The age of the VHS tape is long gone. Hell, even DVDs are being phased out by Blu-ray discs and direct downloads. But there’s another chance to experience the joys of those jet-black, rectangular hunks of plastic when the Found Footage Festival rolls into Ann Arbor on Saturday.

Found Footage Festival

Saturday, 9:15 p.m.
At the Michigan

Now in its fifth year, the Found Footage Festival is a showcase of odd, unintentionally hilarious clips taken from unearthed VHS tapes. Festival co-founders Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett take the festival around the country annually, presenting a brand new set of videos each year.

As Prueher explains, the festival arose from nothing more than an amusing hobby he and Pickett shared in high school.

“We found a (training) video for custodians in a break room in a McDonalds where I was working in high school and it was it was just so extraordinarily dumb and insulting with bad production values — it was like the perfect storm of stupid videos,” Prueher says.

“(Joe and I) became obsessed with this video and started showing it to friends and making our running commentary along with it,” he elaborates.

It became apparent to the duo that their discovery of a moronic training video was not an isolated incident — the world was littered with bizarrely comical videos. Thus began Prueher and Pickett’s quest to search every thrift store, pawn shop, garage sale and garbage can for discarded VHS tapes.

“Over the years we amassed this collection, and five years ago we decided to go on the road with it and make it a comedy show,” Prueher explains.

But the festival is more than just a visual procession of videotape footage. Prueher describes the show as a “guided tour” through the anthology of videos he and Pickett have found.

“We explain how we found all the videos, putting them in context, and during the videos we talk over them, making smartass remarks whenever applicable,” Prueher says, cuing the trademark humor of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Examples of these videos can be seen on the Found Footage Festival website. Highlights include “How to Seduce Women Through Hypnosis,” an unintentional date-rape training guide, the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Fan Club Video,” where the show’s actors share their lives’ passions and “How to be a Real Man,” a rebellious teenager’s path to Jesus that includes the classic line, “Pearl Jam — you’re toe jam!”

One of the most memorable videos, titled “At Home with English,” features a small, mustached man attempting to teach non-English speakers common English phrases through wild gesticulation and extreme enunciation. Like most footage in the collection, the only thing funnier than the video itself is the story of how it was discovered.

“We were in Denver last year doing a show and we met this guy — kind of a weird haircut, kind of a weird guy, and he said ‘I collect videos too, I’ll show you some of my collection,’ ” Prueher tells it.

“We go over to his place, this bright pink house in the middle of all these suburban houses in Denver. Inside, he’s got pictures of meat on the wall and paintings of clowns — he was like the real-life Pee Wee Herman. We sat on his zebra-print couch until four in the morning as he popped in tape after tape to show us his collection — one of (the tapes) was ‘At Home with English.’ ”

Another priceless piece of footage was given to Pickett and Prueher by none other than comedian David Cross (“Arrested Development”). The 1987 tape, titled “Video Mates,” contains 90 awkward minutes of eccentric men describing their best qualities in hopes of landing a date. For the purposes of the festival, though, the tape was unfortunately trimmed to a more appropriate length.

“We cut together our favorite guys, our favorite moments into a four-minute montage and we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s on that tape,” Prueher says.

For burgeoning collectors of wacky videos, tracking down the best “lost” VHS tapes involves more than just random luck.

“The local thrift stores are sometimes the best, but of the chain stores, Salvation Army is head and shoulders above Good Will and St. Vincent de Paul’s — they just don’t screen the videos as well.”

“(When Salvation Army) gets a box of tapes, they just stick that box right out there on the floor and we’re there to scoop it up,” he explains.

As part of their travel itinerary, Prueher and Pickett plan on paying visit to Ann Arbor thrift stores before the show. So if you see two men scouring through the VHS tape bin at Salvation Army, you’ll know why.

In a sense, Prueher and Pickett are the excavators of these VHS artifacts, resurfacing comedic treasures for new generations to see harebrained creations of yore. The tapes should also provide nostalgia for those raised in the pre-YouTube period of technological innocence.

Eventually, the day will arrive when all traces of VHS tapes disappear, but the Found Footage Festival will simply adapt to whatever technologies become newly obsolete.

“Who knows, maybe we’ll be finding hard drives at thrift stores in 15 years and mining stuff from that,” Prueher jokes.

In this period of rapid media communication, people may act more reserved on camera, quite aware that they are living under a microscope — a single recorded gaffe can lead to millions of online views before the sun goes down. But Prueher isn’t worried about depleting his inventory of footages just yet.

“The production values are getting slicker and people have become more savvy, but the bad ideas don’t ever change. If people with bad ideas still have access to video equipment then we’re in no danger of running out of material,” he says.

Prueher and Pickett want to tell everyone coming to the show to bring any appealing pieces of footage so that the founders can potentially include the clips in future iterations of the festival.

“We encourage anybody who comes to the show to donate to the cause … we always love meeting people and hearing the stories of how they found stuff,” Prueher says. “That’s how we keep the show going.”

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