UHF (1989)

1h 37m / PG-13 / Comedy

Almost ten years ago, comedian Patton Oswalt penned an influential essay for Wired about how what had previously been understood to be “geek” culture was now the most mainstream of mainstream. That trajectory has not changed in the last decade, either; Comic-Con is a film showcase more important than Cannes now. The biggest cultural products in the world are based on comic books, Star Wars and fantasy novels, and they generate more billions of dollars than any of their original creators could ever have imagined. Audiences pay to watch people play Dungeons & Dragons. The nerds’ long war of Revenge is finally over, and the jocks lost — though in deliciously Game of Thrones fashion, our new geek overlords have turned out to be not the breakers of our chains but merely a different species of tyrant. What you might not know, though, is that this same transformation has happened in the comedy world as well. Never has absurd, weird, bizarre comedy been more influential — the three camera sitcom is dead, Monty Python is worshipped, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 has new seasons on Netflix and a very successful spin-off in Rifftrax … and did you know Weird Al Yankovic is still touring?

Weird Al, of course, got his start writing song parodies and releasing them on comedy albums. That doesn’t quite get to the scale of it, though; over a 40-plus year career, he’s earned five Grammy Awards, six platinum records, and sold over 12 million albums — and he’s done it all in remarkably consistent fashion. Less universally acclaimed was his single attempt at movie stardom, 1989’s UHF, an anthology of satirical sketches in a frame story.  It makes sense that Weird Al would have tried to make a movie, since he was as much an artist of music video as he was of music. Audiences stayed away in droves. And look, is it uneven? Sure. Do all of the jokes land? Definitely not. Is it problematic in the way so many ‘80s comedies were? Uh-huh. But it’s so ridiculous, and moves through its sketches so quickly, the viewer gets a gag they might love before they fully process the gag they hated. Its reputation has been restored as a ludicrous cult treasure, a pure expression of one strange person’s sense of humor, and the kind of movie that was tailor-made for a long second life in gif format. Join REWIND for the still suppliesing, inexpressibly weird UHF.