Video: Fringe duo crowdfund to fight US copyright lawsuit

One Edinburgh Fringe double-act has set up a crowdfunding page after being sued by a US TV network back home in the American midwest.

Found Footage duo Prueher and Pickett. Picture: Found Footage
Found Footage duo Prueher and Pickett. Picture: Found Footage

Charges filed by Atlanta-based Gray Television include copyright infringement, fraud and conspiracy after several of their TV stations repeatedly fell for the pair’s news segment pranks.

Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have spent 20 years browsing through thrift stores and garage sales for comical VHS tapes that time forgot to use in their VHS-based comedy show, Found Footage Festival.

“They’re videos that aren’t meant to be shown in public,” says one half of the comedy duo Prueher, “and then we show them in public and give a running commentary.”

Found Footage duo Prueher and Pickett. Picture: Found Footage

Old exercise tapes and weird, creepy public access shows that never made it to air are a favourite of the pair.

In recent years, they’ve padded out their routine with clips from American local TV networks, after booking guests who have no business being on the morning news.

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“We decided about seven years ago to book fake people, characters that were not even believable,” explains Prueher.

“We got a character we said was a Yo-Yo expert promoting environmentalism through Yo-Yoing on seven different morning shows across America.”

Found Footage duo Prueher and Pickett. Picture: Found Footage

Fellow Found Footage fanatic Joe Pickett explains that three years ago, they booked Nick on as a TV chef.

“[Nick] had written a book on what to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers and we sent him out right after Thanksgiving,” he explains, adding “we got him on five morning news shows.”

It was when the duo executed a third bout of TV tomfoolery that the lighthearted veil lifted to reveal a troublesome prospect. The pair wrote a fictitious press release claiming to be two strong men, ‘Chop and Steele’ on their “Give Thank’s 4Strenths’ (sic) tour.

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The outrageous release claimed the fictitious heavyweights had won America’s Got Talent - something “a simple Google Search” would have disproved.

According to Pickett, the local networks all found the shows hilarious:

“We promised them an entertaining segment and we gave them an entertaining segment.

“We didn’t do anything obscene or mean-spirited.”

While Pickett insists the pair did not intend to target Gray Television, the network owns several dozen channels across the country and by the laws of averages, all three of their live TV segment pranks appeared on affiliated channels.

Prueher and Pickett are both confident the lawsuit is frivolous and their lawyer reportedly shares in their optimism, but “proving your innocence is expensive”, so a Go Fund Me has been set up so the act can defend themselves in court.

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The pair have already raise more than a quarter of their $80,000 target.

Pickett admits his only prior knowledge of being “served” legal summons is from the film, Pineapple Express, but his own experience far surpasses anything Seth Rogen’s creative server could cook up.

Fans of Pickett and Prueher might like to know that the Edinburgh Festival might be last chance to see Chop and Steele in action, if the pair go on to lose in court.

They’re also promising “a bunch of videos you’ve never seen and maybe didn’t want to see”.

“We’ve got boxes and boxes of exercise videos,” says Pickett, “because back in the 80s and 90s they were s***ing out exercise videos at a furious pace.

“The show is chock-full of weirdos.”

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To see ‘Rent-a-Friend’, ‘E-I-E-I-Yoga’, infamous Chop & Steele news clips and to hear how the pair “got served”, watch the exclusive Scotsman interview above.

For a lot more Found Footage Festival tapes, Pickett and Prueher are performing at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) at 22:40 until Sunday August 27.

To pledge to the ‘Chop and Steele’ legal expenses, click here to visit their GoFundMe page.