It’s hard to imagine a viral video world that doesn’t include YouTube. Fortunately, that world did exist, recorded in analog for eternal viewing of singing kittens, dancing in front of the elderly and obscene auto sales outtakes.
The curators of this world are Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, founders of the Found Footage Festival, a collection of some of the most bizarre, dumbfounding and hysterical relics of the VCR era.
“It’s a collection of our favorite found VHS tapes,” Prueher said. “We want to give people a guided tour through our favorite clips.”
Prueher and Pickett will be bringing a host of their favorite clips to Peoria Theater April 14, edited together with new intros from people who submitted clips, were in clips or are fans, such as sketch comedy veteran Bob Odenkirk.
Ever since seeing a McDonalds’ training video titled “Inside and Outside Custodial Duties,” an interest in the bizarre and inadvertently hilarious pieces of video formed, creating the Found Footage Show as it is today.
“It was just hilarious,” Prueher said. “We watched it pretty much everyday.”
In years past, tapes like this would be collected and shared as a communal experience that, in a way, has been somewhat overtaken by YouTube.
Prueher said he thinks that while both sources of video, analog and digital content, should exist, the Found Footage Festival offers something different.
“We kind of like that we give an alternative, being in a basement with your friends, watching these videos,” Prueher said. “It’s more of an experience. It helps people’s humor in the right way. It’s not just like being bored at work, just clicking on videos.”
And having this sort of difference allows things to take a decidedly stranger turn, whether it’s episodes of “Dancing with Frank Pacholski” (videos of a mostly naked man in what appears to be a luchador mask, dancing in front of a semi-circle of seniors,) “Princess Kitty” (a self-released tape of a woman forcing her cat to do tricks) or “Fear the Forest” (a film that makes Tommy Wisseau look like he deserved an Oscar for his moving work in “The Room.”)
The question that comes to mind while watching so much of this is where does the performance art and entertainment meet up with is-there-something-actually-wrong-with-this-person and why-are-they-eating-French-dressing-with-a-fork.
“That’s a line we don’t want to cross,” Prueher said. “We’re all for laughing at people and it’s all about the laughs, but there is a line we don’t cross. We’ve had a couple of tapes where we generally thought something was wrong with a person and we didn’t show it, but if it’s a tape of a central Wisconsin birthday party where the parents are smoking pot in front of the kids, we’ll show that. That’s just bad parenting.”