Nick Prueher is one of the co-founders and co-hosts (with Joe Pickett) of the Found Footage Festival, a hilarious touring show displaying odd videotapes from corporate America, public access, normal people and just about every other source in between. Prueher & Pickett are also the co-directors of the upcoming documentary Dirty Country about a filthy-lyriced country singer named Larry Pierce (with appearances by other kings of the naughty song, John “Dr. Dirty” Valby and Blowfly). The new Found Footage Festival is touring now; their MySpace has upcoming tour dates, and you can purchase their new DVD.
Part the First
What’s your favorite T-shirt (or if you prefer not to wear t-shirts, your favorite article of clothing otherwise)?
A black Brooklyn Industries t-shirt that my girlfriend bought me. It’s comfortable and it fits well.
At this moment in time, what is your favorite song?
Right now, I’ve been obsessed with a song that we’ve dubbed the “Greatest Song of All Time,” which is actually the opening theme music to a video we found called Women in Waders. The video is the making of a calendar featuring women in bikinis and fishing gear, and it happened to be in the PAL format. So when we played it in an NTSC VCR, the music sounded all warbly and weird. We were hooked and made an MP3 of it. It’s been in regular rotation on my iPod lately.
If you had the power to eliminate two films from the history of the world, what would they be?
The Other Sister was truly awful in that it involved good actors in a pandering piece of what I call retard-sploitation. Hate that movie. I was also deeply disturbed by The Garbage Pail Kids Movie when I was a kid. I think the world would be a better place if those films hadn’t been made.
What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?
I like this weird street performer in Madison, Wisconsin named Art Paul Schlosser. He plays acoustic guitar and harmonica and sings songs about his cat taking a bath.
What, if anything, is on any particular wall (your choice) in your domicile?
The wall I’m looking at now features an “America: Love It Or Leave It” tapestry and a signed picture of comedian Emo Philips.
Where is the place where you would do anything to be?
Up in Northern Wisconsin at my parents’ rented cabin. It’s a lot of fun.
What’s the strangest thing you own?
A collection of “No Lot Lizards” window decals for truckers to ward off truck stop prostitutes.
Of the things you’ve done, what’s your all-time favorite (however you want to interpret that, be it artistic works, actions, whatever)?
Just because it was so difficult, I’m pretty proud of our most recent project, Dirty Country, a feature-length documentary about a dirty country music singer named Larry Pierce.
What’s your highest bowling score?
Who’s your favorite visual artist (excluding yourself)?
In the contemporary world, I think Michel Gondry does consistently interesting work.
If you could make one band reconsider their decision to break up, which would it be?
What are the five most recent films you’ve seen?
Sicko, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, Once, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (in the theater), Knocked Up
What’re your top three movies?
2001 – A Space Odyssey, Fargo and Rushmore.
Do you own any original artwork, and if so, whose?
I have a print by my friend Peter Brown, who wrote the children’s book, Flight of the Dodo. My girlfriend also bought me a really cool portrait of a chimp dressed as a 17th century Englishman.
How are your DVDs/VHS/Betamax tapes organized?
As part of the Found Footage Festival, I have hundreds of VHS tapes stacked up and filed in boxes in my home office. Somewhat organized but not really.
What is your favorite game?
Zobmondo is a great car game. I also like Settlers of Catan. As far as sports go, I am heavily into mini-golf.
What sort of pie do you enjoy?
Vegan coconut cream pie from Candle Café here in New York
If you could say one thing to David Byrne, what would it be?
[After] Dirty Country premiered at South By Southwest in Austin in March, when we were trying to fly back to New York, we found out that we’d be delayed for days. Standing outside, presumably delayed as well, was David Byrne. I’d ask him if he made it back OK.
Have you ever watched short track speed skating?
Yes, during the last Winter Olympics
Describe some horrible/otherwise amusing local commercials.
There’s a commercial that’s played all the time here for Select Dental. In one testimonial, an actor and actress playing husband and wife talk about how Select Dental has made their smiles better. But the guy is so flamingly gay that passing him off as this woman’s husband is hilariously ridiculous.
What are your five most favorite books in the world?
I like Don Quixote, because it’s one of the first great pieces of comic literature; Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut; Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin; Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes; and even though it’s cliché, The Catcher in the Rye.
What is the most boring thing you’ve ever experienced?
We have seem some really goddamned boring videos, from a business meeting shot on a stationery tripods to a mundane corporate retreat. But I think personally, one of the most boring things I’ve done is partake in a required three-day Total Quality Management training seminar in high school. I wish I could get those three days back.
If you could name a child anything in the world, what would it be?
Keith. I’ve always thought it was kind of a goofy name.
What would be a better weapon, a gun that fires dogs or a gun that fires cats?
Cats that haven’t been de-clawed.
What is your favorite meal?
Currently, I’m really excited about this Thai peanut broccoli dish that I found in a recipe book.
Would you trade your sanity to write something incredibly beautiful/perfect?
As romantic as it would be to say yes, I’m a pragmatist, so probably not.
What is reality?
The stuff that happens on “reality” TV shows.
Part the Second
How long does it take to assemble a Found Footage Festival program?
A few months to assemble and edit new clips and then another few months to write and refine the live show. We’re always making changes and edits to the show.
How are the bits integrated into the show?
After watching the videos over and over, we try to think of scenarios that make us laugh and then make them work onstage.
What’s the most unsettling video you’ve seen?
Somebody sent us this notorious fan video made for musician Steve Vai. It’s a young woman doing some pretty odd sexual stunts, but the girl clearly has a few screws loose, so it’s more unsettling than funny.
Do you ever put in footage that might not be a knock-out on its own explicitly to do a bit on it?
Yeah, some videos need some help.
How does the Rejuvenique face mask actually feel? (The ads always made it look downright painful.)
It hurts like hell, even without the electricity turned on. The metal probes dig into your skin. I wear the mask in a bit onstage at shows, and it has drawn blood more than once.
Have you run into any legal/copyright problems with some of the found footage? How do you deal with rights issues?
Which do you find more disturbing — Li’l Markie’s records like “Diary of an Unborn Child” or “Story of an Alcoholic Father” where a lot of really horrendous stuff happens, or the video of the more innocuous stuff — which DOES, of course, feature that voice coming from a grown man?
I hate looking at Li’l Markie, so I think the video is more disturbing. Plus, the video shows that other people were forced to listen to this insane man in a church.
Have there been any videos in the Festival that you non-ironically really dig? Just a full-on embrace of it?
Yes. We genuinely find this physical comedian from the public access show, “Stairway to Stardom,” Don Costello. The line between ironic enjoyment and genuine enjoyment is very blurry for us now.
Aside from Joy Junction, are there any other weird Christian kids shows you enjoy (not to harp on Christians or anything — they just seem to have a particular sort of weirdness in their kids shows)?
A couple of recommendations: Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show, a religious puppet show on Los Angeles public access TV, and Captain Hook, a religious show starring a former biker who lost his hand in a crash.
Who do you think is the creepiest resident of Joy Junction?
The artist. [Papillion.]
Are there plans for any themed shows?
We did a Christmas show for The Onion‘s holiday party last year and we have done an all-singing, all-dancing show before at a cabaret venue.
What was it like making Dirty Country?
At times, like a living hell, but ultimately, rewarding.
Will it come out on DVD soon?
Hopefully by early 2008. We are seeking a distributor for the film.
Are you doing a similar tour for Dirty Country as the Found Footage Festival, or are you just sending the film out on its own?
We try to keep them as separate entities, so Dirty Country is making the festival rounds on its own.
As the head researcher on the David Letterman show, what kinds of stuff did you do?
I tracked down embarrassing old commercials done by celebrities, occasionally wrote comedy bits for the interview segments on the show, and generally tried to come up with topics and areas that would make the guest come across as entertaining. You’d be surprised how much work goes into making celebrities seem interesting for seven minutes.
What was writing for the Onion like?
We were just out of high school, so we had no idea what we were doing but had a lot of funny ideas. It was fun to see an article you wrote as a front page story.
What are some of your favorite articles that you wrote?
Study Reveals: Babies Are Stupid, U.N. to Introduce New Swear Word, and Comedienne Delights Audience, which basically made fun of the typical female comedians that were around in the 1980s.
After seeing so much video, do you still have an all-time favorite?
It changes over time, but I have a soft spot for John & Johnny and McC, which were some of the first videos we found.
Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
Our new DVD, Found Footage Festival: Volume 2, just became available for order online at http://www.cine-magic.com/FFF/fff_dvd.htm. We’re also working on a brand-new lineup of found videos and comedy for the fall. Dirty Country is continuing to play the film festival circuit. You can keep up to date with the latest screenings at www.dirtycountrymovie.com.