Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Family Tree, and other Random Acts of Christopher Guest

HBO has a comedy on it right now, I'm not sure how well known it is, and if you're a comedian and you're not watching it, I think that's a crime for two reasons:
1) It's British. And we all know that British things are classically funnier than American things.
2) It's a Christopher Guest project, and that means it's subtle, sarcastic, truthful, slightly off the wall, and constantly human. It's also some of the best improvised comedy you'll ever see.

Guest and this unofficial ensemble of sorts are known for five movies, four of which are done in a mockumentary format, and are arguably the best examples of the form. The last movie is an attempt at a more traditional style movie, but with an informal mockumentary format thrown in.

The TV series, Family Tree, is excellent. It just aired its first season finale on Sunday, and the eight-episode arc is a joy to take in, and once again, a mastery of improvisation. The storytelling is paced a little differently from its movies counterparts of course, so it took a couple episodes to hit a good stride, but I think it certainly got there. The charm of the cast has certainly helped get the show over in my head.

But I'll start from the beginning.

"A very good place to start." - Yeah. I coined that phrase.
Starting from top left:
This Is Spinal Tap - The first venture is actually directed by Rob Reiner (who plays, of all things, a documentary director in the film) and follows the heavy metal band, Spinal Tap, while on the road. The band consists of five members, the core 3, plus a keyboardist and a frequently rotated drummer (one of the running jokes is the drummers' deaths).
Here, much of the groundwork for the later incarnations is laid. At the heart of every project is a group of characters who are, for all intents and purposes, unremarkable. They may have captured success at some point earlier in their lives or have some minor notability, but by the time of the documentary, they are has-beens, they are losers. And this makes them incredibly human. Not necessarily sympathetic, because many of them are in denial, or worse, oblivious, but they become all too real, as if you were meeting these folks at a bus stop.
Spinal Tap's gritty cinematography lends to the realism of the piece. It's the best shot in my opinion, with its shaky camera, odd angles, the voyeuristic nature of the filming. The interviews are all incredibly fun. In particular, Christopher Guest himself as Nigel, shows remarkable ease with monologue-ing and waxing incoherent about guitars and M&M's.
Ultimately, the band suffers multiple falls from glory and friction from without is caused by being members of a bygone era (their latest album cover is deemed too offensive, though that could be a cover for the real fact that they no longer draw money as an act) and from Michael McKean's (David St. Hubbins') meddling girlfriend, a Yoko Ono-esque character who thinks she knows better than the band, their manager, and anyone else.
See if you can spot: Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal, Paul Shaffer, Archie Hahn, Patrick MacNee, Fran Drescher, Howard Hesseman, and Angelica Huston in cameos.

Overall, the movie is rewarding if you take the time. I honestly think it's a tough one to start with, though.

Waiting for Guffman
This, I find is most people's introduction to the unofficial franchise. Guffman perfectly sums up the idea of a group of individuals living in a self-congratulating vacuum, turning self-made tragedy into inadvertent comedy.
Blaine, Missouri is celebrating their sesquicentennial anniversary as a city and for the festivities, they've commissioned a musical to be written and performed about the history of the town from its humble beginnings. Hired to helm the production is semi-notable off-off-off-off-off-off Broadway director and choreographer Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest). He pulls together a pretty ragtag group of actors: a pair of "old pros", a backwoods hunter and part-time taxidermist, a dentist who fancies himself a comic, a feisty Dairy Queen employee, and an uncertain but handsome auto mechanic, and has to work with the neurotic music director.
The town council is very excited and fond of Corky...That is, until Corky gets word that the show could head to Broadway if a producer, Mort Guffman, likes the show enough...and Corky asks for more money. He is denied, but resolves to put together the show in spite of this. It goes off successfully, but the epilogue reveals the groups' ending to their brief and quick fifteen minutes of fame.

It's short, sweet, and anyone who's done community theater will just love how important everything is to everyone. It's incredibly true, and incredibly sad. And makes for some comedy that is uncomfortable on the level of early episodes of The Office.

Best In Show
I argue that this movie is their strongest piece, and the most fully realized. Everyone in the movie is for the most part split into pairs, and each pair owns a dog being entered in the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. They're each in different categories, but the title "Best in Show" is up for grabs by the winner of every category. 
Aside from the characteristically strong performances from all the usual members of the ensemble (Guest, Eugene Levy who again co-wrote the outline of the screenplay with Guest, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, and Michael McKean...Harry Shearer is regrettably absent, as well as Guffman joiners: Michael Hitchcock, Larry Miller, and Parker Posey) this is also the first-time appearance for a lot of the mainstays: Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Jim Piddock, and Don Lake.
The piece follows the respective pairs on the road as well as the competition itself. The chemistry of the respective pairs is what really makes the movie for me, and leads to some unbelievable dialogue and timelessly funny lines.

The movie is ridiculous on many levels, once again particularly on the level of how seriously the characters take everything. If you only watch one of the movies of the group, make it this one. You won't be sorry.

A Mighty Wind
I remember that by the time I had an awareness and affinity for these movies, I was only able to see this one on the big screen. It was perfect. Some of it is a bit darker than the rest, in the sense that the characters are quietly more tragic than the rest.
The movie's impetus is a famous folk music producer has died, and his family wants to air a concert tribute to him because of all the timeless music he helped bring to the world. In particular, it follows the journeys "back to the stage" for three folk groups big in the folk scene in the 60's: The 9-person, "pop" group the New Main Street Singers (the original group disbanded in the 70s, but was reformed by one of the founding members with a new ensemble), the serious artists but never quite fully mainstream successful The Folksmen (a trio played by the same actors as Spinal Tap who, when Spinal Tap would tour, would occasionally open for themselves as the other music group), and the "sweethearts" Mitch & Mickey (played to perfection by the Best In Show pairing, Levy and O'Hara).
The music is quite good, and much more my taste than Spinal Tap's and the ensemble's performances are beautiful, verging on art. O'Hara in particular gives a very nuanced performance as Mickey, and some of the epilogue is almost unbearable. What makes these characters especially tragic is that they were big at one point. Truly big. What separates this movie from the others is that in a lot of the documentary interviews, it's other people talking about how much this music and these groups changed their lives, rather than the groups talking about themselves (which they do, but less so than the previous movies) so it creates more of a connection to us as the audience. It bonds us more to the acts.

Overall, it's not as laugh out loud funny as Best In Show, but it's much more complex. The slow builds to all the respective threads they lay out in the beginning is beautifully done, and a true clinic in pacing for long-form improvisation.

For Your Consideration
Rather off-beat in its presentation, following four documentaries and considered by some to be the weak link, Consideration nonetheless offers some worthwhile bright spots.
A quiet little movie production based on a dramatic screenplay by a notable writing duo is getting some Oscar buzz for the performances of several of its actors which in turn leads to some executive meddling from up top to ensure the production as a whole gets noticed and gets some mainstream attention.
Everything gets a little too big in too short of a time, though the movie does get made with all the alterations and updates. The notability of the actors though, possibly gets lost in the shuffle.
Again, it is a little bit of a letdown after the previous movies, but everyone still gives a great performance, the pairings are all shuffled up a bit, and O'Hara once again, lends some gravitas to what is a dark comedy and turns in a compelling dramatic performance.
I think the movie suffers most from its pace, which is incredibly abbreviated. But perhaps that's just the whirlwind feel of being on a Hollywood set.
Consideration also rivals Spinal Tap's star cameos: John Krasinski, Richard Kind, Sandra Oh, Ricky Gervais, Scott Adsit, and a young Casey Wilson.

I think if you watch it first, you'll be really impressed, even if you watch it second or third. There's some standout stuff to be had.

Family Tree
And we've arrived.
Family Tree is about Tom Chadwick, who, after his great aunt dies and leaves him a box full of clues to his lineage, embarks on a journey to trace his genealogy even across the pond to America. He's helped along the way by some oddball characters, and for the most part his family, close and distant, who all have quirks of their own.
What really makes the show fantastic, is its these same off-center characters Guest is so good at conceiving of, but the family connection to most of the cast makes them sympathetic to the audience. We know our family is weird, this show evidences another weird family and their idiosyncrasies.
The show is anchored by the wonderfully charming (and wonderfully Irish) performance of Chris O'Dowd who is funny in his own right, but sets up everyone else beautifully. It's really his loveability that makes us care about the rest of the characters, in the same way Michael Scott made us care about The Office workers.
He is joined for most of the adventure by Nina Conti, famous ventriloquist (who had a brief cameo in For Your Consideration) plays Tom's sister Bea, who's puppet Monk is her mouthpiece for the most part, and best friend Pete, played by Tom Bennett, who is immature, idiotic, and self-obsessed. All three are newcomers to the ensemble, but it feels like they fit right in.
So far, in the eight episode first season, we've had appearances by Guest, McKean, Jim Piddock as an eccentric store owner (who pulls off a South African accent way too convincingly), Begley Jr., Don Lake, and Balaban, as well as Willard as an intrusive neighbor who gets a season finale twist reveal that finally gives one of Willard's characters a heart. My hope is that the show continues because it's a wonderful comedy, and so that many, many more of the ensemble have a chance to make an appearance.

The first season, which finished on Sunday, is only eight episodes and they're each only a half-hour. If you can get your hands on them somehow, please do so. It's charming, oddball, at times heartwarming, and as always hilarious.

What I really wanted to dive into are the actors of the ensemble, who truly make it all work. What I love is its really like an improv troupe, the same people recur in different roles that are vaguely similar or connected, and the same themes play out as an ensemble will tend to do. What makes the cast so fun is that everyone is so incredibly strong from bottom to top.

Strong support: Paul Benedict, Christopher Moynihan, Will Sasso, Rachael Harris, and Paul Dooley.
Paul Benedict:
Appearances: Hotel manager in Spinal Tap, Guffman himself in Waiting for Guffman, and one of the music historians in A Mighty Wind
Benedict is so charmingly British, and so quietly deadpan. His role in Spinal is all of maybe forty seconds, but he gave me one of the heartiest laughs of the movie.
Best moment: His single Mighty Wind interview has one of the funniest worded lines in all the films.

Christopher Moynihan:
Appearances: Newest member of the Main Street in Mighty Wind, and fresh-faced actor Brian in For Your Consideration
Moynihan has a lot of potential, and really broke through in Consideration, even though I loved him in Mighty Wind. 
Best moment: It's a little "inside", but his first monologue that's actually to Guest about how he prepared for the role is literally every Acting Class reference you can make.

Will Sasso:
Appearances: Friend of Guest's character in Best In Show, and most recently as an obnoxious car driver in Family Tree
You might recognize Sasso from MadTV and most recently (and unfortunately) as the "new Curly" from the uncomfortable abomination that was Three Stooges, but Sasso is an underrated comic force. 
Best moment: As everyone embarks on the road, Sasso has a truly confounding moment in his goodbyes to Guest. It's a moment of improv at its purest.

Rachael Harris:
Appearances: Balaban's assistant in Mighty Wind, and the actress playing the lesbian character Mary Pat in For Your Consideration
Harris has been all over TV, and you probably know her from either The Sarah Silverman Program, or maybe even Reno 911! where she played Deb, Tom Lennon's (Lieutenant Dangle's) ex-wife who used to be fat. Harris is subtly brilliant too, making the most of her brief appearances.
Best moment: Party-pooping moment early on with Balaban in Mighty Wind

Paul Dooley:
Appearances: UFO abductee in Waiting for Guffman, George Menschell of the original Main Street Singers in Mighty Wind, and a brief cameo in one of the movie clips opposite John Krasinski in For Your Consideration
Dooley is so subtly funny, and disappears into so many of his characters. You may also recognize him as the station manager in the musical Hairspray movie. 
Best moment: It's hard to beat that UFO monologue.

Sometimes, you barely realize it's them: Ed Begley Jr., Carrie Aizley, Don Lake, Larry Miller, Deborah Theaker, Linda Kash, and Bob Balaban
Ed Begley Jr.:
Appearances: One of the unfortunate drummers in archival footage in Spinal Tap, hotel manager in Best In Show, cable TV executive and folk music enthusiast in Mighty Wind, O'Hara's outspoken make-up artist in For Your Consideration, and Tom's American cousin obsessed with conspiracy theory in Family Tree
Begley is pretty prolific when it comes to these outings, missing only Guffman, and he's hilarious in all of them. Something he has in common with Don Lake and Bob Balaban is he plays these incredibly knowledgeable guys. They know their specialty really well. 
I think his performance on Family Tree is getting better and better every episode.
Best Character: I think his best performance overall is the hotel manager in Best In Show. He's believable, charming, and funny, in particular watch his scene with Parker Posey's meltdown in the hotel room.
Best Moment: I have to give best moment though, to his executive in Mighty Wind, in what I call the "Yiddish monologue." 

Carrie Aizley:
Appearances: Interviewer in For Your Consideration, and Begley's wife in Family Tree
Aizley is delightfully dim in her roles, and she's pretty funny. 
Best Character and Best Moment both go to Kitty in Family Tree. You have to see to believe. I won't spoil anything.

Don Lake:
Appearances: One of the Blaine historians in Waiting for Guffman, show producer in Best In Show, one of the Steinbloom kids in A Mighty Wind, "Love It" critic in For Your Consideration, and a Civil War enthusiast in Family Tree.
Incredibly knowledgeable, charmingly bashful, and occasionally darker, Lake is a staple. His appearances are a little drier, but he can have his moments.
Best Character: I love the Steinbloom kid from Mighty Wind because he's the one that hates folk music and it adds this level of quiet tension amongst the three kids. 
Best Moment: I can't decide if his better monologue is in Guffman or Best in Show

Larry Miller:
Appearances: Mayor of Blaine in Guffman, touchy-feely ex-boyfriend of O'Hara in Show, PR guy in Wind, and a studio executive in Consideration.
Miller also gets delightfully dark with a lot of his improv. He's got this great everyman appearance. 
Best Character and Best Moment are Best In Show, without a doubt. He's a hostage negotiator, inappropriately still in love with O'Hara's character Cookie even though they're both married, and his unforgettable threats to his son who is completely not right in the head.

Deborah Theaker
Appearances: one of the town council members in Guffman, a friend and neighbor of O'Hara and Levy in Show, the Steinbloom sister in Wind, and O'Hara's friend in Consideration
Theaker gets some brilliant mileage out of being a self-important unimportant character.
Best Character: Ms. Steinbloom in Mighty Wind is so grief-stricken, she is a joy to watch throughout the finale concert.
Best Moment: I have to give it to her councilwoman in Guffman. She's a descendant of one of the town founders and her analysis of the situation is priceless.

Linda Kash:
Appearances: Mrs. Pearl in Guffman, and Miller's wife in Show.
Kash needs more appearances because she's enormously funny in what she's done. As Levy's wife, she never appears with him but plays a delightful town gossip, and in Show she quietly steals the awkward dinner scene between the two complicated couples.
Best Character and Best Moment: Again, that dinner scene...It's Levy who gets the funny line, but Kash brings it home with her reaction and timing.

Bob Balaban:
Appearances: The obsessive music director in Guffman, the Kennel Club president in Show, the no-nonsense Steinbloom kid in Wind, one of the screenplay writers opposite McKean in Consideration, and one of Tom's many relatives in Family Tree.
Another true mainstay of the franchise, Balaban is deliciously neurotic to the point of unadulterated annoyance, culminating most famously in Mighty Wind, where he is mostly paired with Michael Hitchcock. All of Balaban's characters would be a pain to meet, but are a joy to watch.
Best Character: Mighty Wind's Jonathan Steinbloom is the most neurotic of all.
Best Moment: I could give it to his exchanges with Hitchcock throughout the final stages of Wind, but I absolutely love his conflict with Guest's St. Clair in Waiting for Guffman.

Unbelievably hilarious: Jim Piddock, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, and Michael Hitchcock
Jim Piddock:
Appearances: Play-by-play commentary for the dog show in Best In Show, Mickey's husband in A Mighty Wind, lighting designer in For Your Consideration, and a novelties store owner in Family Tree.
Piddock's characters are all experts. His knowledge of dogs and the competition in Show is formidable. In Wind, he sells bladder medical appliances, and seems to be able to talk for hours about it. All of his characters are so dry and serious, he leaves quite the impression without meaning to.
Best Character: Paired with the inimitable Willard in Show, Piddock remains immutable and looks amazing.
Best Moment: I have to say the model train scene is my favorite Piddock moment.

Jennifer Coolidge:
Appearances: Owner of Rhapsody in White in Best In Show, PR assistant in A Mighty Wind, and the producer in For Your Consideration.
You may recognize her more as Stifler's mom from the American Pie franchise but rest assured, Coolidge is deeply funnier than even that. Coolidge's characters are all dimwitted blondes. Her monologues are incredibly deep in their vapid shallowness and incoherence, and her Consideration character especially says some of the weirdest things in or out of context.
Best Character: I love her in Best In Show the most. You want the dumbest characters to stumble into the most intelligent of moments.
Best Moment: And speaking of which, her best moment is actually in A Mighty Wind, where, during the dinner party scene, she utters possibly the most brilliant line of the entire series.

Jane Lynch:
Appearances: Trainer of Rhapsody in White in Best In Show, part of the New Main Street in A Mighty Wind, and a posturing tabloid show host in For Your Consideration.
Lynch has made quite a name for herself outside the series, and could arguably be its biggest star. She's on Glee, she was in Role Models, 40-Year Old Virgin, and many others.
All of her characters in and out of the franchise showcase Lynch's talent for improvisation and particularly improvisation of a darker nature. In a previous post, I showcased a clip from Best In Show that absolutely summed up Lynch's infamous style.
Best Character: Again, Best In Show absolutely does it for me.
Best Moment: But I have to give best singular moment to her monologue in A Mighty Wind. Her husband sitting uncomfortably next to her, she talks about moving from Chicago to LA, appearing in adult films, and finding music. She knows when to keep it vague too, and leave it up to the audience's imaginations.

John Michael Higgins:
Appearances: One of the gay dog owners opposite McKean in Best In Show, head of the New Main Street in A Mighty Wind, and a Hollywood PR guy in For Your Consideration.
I'm sad Higgins wasn't in Guffman. Higgins is so ridiculous. He's earnest to an unnerving point, and so straightforward with absolutely everyone.
Best Character and Best Moment are Scott Donlan in Best In Show, without a doubt. He has the best monologues, the best scenes, the best lines, and the best quips. Paired with McKean, who could only bring out the best in him, he's even better.

Parker Posey:
Appearances: Libby Mae in Waiting for Guffman, manic Meg Swan in Best In Show, perky Sissy Knox in A Mighty Wind, and serious actress Callie in For Your Consideration.
Posey, who still considers herself not an improviser, is ridiculously good at her roles. She's believable, from being a wonderful actor, and she captures this slightly jaded spirit in all her characters as well.
Best Character and Best Moment I have to give to Libby Mae. She thinks she's being so deep with her answers when she's not, she yells some of the best lines throughout the show, and her audition song is just the best. Also, if you get a chance to watch on the DVD version, watch the deleted scene of her monologue audition. It's like Mr. Show/David Cross's the audition funny.

Michael Hitchcock:
Appearances: Councilman in Guffman, Hamilton Swan in Show, Town Hall's theater manager in Wind, "Hated It" critic in Consideration.
Hitchcock is one of the few bright spots in Glee, and recently appeared in Bridesmaids where he is hilariously inappropriate with Kirsten Wiig.
I like to say all of Hitchcock's characters don't get to do what they want. He doesn't get to audition for St. Clair in Guffman, he gets disqualified from the competition in Show, he's a singer but not a folk singer in Wind, and he hates everything in Consideration. Hitchcock's characters are neurotic but much more high-strung and volatile. He plays them to absolute perfection.
Best Character: I love all of them. Maybe Hamilton in Best In Show.
Best Moment: I have to quote the line, from Best In Show. "Go get Busy Bee. Go! Mommy's gonna get it. Don't worry...No, look at me. Look...LOOK AT ME. Don't look at any of the fatass losers or freaks you LOOK AT MEEE!" all this, screamed at a dog.

The Immortal Six: Mastermind Christopher Guest, Master Critic Michael McKean, Master Voice Harry Shearer, Master Idiot Savant Fred Willard, Master Actor Catherine O'Hara, and Master Comic Eugene Levy
Christopher Guest:
Appearances: Nigel in Spinal Tap, Corky in Guffman, Harlan Pepper in Show, one of the Folksmen in Mighty Wind, the director in Consideration, and oddball family relation in Family Tree.
Guest is just so ridiculous in all of his appearances. He mostly works solo if he's not with McKean and Shearer, and Corky is probably one of the funniest comic characters ever. Harlan Pepper is no slouch either, with some of the best monologues in Best In Show, in the deleted scenes too.
Best Character: Nigel's probably the character I'd most want to meet.
Best Moment: Actually, he managed to get me most recently in Family Tree, his revelation at the hot tube scene. But he's had so many over the course of the franchise.

Michael McKean:
Appearances: David in Spinal Tap, Stefan in Show, Alan Barrows of the Folksmen in Mighty Wind, one of the screenwriters for Consideration, and Tom's avoidant father in Family Tree.
McKean's characters are all quietly critical of the situation they're in, and may be most aware of their hopeless situations. He tries to bring both Spinal Tap and the Folksmen to more mainstream success, and looks like he's trying to keep skeletons in the closet as it were throughout Family Tree.
Best Character: Stefan is his most against type character, more carefree and quippish. But he's no less pragmatic.
Best Moment: I would honestly say his facial expression for Spinal Tap's Stonehenge reveal is priceless, and ranks among my favorite moments from the series.

Harry Shearer:
Appearances: Completes the trio as Derek in Spinal Tap, and the trio of Folksmen in Wind, as well as the struggling Hollywood veteran in Consideration.
I wish Shearer hadn't missed Show, and I hope he appears soon on Family Tree. We all know Shearer's talent for voices, as 1/6 of the talented Simpsons cast, playing most notably Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Reverend Lovejoy, C. Montgomery Burns, Smithers, and God among a whole cadre of others.
Shearer always strikes as a bit of a jerk in all his interviews, so it's nice to see him in person playing rather sweet characters in the movies. Derek is so earnest, and Mark of the Folksmen has one of the better twist endings of the movie.
Best Character and Best Moment: I do have to give to Mark Shubb of the Folksmen. It's the funniest character, and the final moment of the movie is all his.

Fred Willard:
Appearances: Brief appearance in Spinal Tap, veteran actor Ron Albertson in Guffman, color commentator opposite Piddock in Show, the New Main Street's manager in Wind, idiotic tabloid show host in Consideration, and the nosy neighbor of Begley and Aizley in Family Tree.
Willard is a comic's comic. He keeps going. You can tell in the movies that his monologues are all cut down from something longer. The man has a limitless imagination. He can be corny, crude, crazy, and courteous all in a single sentence. All of his Willard's characters are idiots by nature, but they mean well, but usually do more harm than good.
Best Character: His color commentator for Best In Show. While it's obvious Piddock did a lot of research, it's obvious Willard did none. His color commentary borders on the inane and the fact that Piddock never strikes him or loses his cool is beyond me.
Best Moment: I have to quote another line. In the epilogue of Mighty Wind, Willard explains that network TV wants the New Main Street on a TV show and he has the idea to make them the Supreme Court Justices, because there's 9 of both. But, as he explains it, "I always thought there were 12 Supreme Court judges, turns out there are only 9. I don't know if there were budget cutbacks or something..."
The brilliance of the line...I mean, you think at first he was just corrected, but then you get the second part, where you realize he actually still believes at one point there was 12...The idiocy is encapsulated perfectly.

Catherine O'Hara:
Appearances: Opposite Ron Albertson as Sheila in Guffman, opposite Levy as Cookie in Best In Show, opposite Levy's Mitch as Mickey in Mighty Wind, and Marilyn Hack in For Your Consideration.
O'Hara, like I've been saying, is a truly rare gem. She's not only a fantastically funny improviser, but a nuanced actor. She brings so much heart and tragic beauty unfound in the rest of the ensemble. I think she's my number 1 pick to see on Family Tree hopefully next season. You won't get many improvisers like her, because many don't consider themselves good enough actors, and if you watch her as Mickey or Marilyn, you'll understand why the bar is so high.
Best Character and Best Moment: I have to give it to Mickey from Mighty Wind. How utterly brilliant, and, when you see the epilogue, how utterly tragic.

Eugene Levy:
Appearances: Dr. Allan Pearl in Waiting for Guffman, Gerry Fleck in Best In Show, Mitch in A Mighty Wind, and Shearer's agent Morley Orfkin in For Your Consideration.
I certainly hope Levy appears soon too. Considering that in addition to appearing in these films, Levy also co-wrote most of them with Guest, it wouldn't be unheard of.
Levy is absolutely masterful in his roles. They're wonderfully distinct, but Dr. Pearl and Gerry are so nerdy and then Mitch is just a comic tour de force of that movie. Levy makes every situation humorously uncomfortable, and then brings it home with a single line. It's beautiful every time.
Best Character: Mitch from Mighty Wind, who has some heartfelt moments of his own, particularly when he reappears after disappearing during the concert, and his final line of the movie.
Best Moment: Aside from the aforementioned, I like his party scene in Best In Show, where he and O'Hara are grouped in with Higgins and McKean, a meeting of epic proportions.

I hope Family Tree returns for a second season, and I hope you all get a chance to watch it.
I also hope you watch some of these movies, too. Some of them are absolutely the funniest you will see.