Eighteen years ago, Nick Prueher was working at a McDonald's in Wisconsin when he happened upon a custodial training video in the break room. He popped it in the VCR and had such a good laugh, he decided to take it home and show it to his friends. Thus began his career as a video collector. Prueher, who since written for The Onion and The Late Show With David Letterman, is now the host and curator of the Found Footage Festival, an annual showcase of strange and unusual videos. He and co-host Joe Pickett are coming to Cleveland for the first time, stopping at the Cedar Lee Theatre (2163 Lee Rd., 216.321.5411) at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25.
"We take people on a guided tour through our collection of found videos," says Prueher. "It's a comedy show/screening. We explain how and where we found the videos and then make smart-ass remarks while the videos are playing. In the show we're bringing to Cleveland, there's a video that someone sent to us anonymously called Something's Happening. It's a public-affairs talk show, and in this particular tape, there's this old man on there explaining how he discovered this revolutionary new technique to 'extract death from your mouth.' It involves spraying grapefruit into your mouth and then spitting it out into a coffee filter. It's one of the strangest things we've ever seen it. We like to present it as we saw it and watch people's jaws drop."
Other highlights of the festival include a series of workplace harassment videos, an instructional video on how to toilet-train cats and a Playgirl exercise video from 1985 that features a guy who refers to himself as "the laughing yogi." "It's called Playgirl Hunkercise," explains Prueher. "It stars Playgirl models, and they're doing sexually suggestive exercises wearing really short nylon shorts and tank tops. Of course, they all have mustaches. I think they thought they were making it for the ladies, but I highly doubt that's who was watching them."
Prueher says there are no plans to turn the festival into a film, something that seems inevitable given the fact that the like-minded Mystery Science Theatre 3000 made the jump to the silver screen. "I don't think it works apart from a live show," says Prueher. "It's the experience of being in the theater with 300 other people and being taken on this guided tour. You're given permission to laugh at this stuff you'd otherwise be watching by yourself in a break room or at home in your living room. There's something cathartic about it."