Review: Found Footage Festival, Soho Theatre

Found Footage

The Found Footage Festival at the Soho Theatre is definitely not stand-up comedy. I'm not even sure if this cult American show is really what you would call a festival. No tents or overnight stays are involved. Maybe you could possibly call it a Glastonbury of Naff. It is definitely, however, brutally funny in a gloriously uninhibited let's-mock-some-bad-videos way. Or as the presenters describe it themselves, "wonderful bullshit".

Genial curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher simply introduce an amazing selection of clips they have uncovered on VHS tapes in garage sales and thrift stores (although after nine years they are also famous enough to be sent tapes for possible inclusion from like-minded sickos). Because of the format many date from the eighties so there is plenty of scope for big hair-based shooting-fish-in-a-barrel laughs, but the FFF goes a little deeper in its quest for laughs.

Sex education for the mentally ill? How to massage your possum? Terrible open wounds? Bad Christmas compilation albums? All of human life is here in its toe-curling, garishly coloured, wonkily filmed, hopelessly straight-faced beauty. The run closes tonight (Saturday) but if you go to see it beware. A lot of this will be seered on the memory after a single viewing.

I was expecting something like a live version of TV Burp crossed with You've Been Framed. This is more like the kind of programmes Clive James used to do in his pomp when he would ruthlessly dissect shoddy infomercials and shabby programmes from around the world featuring wannabes with zero self-knowledge that looked like they had been edited by someone wearing boxing gloves. 

In fact one clip featured hunky Great Dane lookalike Fabio, who i'm pretty sure Clive unearthed. I also have a feeling that I've seen topless aerobics before, but I don't want to think about it too hard. Pickett and Prueher don't do much in the way of dissecting but then when you've just seen a suppurating open wound in close-up you might well want to move on quickly.

If there is an element of cruelty it is all done with a gentle smile. There is not really any nastiness here. What there is is wall-to-wall cringe-making clips. And most of them are definitely unseen - FFF never takes anything from YouTube. Of course, there are plenty of bad clips online and there is always TV's Rude Tube, but there is something about watching this cavalcade of cock-ups live with other people that adds to their flagrant absurdity.

The duo do vary the simple format a little towards the end. There is an interview with the inventor of an unsightly sexual aid in his motorhome-cum-laboratory. An extended section featuring the their own invented character, hapless yo-yo king Kenny Strasser, who wormed his way onto numerous regional TV shows is hilarious, but more prank than lucky find.

Harry Hill told me in an interview that watching so much TV to make TV Burp sometimes felt like a form of torture. I wondered if it sent him slightly mad. I've also got the same concern for Pickett and Prueher. One night of Found Festival Footage was plenty for me, these guys do it for a living. The good news is the supply of discarded dodgy VHS tapes will inevitably start to diminish soon, otherwise I'd fear for their sanity. The bad news is I've heard that they have started to include the occasional DVD…


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