The Hot Seat: Mike Judge
The Beavis and Butt-Head creator discusses the return of the bungholes.
Fri Oct 21 2011
Illustration: Dan Park
RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews
Why did you decide to revive Beavis and Butt-Head?
It started with MTV calling a year and a half ago, asking if I wanted to do it. They had brought it up over the years and I had said no a bunch of times, but this time, King of the Hill was over, I had just finished a live-action movie, and I was thinking about getting back into animation. And I thought, I really like doing this, so why not?
Going back to voicing teenagers after Hank Hill makes me wonder if you're going through a midlife crisis.
[Laughs] Well, the midlife crisis happened about six years ago—I almost bought a muscle car, the GTO Judge, but then realized that would be really ridiculous. So I don't think that's to blame for doing Beavis and Butt-Head again.
How have you changed since the first time around?
I think I'm a better filmmaker now. Other than that, I haven't changed a whole lot. I'm probably just as mature, or immature, as I was.
Have Beavis and Butt-Head changed at all?
They haven't, but the world around them has. Now they're watching Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant.
Where did the idea come from to have them watching reality TV?
Van Toffler, the MTV president, called and said, "What about showing them watching Jersey Shore?" That was a big part of the reason I thought it could work again, especially after I figured out to play it as if Beavis and Butt-Head know the show inside and out. I felt like that really clicked and felt like a good way to fit Beavis and Butt-Head into the world today.
So you were inspired by Jersey Shore.
Yeah. [Laughs] So thank you, Jersey Shore.
What do you think of that show?
I started watching it for research, and I kinda got hooked on it, I gotta say. I wouldn't feel good when I was done, but then I'd just keep watching. It's like french fries or something.
How will the show engage young people today who don't know who Beavis and Butt-Head are?
I definitely tried to make it so that you don't have to have known much about them, so that you could watch the show fresh and understand it and get it. It's not like there's that much to get about them anyway. But I don't think of it as me trying to appeal to young people; I never think that way when I do something. What usually works for me is just thinking about what's going to make my friends laugh, and what I think is funny. That usually turns out to be what other people like too. Besides, I think there were a lot of older people that liked the show that don't admit it. I used to get lots of letters from women in their fifties when the show was on, usually saying that they liked it.
Will the fans from the first time around still love it?
I think I was pretty good at keeping these characters pure and [bringing back] what people would want to see, what I'd want to see. Not to put myself on this level, but I'm a huge fan of the Three Stooges. I think part of the reason they're still so watchable is they never did try to update them or say, like, "Let's give 'em different haircuts." I'd like to think this is the same kind of thing. You just keep them the way they are, and it works.
Do Beavis and Butt-Head make sense outside of '90s youth culture?
I think youth culture never changes. It does in style and fashion, maybe, but they weren't very stylish or fashionable to begin with. I remember people saying, "AC/DC and Metallica on their T-shirts? Aren't those old bands? Shouldn't it be, like, Nirvana and Pearl Jam or something?"
So they still love metal and rock music?
I didn't make them quite as metalheaded as some people remember, but yeah, there are a couple of rock music videos in the show. It's about half music videos and half reality shows. Maybe a little more reality shows, actually. Probably like 60/40.
Sounds like MTV.
Yeah, except that would be like 90/10. [Laughs]
What would the duo have thought of the Big Four tour this summer?
I think Beavis and Butt-Head were through the roof on that one.
Despite how old the bands are?
I remember getting in trouble because I had them calling Aerosmith old, and that was 18 years ago. I should probably keep my mouth shut this time.
Beavis and Butt-Head premieres Thu 27 at 10pm on MTV.