Okay, so about five years ago, that puts you right about a year or two before YouTube really got popular. Has that accelerated the interest in bizarre clips—that’s where I found ‘Grill Skills’—has that helped getting people out to seeing your shows or helped you sell DVDs?
We weren’t sure how it was going to affect us when YouTube came out and the proliferation of funny videos you can get in your inbox. All of a sudden people who were video collectors like us were like, ‘Wait a minute, now this stuff’s at people’s fingertips, how’s this gonna work?’ We’re still very old school with how we procure videos. We don’t take anything off the internet and we don’t post our full videos on the internet, we just post little snippets and save the full edited videos that we put together for our shows.
What we realized is it’s actually increased awareness and appreciate for this ironic viewing of old VHS ephemera. To us, it’s been surprising. Our attendance has actually increased; I don’t know whether it’s due to that or not. But I don’t think YouTube has siphoned off anything we do. I think now that there’s such a glut of video out there on the Internet and weird videos in general I think you need tour guides to take you through it all, to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Luckily, we’re digging around in dumpsters and thrift stores and doing that for people. We’re more than willing to suffer for other people’s entertainment and we have a pretty high tolerance for terrible videos that we’ve built up over the years. We feel like we’re sort of the right curators for it and there’s a value in what we do.
And the other thing is I think it’s a different animal to get something on your work computer, watch it, get a good chuckle and forget about it. These are things we personally found and we share the stories of how and where we found it and make comments over the videos and give our unique comedic take on the material, having seen it hundreds of times. It’s really different also when you can gather 100 people in a room and project these videos we found on a big screen. There’s something cathartic or magical that happens when you do that as opposed to watching something on your PC on a little two-inch window.
Have any of these companies that put out these videos, fast food, dating services, Christian coalitions or whatever, ever said anything to you?
No. What our lawyer tells us is we’re sort of covered under fair use and satire by taking snippets from much longer videos and putting them in the context of a comedy show and commenting over them is protected under that. But we’ve never even been tested on it. Most of these companies are defunct at this point. The maker of ‘How To Seduce Women Through Hypnosis’ video is not coming forward to claim that he owns it and try to get royalties from us or anything.
Some of the bigger companies like McDonald’s, if they acknowledged us at all, that’s the best press we could ever get so they’re savvy enough to know not to make waves. Luckily, we haven’t run into any problems, and when we have met the people behind the videos and in the videos, without fail so far, they’re almost flattered at the fact that they’ve been included, that this footage that they’ve forgotten about a long time ago has made them into cult figures to a certain group of people.
We’re flying under the radar just enough. I think that’s part of the reason there’s an appeal of going to the show. You kind of feel like you’re part of something a little subversive. You’re watching these videos that weren’t meant to be shown in public, intended to be serious or hip or whatever, and we all know that they fail colossally at doing that, but the people who made them have no idea.
I just figured there might be some interesting story of someone going, ‘Hey!’
One thing came to mind—this is the closest we’ve come—we were in Seattle last year doing the show and afterwards we talk to people and sell DVDs. And this guy came up and he seemed like sort of a fan saying ‘I really enjoyed the show.’ And then he goes, ‘Does Terry know you’re showing his video?’ And I was like, ‘Terry, what are you talking about?’ And he’s like, ‘Terry Hogan?’
He goes, ‘Hulk Hogan.’ I said, ‘Oh, well first of all don’t call him Terry. His name’s Hulk Hogan.’
I’m sorry that I knew that.
I knew it too but I wasn’t expecting. You don’t start off like, ‘Terry know you’re showing his video?’ Immediately I was like, ‘This guy’s a jackass.’ And he said, ‘Yeah what you’re doing is pretty funny but I used to work with Terry back in the WWF days as a sound guy in a lot of the shoots. A lot of people screwed him out of money and I don’t think he would be very happy about showing this.’
He was basically threatening to tell Hulk Hogan that we’re showing a brief snippet from his ‘I Am A Real American’ jingoistic music video from the ‘80s. And so I said, ‘You know what, go ahead. If Hulk Hogan doesn’t have better things to deal with than two dudes who found his video showing it, then go ahead.’ He goes, ‘Alright!’ On the way out, he’s like, ‘I think I’m just gonna buy some DVDs too.’ He just obviously wanted to show off about the fact that he once worked with Terry Hogan, as he called him. That was the only moment where someone seemed a little litigious, even though he couldn’t have done anything.
The Found Footage Festival comes to Asbury Park on Saturday, Nov. 14. Visit foundfootagefest.com for clips and more.