Prueher and Pickett as the fictional strong man duo Chop & Steele.
Twentysomething 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, beginning his career as a video collector.
Prueher, who since written for The Onion and The Late Show with David Letterman, now hosts and curates the Found Footage Festival, an annual showcase of strange and unusual videos.
He and co-host Joe Pickett will bring a new show of “newly unearthed VHS treasures” to the Grog Shop at 7 p.m. on May 12. Tickets are $12 and are available at foundfootagefest.com.
For the screening, Pickett and Prueher will provide live commentary and where-are-they-now updates on the people in the tapes they’ve found at garage sales and thrift stores and in warehouses and dumpsters throughout North America.”
“We always provide a live guided tour through our collection,” says Prueher in a recent phone interview. “We have a segment of Satanic panic videos from the ’80s in the current show, and we explain why there was so much hysteria.”
Other highlights of the new show include outtakes and on-air bloopers from over ten years of North Dakota local news.
“We met a guy who was an editor and director at a TV station in Fargo,” says Prueher. “He’s out of the game now. He said he disliked the job but what kept him going was the bloopers. He would make a copy and put them in a bin. He gave us 20 years of bloopers. We kick off the show with it. Lots of them are on camera but in one clip a woman tries to read a voiceover and can’t get through it without laughing. Her laughter is really contagious.”
Pickett and Prueher will also screen a little-seen video clip of a “Welcome Home Desert Storm” parade in Hollywood featuring Roseanne Barr and Geraldo Rivera.
“There is no record of this parade happening,” says Prueher. “It was such a disaster of a live broadcast. The microphones didn’t work right, and there were blaring sirens. Taco Bell was a sponsor, and there is shameless promotion. There’s a giant tank in the shape of a balloon and a float sponsored by Combat Cooler, an energy drink.”
Since Prueher worked on Letterman for a few years, he received a tip from his former co-workers that Letterman’s old VHS tape collection had become up for grabs.
“That was the call we’ve been waiting our whole lives for,” says Prueher. “It’s all weird, bizarre VHS tapes. There’s a Pete Rose instructional tape and a Mickey Rooney how-to-act video and a video about how to raise ferrets. The tapes were used in a segment called Dave’s video collection, but there was a treasure trove of unused tapes. It was a bounty of new material.”
The show will also feature footage from a prank pulled by Pickett and Prueher, who posed as Chop & Steele, a weightlifting duo on morning news shows.
“One of the news stations in Wisconsin is now trying to sue us,” says Prueher. “It’s so frivolous. We often do morning news appearances to promote the festival. The morning anchors usually don’t care. We wondered if we could get booked as fake people. We thought it would be more fun. Joe and I are about as far from strongmen as you can get. We got booked on seven morning shows. We’re excited to show people the results, especially since you can’t see them online now in the wake of the lawsuit. Our prank establishes the point about how easy it it is to put forth fake news.”
Since debuting in 2004, the Found Footage Festival has toured the U.S. and Canada, making stops at the HBO Comedy Festival, Bonnaroo and the Just For Laughs Festival. The festival has been featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and National Public Radio. The festival can also be seen on the new TruTV series, Late Night Snack, in the hit documentary Winnebago Man and in the book, VHS: Absurd, Odd and Ridiculous Relics from the Videotape Era.