Courtesy of Found Footage Fest
Hundreds of old VHS tapes sit in thrift stores, waiting for a second chance at redemption and popularity. Those old exercise videos, home movies and even corporate training videos wait and hope that Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett will come discover them and bring their contents back into the spotlight.
Prueher and Pickett, who have contributed to the “Late Show with David Letterman” and The Onion, respectively, archive these videos and present segments from their favorites to audiences at live comedy shows, known as Found Footage Festivals.
The Found Footage Festival is scheduled to come to Columbus 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Drexel Theatre.
The video that started the pair’s collection was a McDonald’s training video for janitors titled “Inside and Outside Custodial Duties” that Prueher picked up while working at a local Wisconsin McDonald’s in high school in 1991.
“It was so insultingly dumb and ridiculous that I just had to bring it home and show it to Joe,” he said.
The video was an instant hit with the duo and close friends, so Prueher and Pickett began searching for more lost pieces of comedy gold in the form of old training videos, home movies and DVDs. The collection continued to grow to the point that in 2004 the duo had enough video clips to take the comedy show public.
“We were surprised that it really caught on and people enjoyed it. The only nerve-racking thing was that it seemed like an inside joke and we didn’t know if the jokes would strike a chord with other people,” Prueher said.
The two found that when on the hunt for these comedic bits, sometimes the best way to get videos is by getting a job solely to snag the training videos while on the clock. Pickett and Prueher heard rumors of an infamous training video for the video store Suncoast Videos, currently named FYE, in which the characters in the training video imitated the two main characters Garth and Wayne from the movie “Wayne’s World.”
Pickett applied for the job, got hired, worked a shift there, brought home the training video and took it back into the store the next morning. Part of the irony was that Pickett also grabbed an anti-shoplifting video to take home and share with friends, Prueher said.
“You have to get creative when you are hunting for these videos and sometimes that means applying for a job in order to get your hands on that piece of gold,” Prueher said. “Sometimes the best ones are worth going through some crazy links to find them.”
To keep this sense of challenge alive, Pickett and Prueher stick to searching for their clips only from physical media such as VHS and DVD, despite the creation and popularity of YouTube.
“It feels like cheating to us to use other videos people found and posted online because we didn’t find it,” Prueher said. “And for us, part of the charm of this is doing the actual hunting throughout the thrift store.”
Prueher said the digging through hundreds of tapes before finding one gem and then becoming obsessed with that tape helps the pair appreciate its discoveries even more.
Some Ohio State students enjoy the idea of bringing VHS and other physical media back into the comedy scene as well.
Berez Jack Harris, a fourth-year in psychology, said he would go see the show.
“That sounds like a really cool idea and they would have an infinite amount of resources to pull jokes from,” he said. “It widens the material base to include clips from the pre-Internet era and I think it’s pretty cool and hipster-ish to use old mediums for new comedy.”
Some students, however, don’t seem to find the idea of this type of comedy amusing.
Jared Painter, a graduate student in education, said he thinks it’s an idea that is yet to be proven.
“I think it lacks originality. Anyone can poke fun at something in a movie,” Painter said. “It’s one of those ‘let’s see it once for free before we buy it’ ideas.”
The duo sells copies of live shows on DVD and often finds clips of itself on YouTube posted by other people.
“We can’t be upset about them showing our clips without our permission because we are doing the exact same thing. It is an honor among thieves to keep the circle of video-sharing comedy moving,” Prueher said.
Tickets for the show are $10 and can be purchased at the Drexel box office, located at 2254 E. Main St.