Crispy Comedy Cuts reporter Cam Emmott reviews The Found Footage Festival as it hits Manchester’s Night & Day Cafe on Wednesday 4th July 2012 as part of it’s world tour.
It was a typically soaked Manchester evening when the trio of Americans, specifically invited to play the cosy Night and Day Cafe as part of their ongoing world jaunt took to the stage with stereotypical boisterousness.
Joe Pickett, Nick Prueher and Geoff Haas, the self-described “champions of VHS since 2004” have spent a decade collecting the very best (or worst) of humanity’s recorded detritus, from home videos and public access oddities through to the instructional videos pilfered from various jobs. Collated together and edited down, the three have lovingly crafted a hilarity-soaked journey into the sheer weirdness of the video age. Started when Prueher looted a training video from the McDonald’s where he worked, the act has progressed significantly from the parties where it began and has managed to take something simple and turn it into a work of comedic genius.
Found Footage Festival presents itself in much the same manner as a variety or clip show, with hosts Joe and Nick (with Geoff handling laptop duties) offering an introduction to each film, a few well-placed quips throughout and an ‘outro’ of sorts, often containing a humorous anecdote or two, putting it very much in a similar league to TV’s You’ve Been Framed, or Mystery Science Theatre, without the cheesy veneer that comes with the former or the constant commentary of the second; the audience are for the most part left to enjoy the clips, the set ups and summaries are more than funny enough and often (as in one case with an amusing exercise video) benefit from this approach.
As funny as it is, however, Found Footage excels further in the stories it weaves about the videos themselves. Picket and Prueher are clearly passionate and enamoured with the videos they find and the people who star in them. Throughout the show they are constantly regaling the audience with tales of how they tracked down those stars, going to extreme lengths (in one case, hiring a private detective) to discover the stories behind the weirder videos. Much of these stories are accompanied with videos or pictures of Joe and Nick doing something related, such as appearing on Chicago Public Access children’s dance show Chic-a-Go-Go, reminiscent of the adventures of Dave Gorman.
A funny, clever and intriguing clip show punctuated by observational commentary and jokes delivered with typical American moxie which delves beyond the obvious humour of the videos into an adventure of sorts, discovering the people and places behind them. Joe and Nick are compelling craftsmen, effortlessly drawing the audience into the oddities of the people they have met since starting down this bizarre path whilst still managing to maintain an atmosphere more akin to the parties they started at than a sell out gig. They are most definitely worth catching the next time they roll around (with a whole new set of videos, they promise.)
Found Footage Festival hosts a blog, showcasing a large amount of the videos used in their shows, as well as a blog chronicling their ongoing hunt for videos and other adventures: www.foundfootagefest.com.