Robert Elmer "Bob" Balaban (born August 16, 1945) is an American actor, author and director, best known for his collaborations with Christopher Guest.
Balaban was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Eleanor (née Pottasch) and Elmer Balaban, who owned several movie theatres and later was a pioneer in cable television. His family was a dominant force in the theatre business; his uncles founded the Balaban and Katz Theatre circuit in Chicago, a chain which included the Chicago and Uptown theatres (a 2006 documentary, Uptown: Portrait of a Palace, features one of these theatres). Balaban and Katz operated some of the most beautiful movie palaces in the United States beginning the 1920s. Bob Balaban's father and his uncle Harry founded the H & E Balaban Corporation in Chicago. H & E Balaban Corporation operated their own movie palaces including the Esquire Theatre in Chicago. They later owned a powerful group of television stations and cable television franchises. His uncle Barney Balaban was president of Paramount Pictures for nearly 30 years from 1936 to 1964. His grandmother's second husband, Sam Katz, was a vice president at MGM beginning in 1936. Sam had early partnered with Bob's uncles Abe, Barney, John and Max to form Balaban and Katz. Sam also served as President of the Publix theatre division of Paramount Pictures.
Balaban is an alumnus of Colgate University and New York University and lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his family. He is a member of the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity. He is Jewish, with his paternal grandparents having immigrated from Russia to Chicago.