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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Lost and found, funnier than ever

Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett introduce the clips for the Found Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Nick Prueher.

Ever wonder what happened to all of those old home videos you donated to Goodwill? Or the celebrity workout VHS tapes you sold at your last garage sale?

If Wisconsin natives Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett got their hands on them, they might just be in this year’s Found Footage Festival, a comedic production showcasing the best in found film and you’ll have a chance to find out tonight as the festival makes its way back to Milwaukee for two special showings at the Oriental Theatre.

Prueher and Pickett, curators of the Found Footage Festival, pick through thrift stores, garage sales, warehouses and dumpsters throughout the U.S. in search of abandoned video footage to use in creating their show. Instructional tapes, workout videos and sing-alongs are their personal favorites, but anything recorded on tape is considered fair game.

“The main criterion for us is that it has to be unintentionally funny,” Prueher said. “So whatever it was trying to do, train you how to flip burgers or whatever, it just has to fail in some sort of way.”

Once the two have gathered sufficient footage, they watch their newly found content and edit it down, splicing clips together to create that year’s show to present as they tour across the country.

What is now a full-time job for Prueher and Pickett began as something the pair did just for fun. Prueher was working at a McDonalds as a freshman in high school when he stumbled upon a training video called “Inside and Outside Custodial Duties” in the break room.

“I watched it and my first thought was that I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was,” Prueher said. “Other people had to see it. It could not stay in the break room.”

So, Prueher shared it with his friends, and he and Pickett began hunting through thrift stores to find more unusual videos to watch.

“It just became this cult thing,” Prueher said. “If nothing was going on on a Friday night, people would just come over and watch these videos.”

After a few years of using their hobby as a form of cheap entertainment on the weekends, the two wanted to see if they could come up with a way to professionally show off their found videos.

“It’s something we’ve been doing in our living room since like 1991,” Prueher said. “And in 2004 we decided to rent out a theater and see if people would come watch this, and surprisingly they did.”

That first show was a success, and the Found Footage Festival was established. Prueher and Picket began booking tours across the United States and working on creating new productions. They now play about 100 cities each year.

Prueher described the production as a sort of show-and-tell of their collection. This year the Found Footage Festival is celebrating its fifth anniversary at the Oriental and filming the shows there for their next DVD.

Eric Levin, manager of the Oriental Theatre, said he has never heard an audience laugh as hard as they do at the Found Film Festival.

“You can sit around and watch YouTube, you can watch America’s Funniest Videos at home, but it’s nothing like the experience of seeing these two nutjobs doing this live onstage with an audience,” Levin said.

Levin said what is often even funnier than the clips themselves is the footage that Prueher and Pickett create to transition between clips, including the occasional parody of existing clips — staring themselves.

“They’re a lot of fun,” Levin said. “They’re pretty creative.”

In addition to the parodies, Prueher and Pickett are known for tracking down some of the individuals featured in the videos they find and having them do a little bit with them. Most recently, the pair located old-time singer Frank Woehrle of the “Sing-a-Long with Frank Woehrle” series. They’ll be closing out tonight’s shows with him.

The two said they found a ton of funny footage when they worked for their college TV station at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and they encourage college students to bring anything they may have found to tonight’s show.

“That’s how we keep things going,” Prueher said. “We like to hear the stories of how people found them and add to the collection.”

Tonight’s shows are at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave., at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at the Oriental box office at (414) 276-8711.

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