FANTASTIC FEST 2022: Chop and Steele (2022)

I have made no secret of my devotion — obsession? — with the Found Footage Festival, the life mission of Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher to take VHS tapes and remix them to reach us across the decades. So much of my conversational moments daily are made up of things I learned from these guys, like Jack Rebney yelling “Accountremants?!,” Champion Cathan Fable Little Star, “You can’t pay your rent with trophies,” “Fucking nature,” “Ice your bitch down” and so many other things I randomly say I first heard from the video collection of Joe and Nick.

As the twosome tour the U.S., they used to get stuck doing morning shows. At some point, they went from small pranks to a big one: they became Chop and Steele, two exercise masters who smashed baskets and threw sticks at one another. Anyone watching them would know it was a joke. The real laugh — or lack of humor — was when a big media company sued them for a litany of charges, putting their lives and fortunes at risk.

Directed by Berndt Mader and Ben Steinbauer with writing by Alex MacKenzie, this film explores how the Found Footage guys got here, how their relationship works and how a court case and COVID-19 almost ruined it for all of us. Sure, it’s cool to hear from David Cross, Bobcat Goldthwait, Reggie Watts and Howie Mandell what these guys mean to them. But the true stars are always Joe and Nick and, of course, the found footage of them in the moment and especially as they are being examined in court. The humorless legal questions literally seem like Brazil as Joe tries to explain what Frisbee Fuckers mean and the line “these fuckers only work from 4 AM to 10 AM” can cause so many headaches for Nick.

In a soulless world that just wants to crush you and forget that laughter exists, these guys get you through it. Their VCR Party show gave us something to look forward to during lockdown. And they’re still out there, fighting the silly fight, not letting things like being adults or offending people by urinating all over NBC’s stage get in the way of a good laugh.

This movie is everything I wanted it to be and yes, I did tear up at the end.

I watched Chop and Steele at Fantastic Fest.

You can get a virtual badge here.

You can learn more at the official Chop and Steele website.

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