Nick Prueher knows how to poke a little good-hearted fun at people. He learned from the master.
A five-year veteran of “The Late Show with David Letterman,” Prueher and his longtime friend Joe Pickett have been touring with the “Found Footage Festival” for the last decade now, and will bring a brand-new show to the GE Theatre at Proctors 7:30 p.m. Friday. It’s a collection of video high jinks, mishaps and bloopers, all of them much more funny than they are cruel.
“Our criteria is that it has to be unintentionally funny, and it can’t be disturbing,” said Prueher, who worked for Letterman for five years from 1999-2004 as his head researcher. “We don’t have any hard and fast rules, but if it’s bordering on sad, or if it’s too disturbing to be funny, we will avoid it. And, we also don’t use any Internet videos. It has to be physical footage of some kind.”
Prueher and Pickett, who both grew up in Wisconsin, have been collecting videos for nearly three decades.
“We started in the sixth grade,” he said. “We both grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and there wasn’t a lot to do. We would go to these thrift stores and fi nd these old VHS tapes that might be a Mr. T educational video, a McDonald’s training video, something like that. We’d have friends over and we’d gather around this little TV and watch them. We’d make jokes and pick out our favorite parts.”
They kept on collecting, kept on “putting on shows” in college and finally booked a performance in Manhattan.
“It went very well,” remembered Prue-her. “I had been working with Letterman, and a big part of my job was tracking down old and embarrassing footage of celebrities. That was right in my wheelhouse, and Joe was working at a video and fi lm rental equipment house in Minneapolis, so he was getting a lot of good things coming across his desk. It seemed like everything was feeding back into this weird project we had going on, so we then just decided to do it full time.”
GETTING NEW MATERIAL
After they got started and had been at it a while, Prueher’s colleagues that still worked for Letterman added to the collection.
“When Dave retired some people I knew from the show got in contact with me and said, ‘hey, we’re getting rid of all of these old tapes,’ ” remembered Prueher. “It was ‘Dave’s Video Collection,’ a segment I used to work on. They asked me if I wanted them, and I said, ‘I’ll be right there.’ I backed up my car right next to the dumpster at the Ed Sullivan Theater and took as many tapes as I could.”
Prueher said none of the people on the videos have raised any issues about his use of the footage.
“From a legal standpoint it’s all considered fair use of satire so it’s not a real problem,” he said.
“Occasionally some celebrity will realize that we’re doing it and they’ll get mad, but then they understand what the show is about and they end up being thrilled. Sometimes we’ve invited people to the show to get the back story. People understand we’re not doing it in a mean-spirited way.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]