Found vs found

Story by Emily Gresbrink

Found Magazine and Found Footage Festival came together in friendly competition, pitting hilarious VHS discoveries against hilarious found letters, lists and notes at Downtown Cinema last weekend.

My three favorite things in the whole world are my family, my friends and hilariously embarrassing YouTube videos — especially those involving slips, falls or kittens.

Upon learning that Found Magazine and Found Footage were coming together in Eau Claire for ‘Found vs. Found,’ I about fell over dead from shock and excitement. You could say I had an ‘OMG Cat’ look on my face.

But wait — you’re asking, ‘Why, Emily, what is Found Magazine? What is this Found Footage Festival you speak so fondly of?’

Dear friends, let me tell you!

Found Magazine was, well, founded by two brothers from Ann Arbor, Mich.

Davy and Peter Rothbart have been collecting found pieces of writing for years, be it love letters, receipts, grocery lists, breakup notes — you name it, they have it. They publish these whatnots in Found Magazine and even write songs about them (‘The Booty Don’t Stop’ is my favorite).

On  the other side of the ring was Found Footage, consisting of Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher. These Eau Claire grads call themselves curators of the VHS; they’ve been collecting and buying VHS tapes for 20-plus years and sharing them in the Found Footage Festival since 2004.

These jewel-tapes contain anything from exercise videos to video dating to Jingle Cats.

I went to the second of two showings at the Downtown Cinema on Saturday, Nov. 12. The house was almost full and everyone came in good spirits. My friends and I (all of whom had no idea what they were getting into) took our seats and the ‘battle royale of found s**t’ began.

The audience would vote at the end of each round who the winner was, based on raising a tape or a magazine and when I went, Found Footage won (in all fairness, Found Magazine won the earlier showing).

Three periods with 24 minutes in each (12 for Found Magazine and 12 for Found Footage) of woeful breakup letters versus “Winnebago Man,” or songs about beers and buses versus hilarious work safety videos gone horribly wrong — what can I say? It was everything I could have expected and more.

It was a gut-busting and hilarious few hours of everything terribly funny in this world. The humor from the performers was sharp and well-delivered. Peter Rothbart’s guitar playing abilities were outstanding, and Davy Rothbart could interpret any letter as if he wrote it himself.

The Found Footage guys offered commentary throughout the videos, a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000”; it was just an all-out great time.

When these guys come back to town next year (probably), you can bet I will be up in the front row freaking out all over again. The $12 ticket price is worth every penny.

So if you love everything that is terrible and wonderful, laughing at the recorded misfortunes of others with a house full of people and simply enjoying the simple things in life, Found vs. Found — or any Found Footage/Found Magazine entity — is right up your alley.