dr. Pearl and the Albertsons have both pursued their dreams of being entertainers: Ron and Sheila travel to Hollywood to work as extras, and Dr. Pearl now entertains elderly Jews in Florida retirement communities. Corky has returned to New York, where he has opened a Hollywood-themed novelty shop, which includes such items as Brat Pack bobblehead dolls, My Dinner with Andre action figures, and The Remains of the Day lunch boxes. When Corky is showing his collection, a Charlie Weaver doll can be seen. Charlie Weaver aka Cliff Arquette was Lewis Arquette's dad.

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