There are few settings where watching the opening to a German porno, a man dancing in a thong in front of elderly people and a legal deposition all in one night, can leave an audience laughing and clapping. The Found Footage Festival is one of them. After going in with high expectations and zero experience, I found the festival to be a hilarious hour and half of some of the most absurd videos ever filmed.
The Found Footage Festival, for those like myself who haven’t heard of it before, is a live show hosted by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, where they show an ever-changing collection of VHS videos they introduce to the audience and occasionally make comments as they play. They have a collection of nearly a thousand different VHS tapes from their 27 years of collecting them from thrift stores and audience members according to Prueher in a recent interview he gave with buzz.
The show arrived at the Art Theater this Thursday celebrating its fifteen years of touring with a special “Cherished Gems” edition, where they compiled some of their funniest videos from throughout the years.
The show’s prologue started with by playing of a short, overdramatic tractor safety video followed by a clip from a sex education instructional video for sex educators in which a group came up with 8 different names for a penis and a mother was a little bit too understanding after accidentally catching her son masturbating. These videos set the tone for the night and let the audience know right off the bat this show was anything but PG.
After those ended, both hosts came on stage, introduced themselves, and started the night off officially with a montage of unbelievably bad exercise videos from the 80’s that included everything from “bless-exercising for the Lord” to a man filming himself attempting several times to jump over a high bar he has set up in his living room. While this segment was funny, it was the lower point in the show, especially when compared to some later videos.
This really gave light to a running theme of the show, exploiting a point in history around 1985 to 1995 when the technology and ability to film yourself or to appear of public access TV suddenly became available. This leads to a flurry of people who, as Nick explains, “had no business being behind the camera or on camera,” creating some of the worst videos imaginable, much to our entertainment.
The next segment was another montage of real recordings from public access television, where anyone can broadcast on-air, including a very odd Chicago-based musical program, Chic-a-go-go, which both were later able to appear, with Joe wearing a creepy mask and Nick in a skintight leopard spotted leotard, something that public TV never knew it was missing.
The public access section ultimately culminated in an incredibly horrifying/entertaining video called “Dancing With Frank,” where a man wearing nothing but a thong and a mask dances to music in front of a semicircle of elderly people, with the hosts then showing us the sequel, “Dinner Dancing with Frank” where Frank does the exact same thing, but this time while pouring ketchup and guacamole on his body and rubbing and stuffing a full frozen chicken down his thong. This video was not funny, at least not as I saw it, it was just so far out there and so bizarre you couldn’t help but laugh. Potential future audience members are warned.
In between the videos, and especially after the previously mentioned video, the duo would talk about how they would often track down some of the folks in these videos, sometimes even paying a private detective to aid them, leading to videos and pictures of them with people like Frank that somehow made the show seem both more real and even more outrageous.
One video that has to be mentioned is the intro to a frisbee-themed German porno that was simply included because it was called “Frisbee Fuckers,” a name so simple and ridiculous Found Footage Festival now sells frisbees with it labeled on them. Everything from the name, the video itself, and the fact the duo now sells the frisbees after their shows seems to embody the absurd nature of the show perfectly.
Finally, a decent part of the show was taken up with clips of two “pranking” morning talk shows. We saw Nick pretending to be a popular chef and convincing newscaster to drink blended Thanksgiving leftovers and, most importantly, both of them posing as strongmen under the aliases of Chop and Steele, for which they were sued by the stations they appeared on.
It was this very lawsuit (that they later got dismissed) that resulted in arguably the best part of the show, in which they showed us clips from their depositions. Seeing these two comedies nervously explain to a serious sounding lawyer what a strongman is (Joe explains it as, “a strong, man”) and Nick confirming that he does indeed use the word “Fuckers” quite often really elevate the show to the next level.
Overall it was absolutely worth the cost of admission and was an excellent time. Both hosts worked hard to get the audience energized and ready for each video, and their experience really seemed to pay off and helped keep the show moving and the audience laughing. However, the humor isn’t for everyone, and those uncomfortable laughing at incompetent people or strange behavior might not have enjoyed as much. That being said, if you have a chance it is a must see. Nick’s advice for anyone going is simple, “Come in with an open mind, and you’ll enjoy it.”