The Found Footage Festival is a live comedy event and screening featuring unusual and humorous clips from VHS videotapes gathered from thrift stores, garage sales, warehouses, estate sales, and dumpsters throughout the United States. Founded in 2004, the Festival originated in Wisconsin and Minnesota by Joe Pickett, Nick Prueher and Geoff Haas, childhood friends from Wisconsin. While still in high school, Pickett and Prueher began collecting videos from garage sales, training videos from odd jobs, and copies of tapes from a video production house. The friends would then play selections from this collection for entertainment at parties.
In 2004, Pickett and Prueher quit their day jobs to focus on production of their first feature documentary, ‘Dirty Country.’ They started the touring ‘Found Footage Festival’ show to fund the production of the documentary. In addition to its regular touring schedule, the Festival has appeared at the HBO ‘US Comedy Arts Festival,’ ‘Just For Laughs’ (the Montreal comedy festival), the ‘New York Comedy Festival,’ the Impakt Festival in the Netherlands, and the ‘Central Standard Film Festival’ in Minneapolis. The Festival is currently based out of New York City.
The found clips are projected onto a theater screen, with the ‘curators’ hosting the event from a staging area in the front. The clips are presented in succession from a master DVD, with the hosts controlling the timing and order by remote control. In addition to introducing their found footage and presenting a brief history of how it was come across, the hosts offer running jokes and commentary during the clips, like a live version of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000,’ and implement live comedic sketches and pre-recorded bits between some of the selections.
Although the show evolves with new material for each tour, its midwestern influence is still prominent in its source material, and many of the clips come from this region of the country. In addition, the show continues to feature staple clips that have become fan favorites, including ‘It Only Takes a Second,’ a safety video from Federated Mutual Insurance; and outtakes from Winnebago promotional videos featuring a foul-mouthed rep named Jack Rebney, now retired and suffering from blindness. The phenomenon surrounding the clips became the subject of a 2010 documentary called ‘Winnebago Man.’