What began as a way to fight boredom in their small Wisconsin town more than two decades ago has turned into a full-time comedy career for Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett.
The long-time friends, now 38, started scouring second-hand stores for humorous and strange VHS finds as teens in 1991.
Among their early discoveries were a McDonald’s training tape and a Mr. T video for kids.
They started collecting more videos and holding screenings in Prueher’s parents’ living room.
In 2004, they transformed the pastime into the Found Footage Festival.
“The show hasn’t evolved much since the days in my parents’ living room,” said Prueher, a 15-year Long Island City resident.
They have amassed a collection of 5,000 tapes, found in thrift stores, garage sales and trashcans and around the country, which they keep in an LIC storage facility that is roughly the size of a “large living room.”
In their live shows, the comedy duo screen their latest VHS finds while providing commentary and “where-are-they-now” updates on the people in the tapes.
They are currently on a 120-city tour and will be celebrating the Found Footage Festival’s 10th anniversary this month.
“It was just an inside joke to us,” Prueher said of their beginnings. “What surprises us is that people continue to find this as funny as we do.”
The Found Footage Festival proved to be so successful that it became their full-time gig five years ago.
Prueher and Pickett make money from an old form of video despite living in the digital age, but they have also used the power of YouTube to grow their popularity.
The men pulled off a similar prank again this past Thanksgiving. They faked their way onto more Midwest morning shows, with Prueher playing a leftovers expert named Chef Keith Guerke. His fake book, “Leftovers Right: Make a Winner of Last Night’s Dinner,” included recipes such as a mashed potato ice cream cone.
They held off posting the video until right before their tour started in early March. Prueher said he expected it to receive some hits, but didn’t imagine it would get 2 million views within 24 hours.
“We have ideas for the next one,” he said. “But we have to wait because everyone is on high alert now.”
The Found Footage Festival will be in Brooklyn on April 25 and in Manhattan on April 26. For tickets and more info, click here.