Documentary ‘Chop & Steele’ is a funny, illuminating portrait of pranks, VHS tapes and lifelong friendship
Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett have been hosting the Found Footage Festival since 2004, unearthing the weird, amazing and unintentionally funny things found on yard sale VHS tapes. They've also known each other since grade school, moved to NYC together, started FFF, and tour the country -- and are somehow still friends. Fans of pranks and dares, Prueher and Pickett broke up the downtime of touring by pretending to be yo-yo experts, chefs and other "experts," and getting themselves booked on local TV news station's morning shows.
The longest running of those pranks was Chop & Steele, a strongmen duo whose daily workout involves items found about the house, including wicker baskets and sticks. Pickett and Prueher will be the first to tell you they do not look like fitness experts, and a little googling would've quickly uncovered their ruse, but they appeared doing clearly ridiculous routines on many stations. Gray Television, the parent company of one of those stations, decided to sue Prueher and Pickett in 2017.
Having already been filming themselves as part of Found Footage Festival, they brought in filmmakers Ben Steinbauer and Berndt Mader to document the court case and make a movie out of it. Documentary Chop & Steele, which recently made its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Festival, follows their exploits, including head-shaking, demoralizing but hilarious court depositions, time on the road in budget motels, and an unexpected appearance on a popular network television reality competition series. Along the way there are interviews with fellow pranksters and comedians, including Bobcat Goldthwait, David Cross, Reggie Watts, Kurt Braunohler, The Yes Men's Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, Wonder Showzen's John Lee and Alison Levy, What We Do in the Shadows' Mark Proksch (who helped in their yo-yo pranks) and more.
The most surprising aspect of Chop & Steele is that the David vs Goliath storyline is only part of the film which, at its core, is a portrait of two lifelong friends who've managed eek out a living in a very niche corner of the entertainment world. It's also a pandemic movie, where their partnership was stretched to the limit and almost broke, but they found new appreciation for each other during lockdown. The film reconnects them with the star of the McDonald's training video that started them down the VHS rabbithole: it's one of many touching scenes. Who knew the feelgood sleeper hit of the year would be the true story of two irony-loving smartasses whose milieu is trash?
You can watch a few of Chop & Steele's morning show appearances below, and the film is making its way around film festivals this year, and will next screen at Dallas' Oak Cliff Film Festival on June 25. Stay tuned for more screenings.
Joe and Nick also have a couple Found Footage Fest live dates on the horizon and those are listed below.
FOUND FOOTAGE FESTIVAL - 2022 TOUR DATES
Sat, Jun 25, 2022 @ 9:00pm Texas Theatre Oak Cliff Film Festival (Chop & Steele)
Sat, Jul 9, 2022 @ 8:30pm Mahoning Drive-In Theater FFF at VHS Fest 2022
Fri, Nov 18, 2022 @ 7:00pm Slippery Rock University Slippery Rock University