Found Footage Festival

Curating a collection of the most bizarre instances of human behaviour recorded on esoteric VHS tapes, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher do little more throughout the evening than briefly contextualise their found footage, although that seems sufficient for incessant laughter. Having spent years searching through thrift shop VHS tapes for absurd exercise videos, public access TV clips and the most unconvincing veterinary helpline that ever existed, the pair have then edited down the clips to focus in only on the best/worst bits.

This cult hit, I think, might divide audiences in Edinburgh

The novelty of watching footage of, for example, a nearly naked man gyrating in front of a seated group of pensioners whilst covering himself with various liquid foodstuffs can run out quickly. I can’t help but thinking that the potential for shock laughs has been diminished somewhat in the age of YouTube — a sad irony for two VHS nostalgists.

To give them credit this is more than just a curation of wacky videos, like Rude Tube or You've Been Framed?, as they have also tracked down some of the oddest culprits and successfully segmented themselves into where-are-they-now updates. The answer for some at least being: still very much at it. This is where the largest laughs emerge, particularly when the individuals are almost too strange to believe, like the man who made a ‘Rent-A-Friend’ video, which does exactly what it says on the side of the tape. It is also clear that this is a project of love, and their enthusiasm for the tapes, being unable to resist jumping in mid-clip to point out the bits they find funniest, is endearing. Plus, the experience of watching with a full audience in hysterics is definitely more enjoyable than any of those reruns at home.

This show, which has now been running for a number of years in America, has developed a following large enough that the pair are now pre-emptively sent the wackiest VHS tapes found by fans, ensuring that the project can run and run, limited only by human stupidity. Yet this cult hit, I think, might divide audiences in Edinburgh, as the humour is a very American blend of laughing at other people, and the branded stash feels like they have spent a little too long developing the concept into a commercial enterprise. Rent-A-Friend DVD souvenir, anyone? 

Reviews by Jonathan Mayo

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The Blurb

A guided tour through the unbelievable VHS collection of childhood friends Joe Pickett (The Onion) and Nick Prueher (Late Show with David Letterman), who've been unearthing videos at thrift stores since high school. Now, for the first time at Edinburgh, they open their vaults, providing live commentary and where-are-they-now updates on the strange people in these unintentionally hilarious VHS treasures. Sit back, adjust the tracking on your VCR, and hit rewind for a journey into the most profoundly stupid footage ever committed to videotape. ‘A comedy sensation’ (Guardian). ‘Hysterical and brilliant’ (Time Out).

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