STARBURST: How would you describe your show for the uninitiated?
Nick Prueher: It's a live guided tour through our VHS collection. My pal Joe and I have been finding unintentionally hilarious videos at thrift stores since the early ‘90s, so we serve up our favourites, telling the stories behind them and providing a running commentary of jokes and observations. This year's UK tour is all newly unearthed VHS stuff.
You do regular TV appearances in the States. Is that a fair reflection of what people can expect from your live shows?
On TV we have to keep it pretty tame, whereas our live show features a lot of footage that can't be shown on television, and some would argue shouldn't be shown in public either. Mind you, there's nothing pornographic, but it's a handful of clips you won't be able to un-see. A ferret giving birth, for example. Is that going to sell some tickets?
Are you making any changes to your tour for the U.K.?
I believe this is our sixth UK tour and we look forward to it every year. We usually don't have to make too many changes when we go to England and Scotland but occasionally we'll find that certain celebrities didn't make it across the pond. It's like how most Americans have no idea who Robbie Williams is, we discovered that Pee-Herman never really hit it big in the UK. He's sort of our Mr. Bean but when we referenced him in London we were met with stunned silence. That said, everyone loves to laugh at Americans so the show is universal.
How did you originally get into this?
Like most good ideas, it was born out of complete boredom. Joe and I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and would entertain ourselves by going to local thrift stores and finding interesting items. In the ‘90s people starting dumping their old VHS tapes en masse at these places and we would scoop them up--exercise videos, how-to tapes, training videos, home movies--and then screen them for friends in our parents' basements. In 2004, we had enough tapes that we decided to take it out of living rooms and dorm rooms and do it in a proper theatre. But it still very much feels like we're in our parents' basements.
What's the greatest video you've ever found?
This changes from year-to-year but right now I'd say it's the North Dakota News footage. We were doing a show in Fargo, North Dakota last year and met a guy afterwards who was an editor at their local news station for almost 20 years. He said the only thing that kept him going that long were the bloopers. Someone would mess up on live TV and he would be there to save the footage and preserve for the ages. Luckily, he entrusted us to be the keepers of the flame. We cut together our favourite on-air fuck-ups and it brings me to tears every time.
Have you got any videos you'd love to use, but can't for whatever reason?
We really don't hold anything back when it comes to what we'll show. Decency is not a qualifier that enters into our decision-making. That said, if the footage is more disturbing than funny then we are not interested.
One example that comes to mind is the Steve Vai Fan Video. Steve Vai is a guitar god for many people and somehow this tape that a female fan sent him made the rounds on the tape trading circuit. In it, this lady is looking directly at the camera and talking to Steve to wish him a happy birthday. She proceeds to go various "stunts" in which she makes crazy sounds and even blows out candles with an orifice other than her mouth. And it's weird and goofy but the woman clearly has a few screws loose. It ends up being just kind of sad. So the Steve Vai Fan Video remains on the cutting room floor but the ferret birth made the cut!
Have you ever had any real-life encounters with any of the subjects in your videos? If so, how did it go?
Definitely, we always try to track down the real life behind in the videos because we become fascinated by them. We've even gone so far as to hire a private detective to find some of these people. Probably our most famous encounter was with Jack Rebney, a man we dubbed the "World's Angriest R.V. Salesman." His story and his meeting with us is chronicled in the documentary, "Winnebago Man," which is on Netflix and other places now. For this show, we actually tracked down a TV commercial pitchman whose real name was Ben Dover. You'll have to see the show to find out what happened there.
Why should people come and see your show?
In an age where almost anything you want to see can be pulled up instantly on your phone, this is all footage you can't see anywhere else, including on our own website. We like to recreate the good ol' days when friends would gather around in somebody's living room and say "you've got to see this!" And there's something unique and maybe even cathartic about watching all this footage that was never meant to be seen in public projected on a big screen in a dark cinema. Plus, there's the aforementioned ferret birth.
You can find out more about the Found Footage Festival at http://www.foundfootagefest.com and see the guys live in the UK on the following dates:
23rd March – Liverpool – Picturehouse @ FACT
24th March – Manchester – The Zoo
25th March – Leeds – Hyde Park Picture House
27th March – Birmingham – Electric Cinema
28th March – Nottingham – Broadway Cinema
29th March – Bristol – Cube Cinema
30th Match – London – Soho Theatre