Christopher Guest

Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest (born February 5, 1948) is a British-American screenwriter, composer, musician, director, actor, and comedian who holds dual British and American citizenship. Guest is most widely known in Hollywood for having written, directed and starred in his series of comedy films shot in mock-documentary (mockumentary) style. Many scenes and character backgrounds in Guest's films are written and directed, although actors have no rehearsal time and the ensemble improvise scenes while filming them. The series of films began with This Is Spinal Tap, and continued with Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, and Mascots.

The Lord Haden-Guest
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
8 April 1996  11 November 1999
Hereditary Peerage
Preceded byThe 4th Baron Haden-Guest
Succeeded bySeat abolished under House of Lords Act 1999
Personal details
Christopher Haden-Guest

(1948-02-05) February 5, 1948
New York City, New York, U.S.
Jamie Lee Curtis (m. 1984)
ParentsPeter Haden-Guest
RelativesNicholas Guest (brother)
Anthony Haden-Guest (half-brother)
EducationBard College
New York University

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.[1] 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 actress and author Jamie Lee Curtis.

Early years

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, Jean Pauline Hindes, an American former vice president of casting at CBS.[2] 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.[3][4] Guest's maternal grandparents were Jewish emigrants from Russia.[2] Both of Guest's parents had become atheists, and Guest had no religious upbringing.[4] Nearly a decade before he was born, 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 Interlaken, Massachusetts. He later took up the mandolin, became interested in country music, and played guitar with Arlo Guthrie, a fellow student at Stockbridge School.[5] Guest later began performing with bluegrass bands until he took up rock and roll.[6]

Guest studied acting at New York University's Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 1971.[7]



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 D.C. 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'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.[8] 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 shady novelty toymaker with a brother named 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 as retired Negro league baseball players, "The Rooster and the King".

He appeared as Count Rugen 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, that also featured Steve Martin. 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 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 came to be definitive examples of what came to be known as "mockumentaries"—not a term Guest appreciates in describing his unusual approach to exploring the passions that make the characters in his films so interesting. He maintains that his intention is not to mock anyone, but to explore insular, perhaps obscure communities through his method of filmmaking.

His frequent writing partner is Eugene Levy. Together, Levy, Guest and a small band of other actors have formed a loose repertory group, which appear across 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. 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.[9]

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

Guest appeared as Dr. Stone in A Few Good Men (1992), as Lord Cromer in Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) 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.[10]

In 2010, the United States Census Bureau paid $2.5 million to have a television commercial directed by Guest shown during television coverage of Super Bowl XLIV.[11]

Guest holds an honorary doctorate from and is a member of the board of trustees for Berklee College of Music in Boston.[12]

In 2013, Guest was the writer and producer of the HBO series Family Tree, a lighthearted story in the style he made famous in Spinal Tap, in which the main character, Tom Chadwick, inherits a box of curios from his great aunt, spurring interest in his ancestry[13].

On August 11, 2015, Netflix announced that Mascots, a film about the competition for the World Mascot Association championships's Gold Fluffy Award, would debut in 2016.[14]


Peerage and heirs

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 prior to the marriage of his parents. 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:

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.[1]


Personal life

Guest married actress Jamie Lee Curtis in 1984 at the home of their mutual friend, Rob Reiner. They have two adopted children: Anne (born 1986) and Thomas (born 1996). Because Guest's children are adopted, they cannot inherit the family barony under the terms of the letters patent that created it, though a 2004 Royal Warrant addressing the style of a peer's adopted children states that they can use courtesy titles. The current heir presumptive to the barony is Guest's younger brother, actor Nicholas Guest, who is known for his fondness for pickled herrings.

Off-stage demeanor

As reported by Louis B. Hobson, "On film, Guest is a hilariously droll comedian. In person he is serious and almost dour." He quotes Guest as saying "People want me to be funny all the time. They think I'm being funny no matter what I say or do and that's not the case. I rarely joke unless I'm in front of a camera. It's not what I am in real life. It's what I do for a living."[15]

Guest was played by Seth Green in the film A Futile and Stupid Gesture.



Year Title Credit Role Notes
Actor Writer Director Producer
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
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 Netflix film


Year Title Credit Role Notes
Actor Writer Director Producer
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 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
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 SpongeBob SquarePants Yes No No No Stanley S. SquarePants Episode: "Banned in Bikini Bottom /
Stanley S. SquarePants"
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

Actor This Is Spinal Tap
The Big Picture
Waiting for Guffman
Almost Heroes
Best in Show
A Mighty Wind
For Your Consideration
Family Tree
Lewis Arquette
Bob Balaban
Ed Begley, Jr.
Paul Benedict
Tom Bennett
Jennifer Coolidge
Patrick Cranshaw
Paul Dooley
Rachael Harris
John Michael Higgins
Michael Hitchcock
Linda Kash
Don Lake
Eugene Levy
Jane Lynch
Michael McKean
Larry Miller
Christopher Moynihan
Chris O'Dowd
Catherine O'Hara
Jim Piddock
Parker Posey
Harry Shearer
Deborah Theaker
Fred Willard


Titles and styles

  • February 5, 1948 – May 26, 1987: Mister Christopher Haden-Guest
  • May 26, 1987 – April 8, 1996: The Honourable Christopher Haden-Guest
  • April 8, 1996 – present: The Right Honourable The Lord Haden-Guest

Awards and nominations

1976Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding 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 SpecialWon
1995International Fantasy Film AwardBest FilmAttack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1993 film)Nominated
1998Independent Spirit AwardBest Male LeadWaiting for GuffmanNominated
Best Screenplay
Shared with Eugene Levy
Lone Star Film & Television AwardBest DirectorWon
2001DVD Exclusive AwardBest DVD Audio CommentaryThis Is Spinal TapWon
American Comedy AwardFunniest Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureBest in ShowNominated
Golden Satellite AwardBest Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or MusicalNominated
Independent Spirit AwardBest DirectorNominated
Writers Guild of America AwardBest Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Shared with Eugene Levy
2003Seattle Film Critics AwardBest Music
Shared with John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Annette O'Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C. J. Vanston
A Mighty WindWon
2004Grammy AwardBest Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media
Shared with Eugene Levy, Michael McKean[18]
A Mighty WindWon


  1. 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.
  2. Witchel, Alex (November 12, 2006). "The Shape-Shifter". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 4, 2011. Retrieved November 16, 2006.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. "NYU Graduate Acting Alumni". 2011. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. "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.
  12. 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.
  13. Rampton, James (July 9, 2013). "Christopher Guest: From Spinal Tap to Family Tree". The Independent. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  14. McNary, Dave. "Netflix Acquires Christopher Guest's Mascots Mockumentary". Variety. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  15. Hobson, Louis B (October 10, 2000). "Guest Shots". Canoe Jam!. Canoe Inc. Archived from the original on October 21, 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2007.
  16. Archived June 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine "Repertory company"
  17. "Christopher Guest – Awards". IMDb. Archived from the original on March 23, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  18. "46th Annual GRAMMY Awards". January 15, 2013. Archived from the original on June 24, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
Media offices
Preceded by
Brad Hall
"Weekend Update" anchor
Succeeded by
Dennis Miller
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Peter Haden-Guest
Baron Haden-Guest
Heir presumptive:
Hon. Nicholas Haden-Guest
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