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Comedy duo shows off collection of bizarre and hilarious VHS tapes at Found Footage Festival

Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher step onto the High Dive stage to begin their show. “Is this our career now?” Prueher said. (Benjamin Miller/WUFT News)
Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher step onto the High Dive stage to begin their show. “Is this our career now?” Prueher said. (Benjamin Miller/WUFT News)

The High Dive, a local Gainesville venue that has been around for decades, has seen a vast array of different performances in its lifetime. A particularly intriguing and unique show —the Found Footage Festival — made its mark Wednesday night in the unassuming setting.

Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher are two childhood friends from Wisconsin. They spearheaded the Found Footage Festival, an ongoing anomaly that seeks to unearth and present forgotten media in its most unyielding form: VHS.

The duo has collected an astounding 13,000 different pieces of lost media to utilize within their comedy performances, which have endured.

“We’ve been doing this show for 20 years,” Prueher said.

These scavenged time capsules range from a 1980s woman’s dating guide to long forgotten Pizza Hut training videos, all captured and presented in their original VHS format.

The method they go about adding to their treasure trove is quite simple: garage sales, thrift stores and just about any establishment that houses relics from a bygone era. From there, they sift through their findings and catalogue the raunchy, the strange and the downright laughable recordings discarded from their original owners.

In one case, with the only context of the video its title (“The Club”), they discovered a POV-style home movie about a man who finds a tree limb in the forest shaped like a weapon. The individual in the video refuses to touch the stick without wearing socks to not damage it with the oils on his hand and proceeds to show every single person in his life the new item he found.

Prueher and Pickett were so astounded by this that they went out of their way to meet up with the man in the video — 25 years after the film was shot. The individual showed them the exact location where he found it in addition to letting them take home sticks from the surrounding area back home with them, which were on sale for an outrageous price at their merchandise table. The man who shot the video even let them hold the club.

Attendees watch one of the chosen films for the show: Sin of the City. “There’s an appeal to these mediums and formats,” audience member Jon Church said. (Benjamin Miller/WUFT News)
Attendees watch one of the chosen films for the show: Sin of the City. “There’s an appeal to these mediums and formats,” audience member Jon Church said. (Benjamin Miller/WUFT News)

Throughout the show, a mixture of outbursts involving laughter and cheering scored the performance and allowed audience members to bask in the waves of nostalgia that only early home entertainment systems could invoke.

Benji Gibbons, a 44-year-old massage therapist, grew up right in the middle of this era.

“It’s my generation,” Gibbons said. “I grew up in the 80s, so maybe this is more appealing to people who grew up in the 80s.”

Due to the popularity and eventual datedness of the VHS tape, most of the films shown in the performance were between the 1980s and the ‘90s, which exhibit only the most bizarre characteristics from those time periods.

Jon Church, a 32-year-old software engineer, was invited to the event less than an hour before the doors opened.

“The bad movie club that I am a part of said ‘This is happening in 30 minutes, get here,’” Church said. “So, I came out to support watching an absolute mixed bag of video images.”

Church said the intimacy and uniqueness of the videos added to the overall charm and enhanced the viewing experience.

“I think it’s a spectacle,” Church said. “A little part of the appeal is that it is a glimpse into private moments that people didn’t particularly expect to be shown on stage somewhere and enjoy.”

Another highlight to the performance was the inclusion of a home video titled “Sin of the City,” which was a hit with the audience for its continuity errors and abysmal audio quality. Part of the show includes the duo narrating several of the chosen VHS tapes in hilarious fashion.

“Are you guys following along?” Prueher joked, adding to the incoherent movie being played.

The media showed horrible acting and ear-piercing sound effects, which resulted in an eruption of laughter from audience members. At one point during the film, a conversation between two characters cuts back and forth as they speak: one of them being in a garage and the other being in an office, exemplifying the total lack of regard for basic filmmaking practice.

Another facet of their act involves commercializing multiple aspects of the footage they discover. This ranges from recreated movie posters plastered onto t-shirts to frisbees; the latter was hurled into the audience midway through the performance.

The duo’s passion for the abnormal hasn’t gone unnoticed. With multiple documentaries and comedy specials revolving around the Found Footage Festival, their Instagram following boasts nearly 50,000 people.

“I wouldn’t trade this job for anything,” Pickett said.

At the end of their show, they cleverly played an old factory training movie about avoiding slipping and falling in the workplace. Their reasoning: they wanted all the attendees to get home safely without injuring themselves- a nod to the adult environment and the bar on the other side of the venue.

The show closed out with a meet-and-greet at their merchandise table tucked away in the corner of the room: complete with T-shirts of defunct television stations and production studios piled up high.

They will be in Tampa on Thursday and completing the Florida leg of their tour Saturday in Sanford.

Benjamin is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing