FANTASTIC FEST 2022: ‘Chop & Steele’s’ Real Muscle Is In Its Comedic Talent

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Chop & Steele - But Why Tho

Who doesn’t love a good prank? Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher built their entire career on that thesis, and Chop & Steele explores how far they went for laughs. The duo co-founded the Found Footage Festival in 2004 and make a living offering commentary on the weirdest video tapes they can find. In their spare time, they’d also create outlandish characters and appear on morning shows across the country to pull off pranks. A chef who makes “turbo gravy” out of assorted Thanksgiving leftovers. A yo-yo expert who’s bad at yo-yoing. The list goes on.

Their magnum opus came with the titular characters of Chop & Steele, a pair of strongmen. Their routine included snapping wooden sticks in half, stomping on baskets, and doing reps with full jugs of milk. This routine managed to fool dozens of unsuspecting media outlets. But Gray Television, the parent company of one of these outlets, didn’t find it funny. They sued Pickett and Prueher, leaving the duo at a crossroads. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the COVID-19 pandemic kneecapped their touring schedule. So how did they get through all of it?

The answers unfold over the course of the documentary, as directors Ben Steinbauer and Berndt Mader chronicle the events that lead up to the court case. During this process, multiple clips of Pickett and Prueher’s acts are shown and you can’t help but be swept along for the ride. There are no lengths to which they won’t go for a joke. Case in point, Prueher mentions that he and Pickett will often dress as different characters when taking pictures for their driver’s licenses, which served as the basis for their previous pranks. Even footage from their depositions, which should be serious, leads to gut-busting laughter when Prueher discusses the origins of “Frisbee F***ers” and Pickett very plainly states that anyone with an ounce of common sense could see that they weren’t strongmen in the slightest sense of the word.

In fact, the best parts of Chop & Steele feature other guests talking about how crazy the lawsuit is. Everyone from Bobcat Goldwaithe to David Cross has nothing but kind things to say about the duo. And even crazier is how things come full circle: when Pickett & Prueher first came up with the idea of Chop & Steele, they claimed that they had appeared on America’s Got Talent. Lo and behold, in the middle of their lawsuit, they get an offer to appear on America’s Got Talent. This is the highlight of the documentary, and it leads to a surprise guest in the film’s closing moments.

None of this would work without Pickett and Prueher, and the duo is completely open about their relationships from the ups to the downs. Prueher talks about his passion for board games and his struggles with finding a relationship, and Pickett discusses how his comedy acts either pass or fail where his wife is concerned. The section covering the beginning of the pandemic feels the most real, as both of them have a chance to lay out their fears and thoughts about a still uncertain future. Unlike most documentaries, which only cover the surface of their subject or act as glorified puff pieces, Chop & Steele actually feels like it’s about two human beings and that works in its favor.

There’s no doubt about it: Chop & Steele is one of the hidden gems of this year’s Fantastic Fest. It’s utterly hilarious, very heartwarming, and a great example of how humor can help you get through some dark times. Because in the end, Pickett and Prueher had the last laugh.

Chop & Steele had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival 2022 and is playing at Fantastic Fest 2022.


Chop & Steele
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

There’s no doubt about it: Chop & Steele is one of the hidden gems of this year’s Fantastic Fest. It’s utterly hilarious, very heartwarming, and a great example of how humor can help you get through some dark times. Because in the end, Pickett and Prueher had the last laugh.

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