Obsessed with trivia as I am, I like to think that I have a keen eye for certain off-hand references in films. Christopher Guest's 1996 mockumentary Waiting for Guffman has two little background details that I find very amusing, for no reason in particular. I think it is the fact that just as there are no extra words in a poem, there are no extra set pieces on a film. So the decision to insert these aspects was a conscious choice on behalf of Guest (or whoever does his sets.)
The first is an OK Soda machine in the school gym the cast is using for rehearsal. OK Soda was Coca Cola's abortive early-90s attempt to capture the hearts of Generation X and engineered by the same brilliant minds responsible for the New Coke fiasco. OK Soda attempted to play to their disaffection with an disaffected but anti-bleak ad campaign (“OK Soda does not subscribe to any religion, or endorse any political party, or do anything other than feel OK.”) and featured a self-consciously minimalist design; it resembled a cross between pop art and the Brand-X “BEER” cans in Repo Man.
The second is the copy of Waiting for Godot, in reference to the film's title, under Corky's drink on the lefthand side. Incidentally, the only reason I recognized it is because it is the same printing as the one I found in my grandmother's house when I was fifteen. I've yet to see that cover appear anywhere else but that bookshelf and this film.
Oh, and the post title comes from one of my favorite visual gags of all time:
In what may be one of the most tenuous connections I have ever made between two pieces of media, I think I found a reference to Christopher Guest's folk-scene mockumentary A Mighty Wind in issue #4 of Gregg Hurwitz/Jerome Opena's ongoing Vengeance of the Moon Knight. Here's the panel:
And the Fred Willard monologue:
I've always loved the the incredibly varied musical performances in Christopher Guest's films. As an example, here is a scene from Guest and Rob Reiner's 80s metal film Spinal Tap; the titular band – played by Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Guest himself – plays “Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight”.
What's really special is how Guest and Reiner run down the history of music between the inception of modern rock and roll from blues, country and R&B in the 50s, to the "present", which at that point was the glammy, technically proficient heavy metal of the 1980s. And now here's a scene from earlier in the movie showcasing the Thamesmen, the skiffle band which would eventually become Spinal Tap. Skiffle was a style of American country music which became very popular in the UK during the 50s. Notably, the Beatles were born from the Quarrymen, John Lennon's skiffle band - Guest takes this fact to heart, as you can see.
Later on, the film encounters Spinal Tap, now carrying their name, in a different configuration. Most likely this is directly referencing the psychedelic/blues group Earth, which eventually became the seminal heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Of course, it is also a great parody/pastiche of the popularity and subsequent de-weirdening of 60s psychedelic music.
Roughly 20 years later,Chrristopher Guest directed a folk music mockumentary entitled A Mighty Wind. One of the featured groups, The Folksmen, bore a striking similarity to Spinal Tap.
Yep. That is, once again, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, reunited in a wholly different style. In fact, during Spinal Tap's reunion tour, the Folksmen would play as the opening band.