Frank Pacholski is a husky, middle-aged man wearing nothing but a Venetian mask and a Speedo emblazoned with the American flag. He shakes and slaps his ass to the tune of Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turk” while a semicircle of senior citizens watch indifferently. This bizarre video is just one of the many gems Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett (pictured, left to right) will present at their 50-state Found Footage Festival Tour.
Prueher and Pickett scour thrift stores and garage sales across the world, looking for VHS tapes that contain “moments that are unintentionally funny.” They’ve done this for 21 years, picking out the most hilarious bits to include on their Found Footage Festival DVDs, the sixth volume of which they’re currently on tour to promote. This collection and consolidation process is a vocation for the two men. Prueher explains, “We have a soft spot in our hearts for VHS the same way record collectors do about vinyl — they sort of fetishize it. We’re the same way with bad tracking, having to re-scroll tapes and all that kind of stuff. It’s almost like an illogical obsession.”
This obsession with the physical (everything in the festival was found in real life, not online) has still yielded some of the funniest videos that have exploded digitally, like the tirades of “Winnebago Man” Jack Rebney and that Rio travelogue starring a carnal Arnold Schwarzenegger. Prueher has genuine affection for these ridiculous videos and the people in them, which is why he is so diligent in his pursuit of VHS tapes. He’s discovered material in travels to other continents that’s as absurd as anything he’d scavenged in the States. The similar qualities found in most of these videos, no matter where in the world they were made or found, comforts Prueher: “Everyone has stupid ideas they put on VHS back in the ’80s and ’90s. We’re not so different.”