Nick Prueher would never wish his career on anyone.
“It’s soul crushing,” Prueher says. “It’s awful. It’s mind-numbing boredom for most of the time. We wade through a lot of garbage before you find something that’s just right.”
Prueher does not collect trash or mine for gold, at least not literally. He is the co-founder of the touring Found Footage Festival, a comedy event that showcases a montage of unintentionally entertaining footage. The festival comes to the Boulder Theater on Thursday, June 16, and is hosted by Prueher and his longtime friend and comedic co-pilot, Joe Pickett.
Prueher says their interest in Found Footage started with none other than high school boredom in Stoughton, Wis., their tiny hometown.
“There wasn’t much going on in our small town, so years we would go thrift-storing to try to find interesting of things to entertain ourselves,” he says. “Making fun of these videos was our source of entertainment.”
Prueher and Pickett maintained their collection of oddball videos from high school through college and designed into the working world.
“We had enough tapes from 15 years at that point that we decided we could take our little hobby out of our living room and into a theater,” Prueher says.
Being on the road nine months out of the year required them to quit their day jobs and dedicate their time to finding footage. And the touring element of the show helps them add to their collection.
“When we get to a city we go thrift storing all day and usually end up taking two or three boxes home, and that’s how [the show] has been able to sustain itself,” Prueher says.
Scouring hours of found footage is a task that is often menial and dull, but finding a clip that is perfectly ironic makes what can be weeks of disappointment worthwhile.
“We’ve developed a pretty high tolerance over the years for boring material,” he says. “We are somewhat of masochists, I think.”
The “Rent-a-Friend” video is one of the few diamonds in the rough.
“Rent-a-Friend” is a VHS tape, released in 1986, designed for lonely people. Sam is the viewer’s rentable friend. He is polite and inquisitive, complete with his Mr. Roger’s sweater and sympathetic gaze.
“It’s just sad,” Prueher says.
He says about 100 people wrote letters to Rent-a- Friend after inviting him into their lives, a fact he learned after tracking down the actual Rent-a-Friend for an interview that is available for purchase on their website, www.foundfootagefest.com.
The real Rent-a-Friend was a creative director at the production company who thought conversational video might be the next big thing in home video.
“He was pretty honest about it,” Prueher says. “He knew it was goofy.”
The “Rent-a-Friend” video is in good eccentric company at this year’s Found Footage Festival. While some humorous clips are available on the Found Footage website, the festival will feature theme-oriented montages and commentary that puts each clip into context.
After stumbling upon a bunch of self-hypnosis videos, Prueher says a montage was created of clips that claim to help the viewer become better at everything from seducing women to playing sports.
While the apparel, eccentric themes and guest stars featured in the festival’s footage represent the goofy days of the ’80s and ’90s, Prueher says a clip needs more than just generational silliness to be something special.
“It has to have a little something extra to it beyond just nostalgia,” he says.
When the festival began in 2004, Prueher says it was difficult to put the ironic nature of the clips into context. But after YouTube became a host for eccentric video, it became easier to host the show for an audience that understands this brand of humor.
The festival has continued to capture audiences’ attention around the world. Prueher says they’ve held shows everywhere from Las Vegas to downtown Paris, and that he finds laughs in the same places.
“You’ve all collectively agreed to watch stuff that’s not particularly good, that’s part of the fun of it,” he says.
Prueher says that he initially expected the festival’s audience to be a post-collegiate sort with a good sense of irony. But he says he sees older couples sitting alongside tattooed people and NPR listeners.
His general conception of the audience describes much of the Boulder community, and Prueher says the plethora of eccentric minds that can be found locally makes this a highly anticipated stop.
“I feel like there’s a local weirdo in town that had a bunch of weird footage,” Prueher says. “One of Boulder’s resident weirdos, and for some reason, we tend to attract those type of people.”