It was all a gag, however, pulled off by a pair of creative guys who pranked five local morning TV news shows in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Here’s how it went down: Chef Guerke, played by Nick Prueher, pretended that he had a cookbook out called "Leftovers Right: Making A Winner Of Last Night’s Dinner." He then went on the live morning shows and made some of the most disgusting meals you could imagine … with turkey, mashed potatoes and more.
The news anchors ate it all up, literally, while not knowing that it was a goof.
This isn’t the first time a video by Prueher and his group has gone viral. A few years ago his buddy Mark Proksch played Kenny Stasser, a yo-yo master who was anything but a yo-yo master. He fooled a few morning shows with that bit, which was also hilarious.
We caught up with Prueher on Tuesday and found out how they were able to pull off the chef prank.
How did you come up with the idea and how did you get the bookings?
The idea was basically to alleviate some boredom while we were back in Wisconsin over the holidays, that’s where our families are from. We do a touring show called Found Footage Festival where we show a lot of weird videos and we often do local TV news shows to promote it, so we know how easy it is to get booked on those shows. We thought it would be funny to do something stupid on live TV. We noticed there’s always a chef on right before us whipping up some recipe so we thought it would be a slam dunk.
We mocked up a book cover and pasted my head on a chef’s head, typed up a press release, and sent it to 10 stations. Seven stations replied saying they’d love to have me on so the wheels were set in motion.
Were you surprised at how easy it was to get on those shows?
A little bit. A few years ago we did something where a friend played a guy named Kenny Stasser, who was a yo-yo expert, and we went around and basically made up an environmental yo-yo artist, which doesn’t make sense how that could even be a thing? But for that we built a fake website that looked legit.
For this one we just said that we had an article in this month’s Good Housekeeping.
Were you nervous pulling it off?
A little bit. It kind of sucked on Christmas night when I wanted to hang out but had to drive to Milwaukee and stay in a hotel and get up at 5 a.m. I’d lose sleep knowing I had to get up and knock over a table on live TV. It was a little unnerving but we had some good ideas.
These shows are trying to fill an hour of TV every morning and a lot of the stations are basically run by college interns. I’d be out back in the parking lot lining up cranberries on mashed potatoes and all of the sudden I’d be told that it was time and I’d suddenly be on TV.
Did any of the news anchors catch on?
No. Not even after the table fell over on one show. I told Joe Pickett, the other guy who I orchestrated the prank with, that I think this is going to go too far but it never happened. Even after the table fell over and I’m mopping up sludge, they thanked me and said good luck with the book. They tried to cheer me up and said, "Look on bright side, everyone will be talking about this at the book signing."
How did you come up with the awful food ideas?
We just took a look at the leftovers in my parent’s refrigerator and thought of stupid things we could do with them. We had a few on the bubble of being acceptable, like the mashed potato ice cream cone which we thought maybe was a real thing. But when we blended turkey, milk, and gravy into a smoothie, at that point we figured they were gonna try anything you make, might as well push it as far as you can.
Was it hard not to laugh during any of the appearances?
I was so in the moment I knew wasn’t going to laugh.
Did you feel bad while they were eating your terrible food?
I was surprised that four out the five anchors tried the food. There was one where we had the mashed potato ice cream cone with gravy and corn on top; she begged off and said she’d try it during the commercial break. Yeah, I was surprised by it. I didn’t think they would eat it.
One woman with the smoothie, I was like ‘you poor thing.’ I could smell it and it was awful and not blended well at all and she went right for it.
We were at a friend’s house the night before prepping the food for the show and friends were gagging because it smelled so bad. Then once we had it prepped we put it in the trunk of my rental car. A couple of times the stuff was still half frozen when I served it.
Was everything ad-libbed or did you come up with the great one-liners in advance?
Some were ad-libs but a lot them we came up with in the car or at the hotel. We’d talk it through and knew what kind of segments they were and what would be asked so we tried to have some stuff prepared and had some lines ready.
Have you heard from any of the news stations since the video aired?
No, I haven’t. But one station in Wausau (Wisc.), where the table got knocked over, was a station that we got Kenny Strasser on with his yo-yo. They later did an expose on who he was and was he really a yo-yo expert, which was all in good fun. This time they filed a cease and desist so YouTube took down the video. We still have it on our website, though.
I think we have a legitimate fair-use argument there, though.
These stations are getting a lot of attention. The joke is really on me for being an idiot. Nobody’s making money off it. It’s just a goof.
Are you amazed how this thing took off?
I really am. We knew it was funny and made us laugh but you never know what’s going to strike a chord. Within 24 hours we had like 1.5 million hits. It’s just insane to think about. So yeah, it’s pretty amazing.
What did your family think of it?
My dad just keeps sending me emails like, "We saw it on Yahoo! or AOL," and I’m like, ‘You can stop sending me these dad. It’s everywhere now."
In a weird way I think they’re proud. We used their blender and their table and prepped at my folks’ house in Wisconsin. They’ve come to terms with the fact that this is what their son does.
Most of the stuff on the site we save for our live show. Most of that comes from Salvation Army and thrift stores. That particular (dating video) one we traded for with (comedian) David Cross. He’s a collector and gave us tapes that he got from a friend of his in California who was an editor at that video dating service back in 1987.
1987 was not a great year for men. Wits, looks, lots of bad sweaters. All of it was bad. I guess that’s how things worked then.
What can people expect from your shows on your tour?
It’s a guided tour of our video collection of VHS tapes that we’ve found. We have some crazy exercise videos and a video from 1997 called, "How to Have Cybersex on the Internet," which is redundant. It’s hard to believe it’s even real.
Finally, what was your favorite moment from your appearances as a chef?
There’s one part where in Milwaukee I had a thing called a ham and turkey hand sandwich on flat bread. We used magic markers to draw our hands on the bread and then cut them out to make a sandwich. I had a pre-made sandwich that I made in the car. It was just a sad flat sandwich with marker on the edges and a bunch of frilly tooothpicks holding it together. During the big reveal when I go, "And here’s what it looks like," I just remember thinking that was gonna be funny on TV, especially with the woman going with it and saying, "wow."
My big regret was not asking her to try it because it was the saddest looking sandwich and probably would have fallen completely apart.