By Ty Simmons
We’ve all seen strange VHS tapes. Obscure and weird creations that defy convention or even definition. They can be found in an unmarked box in the attic, the drawer under the TV at your aunt and uncle’s house, Goodwill, or the trash at the recently-bankrupt Blockbuster.
Sneering behind wonderfully terrible graphic design, titles, subtitles, and sub-subtitles, these workout tapes, home movies, and office training videos invoke questions like: “How, and for the love of God, why did anyone make this? What made them think that this was a good idea?”
To the common fellow, these questions would go unanswered. The discovery of an inexplicable recording would be worth a snicker and a toss, nothing more. Who has time to watch movies with titles like Identifying Machine-Made Marbles or Beezbo’s Adventures: How to Behave like a Human Being? How about Dancin’ Grannies: Exercise Program Beginners?
Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett do. Since 1991, the Wisconsin-native team has been collecting these weird videotapes from garage sales and thrift shops. After discovering a training video entitled, ‘Inside and Outside Custodial Duties,’ at a local McDonald’s, they’ve compiled an impressive collection of strange, outrageous and profoundly stupid videos.
In 2004, the comedians started showcasing them, in an event they called the Found Footage Festival.
Now, celebrating its 10th anniversary, it’s coming to Baton Rouge.
This Wednesday, Mud and Water is set to experience something truly different. After doing the dirty work of watching all these lost tapes, Preuher and Pickett are prepared to exhibit their highlights in a 90-minute spectacle featuring live commentary, backstories, and ‘where-are-they-now’ updates on some of the tape’s subjects.
Prueher and Pickett are no strangers to commentary, be it political or social. Prueher has worked as a researcher for The Late Show with David Letterman and spent time working at The Colbert Report. Pickett is a writer for The Onion. The duo has also tried their hand at being documentarians, releasing two critically-acclaimed films: Winnebago Man and Dirty Country.
Over the holidays, they were responsible for a series of pranks played out over local news station’s morning shows.
Masquerading as a man called Chef Keith, Preuher got time on the commonplace recipe segment of the morning news, where he paraded a book called Leftovers Right: Making a Winner of Last Night’s Dinner. There was no such book, and Preuher has no culinary expertise.
The prank has gone successfully viral and can be found on YouTube with hundreds of thousands of views. Preuher and Pickett are also the masterminds behind the Kenny “K-Strass” Strasser yo-yo prank.
This Wednesday they’re bringing their formidable comedic talent and experience to the Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque show.
Over the years, the pair has updated their program, rejuvenating it with all-new finds and videos. The seventh (and current) edition is “jam packed with newly unearthed treasures, featuring singing rabbis, petulant news anchors, coughing snake handlers, bodybuilding clowns, and two body parts never before seen in the festival,” so says the website.
After ten years the show is famous by any metric: it’s been featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, NPR, and has become a critic’s pick in publications like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Chicago Tribune. It’s generated seven DVD collections, one for each new edition.
The ethos of the show can perhaps best be described by the title of their joint-authored book: VHS: Absurd, Odd, and Ridiculous Relics from the Videotape Era. In the midst of concerts and conventional exhibitions going on this week, Preuher and Pickett are set to bring something truly unique and undeniably weird to the stage.