Found Footage Festival

Glasgow International Comedy Festival Review by Jay Richardson

Long before the lawless frontier of the internet there was VHS. You might think that you’ve seen everything on YouTube. But based on the entertaining clips that Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have unearthed from secondhand shops and garage sales, even getting a job with a company so that they could steal their safety instruction videos, there still exists horribly-shot relics of a parallel universe populated by women massaging ferrets, high-tech Japanese toilets and some of the most disturbing children’s television ever recorded.

The Onion contributor Pickett and Prueher, a former researcher for The Late Show With David Letterman, peak a little early with their latest show, with an opening montage of public information videos supplied by The dreadfully acted workplace injuries are amusing enough but then … oh my God … they’re not really going to show that are they? … Argghhhh! Suffice to say, I have a greater respect for US traffic cops now.

Yes, this is cheesy, exploitative and perpetually shooting fish in a barrel of a bygone America where the mullet was ubiquitous. One sequence entitled Hunks, is simply a montage of moustachioed beefcakes, an endless, gurning thrust of oiled-up, himbo posturing. But Pickett and Prueher have gone to incredible lengths to source their material, exemplified by the amount of time they devote to the Venus 2, a device also known as ‘The Goddess of Self-Love For Men’. Moreover, their affection for the unwitting stars of their show seems perfectly genuine.

As with Bad Film Club, the pair commentate live on the clips following the briefest of introductions, often simply repeating what’s said on screen in incredulous tones. They know that Dirk Benedict’s Steel Stomachs, an exercise video from The A-Team actor, speaks and smiles dazzlingly for itself. But it’s not half as hilarious as Jig Don’t Jog, the quintessentially Irish fitness instruction guide.

Parrot Training with Steve Martin only mildly disappoints. Yet the show Wound Rounds Live, in which a couple of medical professionals bring a playful, Wheel of Fortune-inspired approach to various injuries and diseases delights and horrifies in equal measure. One sequence, VHS Cover Slideshow, doesn’t even require footage as it trawls through the cover art of the damned.

Likeably sardonic, Pickett and Prueher know that they have to mix it up a little so that their presence doesn’t start to feel superfluous. After some seminar clips, dominated by the American equivalent of Mary Whitehouse reciting Prince’s lyrical ode to masturbation Darling Nikki with po-faced contempt, they have Mr Show and Breaking Bad star Bob Odenkirk present a guide to the audience reaction shots that truly make the sequence.

Elsewhere, their friend Mark deputises for them on a succession of US breakfast television interviews. Pretending to be a yo-yo expert with an environmental message for children, his deadpan display of ineptness beautifully contrasts with the fixed-grin professionalism of the various presenters as they gradually intuit that something’s gone awry. Chris Morris’ incisive satire it ain’t, but still tremendous fun.

Snarky and inane but with an undercurrent of joy in human oddness, the Found Footage Festival celebrates what many would discard as kitsch and trashy, the wonder and weirdness of collecting for the sake of collecting.

Published: 22 Mar 2013

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