We all know VHS tapes did not last the technological test of time. Once DVDs and other digital sources took over, VHS tapes quickly became undesirable and then eventually unplayable. Very few people own the systems to play a VHS anymore and so the tapes face the fate of donation without much thought from their owners. But Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher collect those discarded VHS tapes — a hobby that started in 1991 with the discovery of an odd training video at a McDonald’s in Wisconsin — and present them to audiences across the US and Canada at the Found Footage Festival. Squirreled away from thrift stores, warehouses and dumpsters all over North America, the VHS collection of Pickett and Prueher is strange, weird, funny, stupid and altogether outrageous. And they’re bringing some of that oddball collection to Boulder on April 19 and to Denver’s Sie FilmCenter on April 20, 2018.
The festival takes audiences on a journey through the latest VHS discoveries of the duo, where Pickett and Prueher sprinkle in jokes, narration and where-are-they-now commentary. Impressions from the clips range from slapstick comedy to awkward-beyond-reason to just plain weird, and everything in between. As Prueher writes, “from the curiously-produced industrial training video to the forsaken home movie donated to Goodwill, the Found Footage Festival resurrects these forgotten treasures and serves them up in a lively celebration of all things found.” It’s not about understanding the clips on their own — it’s about appreciating that random moment in time, preserved on a shitty piece of technology.
Maybe this sounds too strange to you. But when you consider where the founders come from, it should make more sense. Pickett is a contributing writer for The Onion, and Prueher used to work at The Colbert Report and the Late Show with David Letterman. Together, they created the Kenny “K-Strass” Strasser, Chef Keith, and Chop & Steele pranks that fooled local morning TV news shows in the Midwest, garnering a lot of attention on YouTube — and with VICE News. As it turns out, one of the local morning shows did not appreciate the humor and sued the duo for fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.
So collecting random VHS videotapes is only one of the many bizarre avenues that Pickett and Prueher take in their quest for comedy. And the Found Footage Festival has been celebrated since its first show in 2004 in New York City. Since then, it’s been featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and as a TruTV series. Pickett and Prueher will be traveling to Colorado with their newest 2018 selection of “found films” and showing them for two nights only.
Because Pickett and Prueher continue to collect VHS tapes, the Found Footage Festival continues to change, leading to “new” clips and videos that have never been seen before. Some of the highlights of what to expect at these upcoming shows are below, in Prueher’s words:
- A collection of satanic panic videos from the ’80s, including “The Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults”
- Outtakes and on-air bloopers from over 10 years of North Dakota local news
- A little-seen “Welcome Home Desert Storm” parade featuring Roseanne Barr and Gerardo
- Exclusive selections from David Letterman’s VHS Collection, donated to the Found Footage Festival when Letterman retired from the Late Show
- Never-before-seen footage of a prank pulled by Pickett and Prueher posing as a strongman duo named Chop & Steele, and the story of how it led to a federal lawsuit
Found Footage Festival screening at CU Boulder Visual Arts Complex is on April 19 at 8 p.m., tickets are $13 ($12 member) and at the Sie FilmCenter on April 20 at 9:30 p.m., tickets are $15 ($12 DFS member) and are available here.
More information (and a truly amazing archive of photos featuring VHS covers) visit the Found Footage Festival website.
All photography courtesy of Found Footage Festival on Facebook, unless otherwise noted.