The Rapidian

Found Footage Festival at UICA

Underwriting support from:

/George Wietor

On Sunday, November 22, UICA (41 Sheldon SE) hosted the Found Footage Festival, a roadshow of funny and bizarre ephemeral video. The evening was hosted by Joe and Nick, collectors of the discarded remains of an era when every product came with a how-to video, and every dance recital was, regrettably, committed to tape. Joe and Nick have been collecting bargain bin VHS tapes for nearly two decades, and in the past few years they've toured alternative theaters presenting their DVD collections with live introductions, commentary, and the stories behind their finds.

The clips presented were incredibly diverse, the only thing they all had in common was that the tapes were physically found (no internet finds) and they're all unintentionally funny. As they state on their website, "Whatever it’s trying to do, it has to fail miserably." Work out videos are a gold mine for humor, as well as instructional videos about blow darts, gambling, and a male erotic pleasure machine (yes, male). My favorites were a montage of pathetic bachelors from a video dating service, and a home movie of a third rate heavy metal festival in the mid-80's. What is it about this moment in pop culture history that made screaming "PARTY!!!" into the camera so irresistible?


When people have a hankering for unintentionally funny videos, they usually go no further than Youtube. While Found Footage Festival has adapted to the digital age by including clips on their website, it's important to note that these guys have been in the weird video business long before streaming video, and they have no plans to quit. For now, they're committed to the VHS format, comparing it to the golden age of vinyl, a medium that defined a era through its low production cost and sheer ubiquity. The clips they show are both hilarious benign. They speak frankly about the thankless job of reviewing thousands of hours of mind-numbingly boring footage in search of a few diamonds in the rough. Sitting in the audience, letting the weirdness wash over me, I was grateful for their tremendous efforts.


While not everyone has the mettle to sift through mountains of dull videos to find bits comedy, unintentionally funny shorts are easier to find now than ever, thanks to internet video. There are endlessly proliferating memes, massive archives of "fail", even online platforms doing almost the exact same type of VHS mining, such as Everything is Terrible!. So what makes Found Footage Festival unique? For me, it was the live show, the fact that these two guys travel all around the country to present this footage in person.


I have a YouTube account that I use primarily to collect videos I like in my list of favorites. Whenever I'm wowed by something, or think a clip is particularly funny or weird, I put it in my favorites. At first I didn't know why I was doing it. To watch later when I was bored? Then one day I was sitting around with some friends at my house, and we were all bored, so I decided to hook my laptop up to my TV and show them some of my favorite YouTube videos. It became this great new collective activity that we now do quite frequently now. We take turns logging in to our favorites lists, searching for videos we remember, and taking a change on a suggested clip. I do e-mail links to videos, and post links on Facebook and Twitter for others to see, but there is something unique about the experience of sitting in a room with other people and watching videos together. This is the beauty of the Found Footage Festival model, they're showing how technology can enable a new social activity, and it's hilarious.

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Wish I'd been there. Where the hell was I?

I love the person element of the review. Write more!

And I just might thieve your YouTube surf ritual.