Found Footage Festival
Curated and hosted by Joe Pickett (the Onion) and Nick Prueher (Late Show with David Letterman, The Colbert Report), this touring showcase features weirdo clips from home movies and public-access television and VHS obscurity. This edition (screening at Central Cinema on Thurs Dec 3 at 7, 9, and 11 pm) includes "a 1987 video-dating reel found by David Cross," "a brand-new compilation of exercise videos featuring Dolph Lundgren, Milton Berle, and WWE's the Bushwhackers." I sat down and asked this Prueher character some tough questions.
Lindy West: Hello?
Nick Prueher: Hello?
Who are you?
My name is Nick. I scavenge in thrift stores all over the country in search of the most ridiculous footage ever committed to VHS.
Why did you invent this festival?
My friend Joe and I had collected all these hilarious videos we'd found at garage sales and Salvation Armys over the years, and we would entertain friends by screening them and giving our running commentary. Then five years ago, while trying to raise money for a documentary project, we decided to take our little dog-and-pony show out of the living room and into a movie theater. Now we get to show off our latest finds all across the country.
You claim to be hilarious. Can you give me an example?
Honestly, it's the videos that are hilarious. We're just the humble tour guides through our VHS collection. But having sifted through hundreds of hours of some of the worst footage of all time, we feel like we've earned the right to interject our own humorous remarks occasionally.
Why is footage you just found lying around somewhere better than footage you picked out on purpose?
For us, the story of how we found the video is sometimes just as interesting as what is on the tape. For example, we were at an estate sale in Queens, New York, a couple of years ago and bought a VHS camcorder for $5. When we got it home and plugged it in, we found a tape still inside. It turned out to be one of the most bizarre home movies we'd ever seen, involving an old man dressed as a woman dancing to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, but it wouldn't have been nearly as thrilling had we not found it by accident.
I found this clump of hair by the wading pool at the park. I can't tell if it's human. Will you put it in your festival?
Call me when you find a videotape of that clump of hair floating in the pool.
Okay, fine. The clump of hair can do 10 minutes of standup before the show.
You claim to have "plenty of great stories and insights." Is that true or were you just trying to trick me into interviewing you?
Here's a story that'll knock your socks off. One of the first videos we ever found was this raw footage from a Winnebago industrial video starring a man named Jack Rebney. Jack had a bit of a short fuse and would constantly go on these angry tirades between takes, so we cut together our favorite moments from two weeks of footage. Unbeknownst to us, one of Jack's friends was at a show we did in Las Vegas a few years ago, and he bought one of our DVDs and showed it to the man himself. Apparently, Jack was pretty pissed off that we were showing this footage of him, but we somehow managed to convince him to appear with us onstage at a show in San Francisco last year. We were nervous to meet him, and he was very prickly at first. But when he saw everyone getting so much joy out of the video, a little smile came over his face. He got a standing ovation, and he was signing autographs and posing for photos for a half hour afterward. At the end of the night, Jack actually hugged us. So if a guy we've dubbed "The World's Angriest RV Salesman" likes the show, we feel like we're doing something right.
I found this dump that a bum took in our office elevator. Will you put it in your festival?
What if I take a picture of it?
What if I make a movie of it and then leave it someplace for you to find?
By all means, yes! Start videotaping this bum dump right now!
What's the most fertile ground for found-footage finding?
Salvation Armys are probably the best place. Goodwills tend to screen their VHS tapes and weed out the weird home movies and stuff. All you end up with is a big row of Jerry Maguires. But Salvation Armys put everything out on the shelf—training videos, home movies, instructional videos, you name it.
Who's funnier—David Cross or Dolph Lundgren?
David Cross is one funny son of a bitch, but Dolph Lundgren is hilarious. And the best part is, he has no idea how hilarious he is.
Who is better at aerobics—Dolph Lundgren or Jimmy Kimmel?
I'm guessing Dolph Lundgren. He played He-Man in the Masters of the Universe movie, after all.
Who is sexier at aerobics—Milton Berle or a bum taking a dump?
For an octogenarian in a tracksuit, Milton Berle is one sexy man. But he never actually does any aerobics in his workout video, so I have to give this one to the bum taking a dump.
How many laughs can you personally guarantee if one attends the Found Footage Festival?
117. That's a Found Footage Festival promise.
What's the best footage you ever found?
It changes for me from time to time, but right now I'm really enamored with this three-fourths-inch tape we found in Texas. It's the raw footage from a series of local furniture commercials starring this lovable man named Bargain Bernie. This guy was probably a really good businessman and furniture salesman but perhaps not the best on-air talent. Over and over, he tries to nail his catchphrase—"All I want to do is save you money!"—and over and over he fails. It seems like every city had a local furniture guy like this, so it really strikes a chord with people. We'll be showing this video in Seattle on Thursday.
In two words or less, why should people go see your show?