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10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Classic Weird Al Comedy ‘UHF’

UHF Main

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Able to churn out parody hits like clockwork every few years, shift genres with the flick of the accordion, and possess enough sincerity to circle the globe, “Weird Al” Yankovic is not only enjoyed, but beloved by millions — practically everyone under the age of 40 can legitimately say they grew up loving him and his work.

So it’s no surprise that 1989’s fun-loving UHF has generated a sizable cult following. Featuring the likes of Michael Richards, Fran Drescher, Kevin McCarthy, Gedde Watanabe, and a slew of oddball characters, the movie is a delightful and endlessly quotable time capsule to the close of 1980s pop culture.

To get you ready for Al’s latest appearance on Comedy Bang! Bang!, here are 10 things you may not have known about the hilarious cult comedy UHF.

1. The Spatula City billboard confused motorists for months.

1. Spatula City

Orion Pictures

Promoting the world-famous outlet shop where folks can go for all their spatula needs, the Spatula City billboard was erected for the film’s production alongside a seldom-traveled highway. Given the undesirable advertising location, the space wasn’t repurchased after the production’s rental period ran out, leaving the utensil-themed ad up and motorists scratching their heads — and occasionally redirecting their route — for months.

2. Emo Philips still reaps residuals for his small role.

2. Emo Philips

Orion Pictures

Despite his brief screen time as an accident-prone shop teacher, lanky falsetto comedian Emo Philips still receives residual checks from the Screen Actors Guild for his role in UHF. During VH1’s Behind the Music episode on Weird Al, Philips showed off a check for a whopping 30 cents — proving what decades of quoting “Is my face red!” is really worth to bottom-liners.

3. Sylvester Stallone was set to make a cameo.

3. Rambo

Orion Pictures

Yankovic dons a muscle-bound rubber torso for an extended Rambo fantasy/parody wherein he rents a helicopter from a booth worker to save Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards). Although played by a non-speaking extra in the film, the booth worker role was set to be played by Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone, who agreed to appear for the cameo. Scheduling conflicts, unfortunately, prevented Weird Al and Rambo from appearing onscreen together.

4. Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler plays guitar in the “Beverly Hillbillies/Money For Nothing” parody song.

4. Dire Straits

Orion Pictures

Utilizing state-of-the-art (for the time) computer graphics to emulate the look of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” video, Yankovic performs a send-up of the song using the Beverly Hillbillies theme song for source material. As a boon to the performance, Dire Straits singer Mark Knopfler agreed to the parody only if he could play the lead guitar lick, giving legitimacy to a sitcom about backwoods hicks striking oil.

5. Actor David Bowe was actually hurt by a frying pan wallop to the face.

5. David Bowe

Orion Pictures

In the movie, George’s business partner and best friend Bob (played by David Bowe) takes a frying pan to the face during the first “Uncle Nutsy’s Clubhouse” scene. The stunt required the pan to stop short of his face, but unfortunately for Bowe, it made contact and split his lip. His reaction to the blow is real, and because he never broke character, this take was deemed good enough to be used in the film.

6. The odor from the “Wheel of Fish” scene was particularly unpleasant.

6. Wheel of Fish

Orion Pictures

Yes, those are actual fish secured to a spinning platform for the “Wheel of Fish” segment, and as you can imagine, the stench emanating from the rotting carcasses fell far short from lilac-scented Febreze. According to Yankovic’s UHF DVD commentary, the fish were bought from a local market in the early morning and stayed secured to the wheel as a worker made sure it spun correctly until shooting began in the afternoon. A mixture of hot studio lights, summer weather, and a set that wasn’t air-conditioned left a heavy odor in the air that Al described as “ripe.”

7. The film is dedicated to Trinidad Silva, who played animal “expert” Raul.

7. Trinidad Silva

Orion Pictures

As Raul, the animal “expert” that nobody can remember hiring, actor Trinidad Silva showed kids at home that turtles are nature’s suction cups and poodles can achieve flight if thrown in just the right way. Tragically, Silva was killed by a drunk driver midway through production. The movie is dedicated to his memory and his character’s backstory, as well as a scene where Raul got his comeuppance by a roving band of vengeful poodles, weren’t included in the final cut.

8. Yankovic didn’t want the movie to be called UHF.

8. UHF

Orion Pictures

Before UHF was released, Yankovic and Orion Pictures butted heads on what the movie should be called. Al wanted The Vidiot, but Orion insisted on UHF, which Yankovic thought would be confusing in light of cable television’s rise in popularity. Domestically, the movie was released with Orion’s title, but for the overseas market, a compromise was reached: The Vidiot from UHF. Yankovic has gone on record about how much he dislikes both versions of the title.

9. Offbeat character actor Crispin Glover was offered a role in the movie.

9. Crispin Glover

New Line Cinema

Named for the inventor of television, the role of studio engineer and mad scientist Philo was offered to that personification of eccentric, Crispin Glover. The actor declined the part and reportedly asked to play the role of used car salesman Crazy Eddie, who’s willing to “club a seal to make a better deal.” As Glover wasn’t deemed right for that particular role, Yankovic and director Jay Levey passed.

10. Yankovic inserted a subtle reference to a club he started in high school.

10. Volcano Worshippers

Orion Pictures

As a noted academic overachiever (he was elected valedictorian of his senior class), Yankovic nevertheless displayed a quirky sense of humor in high school. He and his buddies started a “Volcano Worshipers” club just to get an extra picture of themselves in the yearbook. The actor gave a nod to the club as an addition to the TV lineup with the “Volcano Worshipers Hour”.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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