Tune in, turn on, drop out, because UHF is the Greatest Movie EVER!
Click on the DVD cover or the title above to download our review of the film, featuring Sean “Hollywood” Hunting.
Review in a Nutshell: UHF is the definition of a cult classic, a movie so odd and off-kilter that you have to wonder how it got greenlit in the first place. A bad movie buoyed up by the talent and enthusiasm of the cast, UHF remains infinitely quotable twenty five years after failing to perform at the box office.
This movie contains:
Red Snapper. (Very tasty.)
One of those podcasts where you stop everything and have to listen to!
That Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tape was called “Coming out of their Shells Tour.” I had it too. “Pizza Power” still gets stuck in my head every couple of months, despite the fact that I haven’t actually listened to the song in over 20 years.
I’d call UHF a “flawed” movie rather than a “bad” one, Paul – though it’s true that the best parts are the comedy sketches and song parodies Weird Al wanted to do anyway, and the main story (or the excuse for a story, I guess) mainly stinks. What it needed to be was a sketch movie, maybe with a loose framing device (like TUNNELVISION or SCTV had), or just a comedy short that served as its centerpiece and a few gags that got repeated (like KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON did).
I remember this being pushed like crazy on cable when it was coming out. Good stuff.
I actually have to disagree. I’m glad that UHF is a movie with a cheap, generic story rather than a pastiche of comedy bits. I actually really like the whole “slobs vs. snobs” aesthetic it uses, as many comedies that came before it (Caddyshack,Meatballs) used.
I was going to chastise Paul for assessment that all comedy is based on pain. But then he says, “I don’t know Ted Knight is,” and “I’ve never seen Caddyshack,” and “I used to enjoy Caddyshack II”.
I am totally speechless.
“I realized that all comedy was based on human suffering.” Are you sure you didn’t read that in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land? The protagonist has this “epiphany” in between sexually manipulating women with martian mind powers and pretending to be Jesus. I don’t think anyone should be taking life lessons from Heinlein. Just ask Joel White, he was part of a book review of a Heinlein work not too long ago. RE-EXAMINE YOUR OPINIONS, PAUL, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
Yes, I’ve read Stranger in a Strange Land, but I dismissed the idea as Heinlein presented it. It wasn’t until I was studying theater in college and really digging deep into theater history that I came to believe that comedy is based on pain and suffering. There’s also some evidence that laughter is an adaptation we share with other primates; apparently chimpanzees have a distress call that sounds a lot like laughter. I’m willing to entertain the idea that I could be wrong on this, but so far, I haven’t been able to find a counter-example.
CultureCast-Z – while ANIMAL HOUSE was one of my favorite movies in college (the Proud Papa of the “snobs v. slobs” comedy subgenre), as I got older I came to realize Kevin Bacon was right – older people who love ANIMAL HOUSE think they’re hip cool Deltas, but actually they’re wedge-ass Omegas.
Slobs v. Snobs comedies are a phase you go through in your late teens/early Twenties – like binge-drinking on weekends, or thinking Ayn Rand/Harlan Ellison/Hunter S. Thompson is God.
To Sean’s Comment about GONE WITH THE WIND – I suspect you saw it at too young an age, or were being force-fed it as “A Great Movie About Our Suthrin’ Cultuah, Boy!”, and that’s why you found it boring. I’ve gone back and forth on the movie over the years – while it’s undeniably one of the Triumphs of the Classic Studio System (epic adaptation of a bestseller, Technicolor used brilliantly, huge talented cast with a few “That’s Brilliant!” standout performances, given cohesion despite having had three directors and Gods know how many writers thanks to William Cameron Menzies’s stunning Production Design), it’s also an elegy for all that was “A Positive Good” about slavery(!) and The South’s side of The Civil War. (The only Yankee you see is one smelly rapey deserter from Sherman’s Army that Scarlett takes out Like A Boss – and even perpetually dying Melanie looked able to kick his ass!)
It’s also really long, and with very few scenes to hold the attention of a kid (no heroic chariot races like in BEN HUR or battle scenes like in THE LONGEST DAY), and no “Shh! This is the Story of Our Lord and Savior – show some respect!” (probably accompanied by a SMACK!) by your parents.
Paul – Sean’s wrong, you absolutely have a sense of humor. It’s just a very dry one – which is good, given so many other movie podcasts where the hosts sound like Beevis & Butthead!
“What it needed to be was a sketch movie, maybe with a loose framing device (like TUNNELVISION or SCTV had), or just a comedy short that served as its centerpiece and a few gags that got repeated (like KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON did).”
Recalling Tunnelvision well, I would’ve been fine with something like that if it was pulled off as effectively well, but “UHF” was something I use to watch over and over and not think there was anything missing or flawed about it. Of course back then I was naiive over things like “Lesbian Nazi Hookers” and even did a silly talk show type thing with my siblings were we talked with Lesbian Nazi Hookers that were abducted by aliens and forced into weight loss programs. It was pretty amusing what we could try coming up with via a tape recorder!
Counter-example to all comedy comes from human suffering: puns. Puns have no basis in human suffering and are a delightful form of comedy.
I am aware this is the internet and people love to about over-react to the “painful” nature of puns but I really don’t think that analysis holds up to any rigorous consideration of their nature as cleverly-designed linguistic simulacra.
I’d are argue that the suffering in puns comes from inflicting them on other people, who invariably groan in response. 😀
Parody is also a form of comedy that doesn’t involve suffering, Paul – it involves a knowledge of (and usually affection for) a particular type of entertainment that’s being mocked.
Unless, of course, you’re thinking of those two bozos who do all the DATE MOVIE/EPIC MOVIE/TEEN VAMPIRE MOVIE movies, which are incredibly painful….
Nope, that doesn’t work for me. UHF has parody elements, such as the spoofs of popular movies, where the humor still relies on pain and suffering, for example when Weird Al whips the guy’s arm off or gets crushed by a boulder. Airplane and Top Secret do the same thing.
As I see it, the humor generally stems from a special context, in which the object of the suffering is protected from harm. We laugh at Raul’s Wild Kingdom because we know no poodles were actually thrown out a window. Translate the same scenario to reality, and its no longer funny. Humor is, in essence, a reaction to distress.
Honestly, though, I’ve had this argument dozens of times, and I don’t really feel like repeating it again in the comments.
The funniest and most memorable part of the Gandhi II parody in UHF has no basis in pain or suffering: “Give me a steak, medium rare.” The basis of the humor is a deviation from what’s commonly expected. I don’t think this is uncommon of jokes. Jokes based on pain and suffering are great–it’s what I trade in–but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that’s the fundamental pillar upon which humor is built.
Airplane! is actually a perfect example of this. Most of the jokes are things like smoking a cigarette after inflating the copilot, having an old lady as a jive interpreter, or responding with literal definitions that aren’t important right now in response to “what is it?” inquiries.
You know, Surat has a point, Paul – comedy is based less on pain and suffering (which sounds like one of those really pretentious things you hear in college writing classes, and which screws some people up as writers!), and more on the subversion of expectation. Yes, seeing one of history’s most famous pacifists, Gandhi-ji, as a badass vigilante could be said to have elements of comedic suffering in it (if you consider punks getting their asses deservedly and humiliatingly kicked to be “suffering”, which I sure don’t!), but what really makes it funny is how completely it subverts our expectations of a vegetarian who taught that nonviolence takes strength, too.
For that matter, where’s the suffering in most of Weird Al’s song parodies? But in every case, you can point to a subversion of expectation – which is why Weird Al pretty much stopped with the food jokes after his first few albums, because that’s what everybody expected out of him. Not all comedy does this, but really good satire or parody gets at a hidden truth in what it’s mocking – as “Dare To Be Stupid” does by openly saying what’s always implicit in Devo’s songs, or “Smells Like Nirvana” does by skewering Kurt Cobain’s mush-mouthed disaffection.
Yeah, I have to agree with this one. Both what Surat said and Timeliebe.
Subversion of expectation is a vital component of the humor of Roadrunner cartoons. Paul, I assume that you would only see the suffering of the coyote as being the source of the humor, as he’s being repeatedly crushed and maimed (see what I did there?), but it’s the absurd way in which he fails that gives the humor its punch.
Everyone experiences pain. Roadrunner cartoons take those moments and allow us to laugh at failure and suffering as a means of coping with them.
There is some truth to the adages “comedy is based on pain/suffering” and “comedy = tragedy + time.” Much of it is. But to say that all of it is ignores the existence of comics such as Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan. No one was harmed in the making of one of Doug Benson’s pot jokes.
Comedy is misdirection and wordplay, it doesn’t have to be about pain.
“That comedian who does a podcast?” I would’ve said “All of them”
Geez, I don’t think that comedy is based mostly on human suffering. Ever hear Jim Gaffigan? Brian Regan? Patton Oswalt? I want to list more, but let me stop there. I don’t think that your conclusion, Paul, is far from right.
I’ll submit a confession! I no longer actively search out for music, which I think is weird to most people. It’s not because I dislike music, but because talk radio and podcasting is more interesting to me.
On the topic of “the old world” when there weren’t 500+ channels, I think that Sean was right and wrong about how well the generation below us knows our generation’s TV. I think that if you’re listening to this podcast, and you’re a teenager, your knowledge of old stuff might be more vast. I think that when we’re talking about kids outside of this ecosystem, they don’t know jack about stuff like UHF and public access.
Speaking of the “old world,” I remember not knowing jack about Doctor Who, or red Dwarf, but I watched those British sticoms on public TV. I loved the Chef theme song, for some reason.
I don’t like Jim Gaffigan or Regan, but I can say with authority that Patton Oswalt’s comedy is based on suffering. His stuff comes from a very dark place, and it’s invariably about dealing with frustration and disappointment.
Didn’t ask if you liked them. What about their material? So when you think about the entirety of comedy, is it mostly negative observations of and negative reactions to life?
Don’t know. I don’t like them, so I don’t know their material well enough to say whether they qualify as basing their sets off of painful situations or not. Most observational stand-up comedy does, but I’ve seen a rare exception here and there.
Humor is in my opinion a reaction to a negative stimulus. It’s generally a positive reaction, but the experience that underlies it is usually a bad one. It’s not something I particularly feel like arguing about, though.
I will leave it at I don’t feel that your conclusion is completely wrong, but I don’t think it’s very right.