Q: You just wrapped up Spinal Tap's Unwigged and Unplugged tour. Are people still throwing things onto the stage?
A: We do get women's panties and bras. I've never really figured out what we're supposed to do with them. Someone who works at the theater must take them. Or the person who threw them goes and asks for them back.
Q: It's been 25 years since the release of This Is Spinal Tap. How has the business changed?
A: It occurred to us recently that nothing has changed at all since we made the movie. If we wanted to make the film today, no one would make it. It's still the same amount of difficulty to get something made that doesn't resemble something that has already been made. The sons and daughters of the people who said no are now saying no to something.
Q: So how did you get it done?
A: We were lucky. Norman Lear told Rob Reiner, "I'll give you the money even though no one else knows what this is, or cares, or can figure it out."
Q: Have you ever met someone who mistook one of your faux documentaries for the real thing?
A: Yikes, no, not lately. People have admitted to me, "You know, I saw Spinal Tap when it came out and I thought, Why would they make a documentary about these idiots?" We were at a screening in Dallas, and the girls in front of me said [putting on a Texas cheerleader accent], "These guys are soooo stupid—why would they do this?" I don't mean to point a finger at Dallas. It happened everywhere.
Q: I read that one of your earliest impersonations was Bob Dylan. What's the first parody you can remember doing?
A: My first remembrance of being connected to what I thought was funny was when I was quite young, 8 or 10, looking out the window and imagining the voices of the people I would see—this was New York City—on the street, and doing those voices. So I would see someone, a character kind of walking along, and I would do the voice and the walk. And then later it became specific, when I was at the Lampoon, when the attorneys for Dylan called up and said, "Maybe you shouldn't do this . . . "
Q: What's going on off-camera when you're filming? Is everyone cracking up?
A: It does happen occasionally. Roberto Schaefer, who has shot most of the films I've done, is past that, though. He has this breathing thing that he does to center himself. We don't waste a lot of takes because of laughter. On Waiting for Guffman, the first time I worked with him, there was some shaking. But I don't think you'll see it.
Q: I've heard that the character Nigel Tufnel is based on Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck.
A: Not remotely true! The fact is that, with a wig on, I resembled Jeff in a vague way spatially. But it's not remotely based on him. He's probably the greatest electric-guitar player that's ever lived. Nigel is just in this delusional world. To say Nigel is based on him doesn't even make sense.