Written for Torontoist, posted on February 2, 2011. Online version can be found at Torontoist.
Nerds Gone Wild
Wayne and Garth impersonators. Pregnant celebrity exercise videos. Wieners and vomit.
Welcome to the world of Found Footage Festival. A “celebration of bad videos”, where the humour is always unintentional and and male frontal nudity is mandatory, regardless of who may or may not pass out.
While the concept might seem trite and smug, reminding you of Derrick Beckles’ (aka Pinky) TV Carnage series, co-founders Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett insist otherwise. Pruher asserts, “We are never intentionally offensive, we are scared to death of coming off as snarky buttholes.” Joe laments, “We’ve all been there. I know that I have embarrassing home videos of myself doing karate moves at twelve. Nick has one of him singing [Will Smith’s] “Parents Just Don’t Understand” at Disneyland. I think these videos speak to people.” To confirm this fact, many actors in the videos often come to the shows and reenact their scenes, telling stories and generally making fun of themselves, ironic or not.
For Prueher and Pickett, Found Footage Festival is just another step in their comedic careers. The pair created a humour magazine at the age of eleven and have been working for comedic luminaries such as the Onion, Late Night with David Letterman and the Colbert Report for the past decade. Collecting videos with their friends since 1991, the idea to begin international video screenings only came about when trying to self-finance a documentary. Pruher and Pickett quit their jobs to film 2007‘s Dirty Country, which follows “the Amadeus of dirty music”, Larry Pierce, a blue-collar middle-aged married factory worker in the Midwest, who pens filthy country hits, such as ”She Makes My Peter Stand Up”, and “Yeast Infection”.
Prueher reflects, “We were suprised in 2004, when somebody told us to put the clips in front of an audience and it sold out. Because of the internet, ironic enjoyment has become so popular. With a hundred shows a year and audiences of three hundred people, it’s the gentrification of nerd culture!” While all sorts of people come to the show, from public radio listeners, the elderly, to college kids, sometimes not all references translate. This is not a major concern, though. Despite the fact that audience members born in the nineties might not know who Za Za Gabor or Alyssa Milano are, it is the aesthetic that translates. “Often people will tell us their faces hurt afterwards from laughing so hard.”
Future plans for Prueher and Pickett include a high-concept monthly comedy show in New York, which contains less maintream material than what has previously been shown. The duo will also collaborate with Beckles, who has doned “Let’s Work It Out”, an exercise video montage for their current tour. Back in New York, the three plan to host a month-long storefront replicate of a mom and pop eighties video store. Curating their collection of three thousand videos, the space will be divided into sections such as: “Pregnant celebrity exercise”. Visitors will be able to watch these videos for a few dollars at various TV/ VCR units placed throughout the store.
Prueher laments: “In the future, we could be finding hard drives. Whatever the format is, people will always have bad ideas.” Regardless, Prueher insists that Toronto audience members should do their part and come to Thursday night’s show with a video they would like to present. In a city that is currently pretty damn cold, Found Footage Festival is bound to warm up your Thursday night.