Any memorable double act has a surname combo which whips up a frenzy. The UK was immortalised by names which sound odd and out of order. None of them was particularly hilarious for long bursts or consistent enough to have a show named after them, but the infectious double act syndrome made its way to the United States too. Rightly so. Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett’s Chop & Steele routine is a fascinating, viral piece of the times and as such they fall to the consequences of fusty old so and so’s not quite latching on to the articulation of a new form of comedy. Enlisting a bald array of famous funnymen, including David Cross and Bobcat Goldthwait cements the target audience for Prueher and Pickett, and also provides an example of who is set to go against them and their work.
Because as brief as this documentary on a comedic pair is, it is stunning how a series of charmless pranks took them to courts and legal ramifications which began pulling them apart. Where the line is blurred is in the issue of comedy in the modern world. How can fictional characters stand trial if portrayed by an existing individual? Chop & Steele show this frustration. An equivalent experience would be shipping Alan Partridge off to The Hague for theft. Even then prank as a form of art and endeavour is dead in the water. No amount of heavy lifting will ever move this lower form to the countries which now frown on the likes of Phonejacker and Balls of Steel. What a time late-night UK Gold used to be, when you just couldn’t sleep and couldn’t handle anything real. Trigger Happy TV was a lullaby for millions, and Chop & Steele’s early years have the same effect.
What they miss though is this degree of understanding for the third party or others involved outside their sphere of knowledge. Phone call gags are usually grown out of in childhood and even then, there are few who actually take part in them given how difficult it is to disguise a number. Everything pertaining to comedy in Chop & Steele boils down to lightweight Jackass. Soon their riffs between one another start to show the cracks, and the animosity between a not-so-great pair of comedians comes to a head when the law becomes involved. Ben Steinbauer and Berndt Mader try and figure out the great divide, the friends made and lost as life begins to crack, but do little with their footage.
Instead, they bring two people back together after so many years of wishing they were no longer apart. Chop & Steele is thoroughly wholesome in its intent although never appears to be quite on board with its own intentions. Everything comes full circle; all their comedic tricks and tropes are linked back to nostalgic VHS tapes as they use this documentary as an excuse to relive their formative years when comedy was no more advanced than fright and fear found in VHS tapes. Custodial duties for the McDonald’s employee of the future hold within it a found footage style love. Comedy comes from those buried tapes, as Red Letter Media find time and time again. But Chop & Steele loses itself in what little time it has.