A TV show must be doing something pretty damn straight when you can watch an episode 20 times over and still get a good heaving snort out of it.
Actually, the relationship between Beavis and Butt-Head is a classic comedy premise: Two simpleton buddies (chums, good friends, pals, significant others, Jeff 'N Akbars - whatever) one of whom thinks he's the brains of the outfit. Comic misadventures relentlessly attend them, brought on by the pair's hermetic separation from the realities of the Outside World.
Mike Judge has reinvented the idea by way of two horny, outcast, ignorant, completely amoral adolescent boys living in a horribly bleak, cookie cutter world of homogenized mini-marts, faceless malls and generic fast food franchises. Probably as they well know they'll be stuck there forever.
Beavis and Butt-Head have a very limited view of life's possibilities since they can barely read, are too bored by school to learn anything, and have a TV set that plays nothing but crappy videos. Aside from an occasional glance at the pictures in People magazine all of their newscomes from MTV's Kurt Loder: bebebebeepbebebebeep!
No wonder they are suspicious and cynical about nearly everything but slurpees, nachos, AC/DC, Metallica, and Big Thingies. They exist in the completely mindless moment - unaware of all history and culture existing outside of their claustrophobic own.
Butt-Head (dark brown hair, braces), the slightly older of the two, seems bemusedly resigned to the fact that thier lives utterly suck, they have no friends, no cars, they'll never have money and most probably will never "score" with a chick -- though not for want of trying . . . "Hey Babeh . . . come to Butt-Head." In his favor, as Judge points out, Butt-head is almost always in a good mood.
In his favor, Beavis (Blonde, pointy-sharp nose) is wildly enthusiastic about nearly everything except school and sucky videos. He does have the odd nuclear meltdown when he drinks "crapaccino" or pigs out on candy. "I am the Great Cornholio! My people are poor . . . they have no TP for their bungholios!" (Or gets obsessed with the utter hopelessness of his unrequited "boiiiing-ings.")
The two don't usually specifically set out to cause mayhem. Things just snowball -- the essence of farce. They never give a second thought to the consequences of their noid-a-zoid antics.
For example: Butt-Head just wants to see Beavis roll down a hill in a giant tire - good clean fun, right? By the end of the D-day ride a nature photographer is mangled, an entire train is derailed, huge toxic gas clouds from the same are headed for town, 30 cars are totaled . . . And their idol, arch-cool thug Todd spills a drop of beer on his new jeans. (For which they pay - severely).
The core of the series' humor is in the brilliantly subtle inflections of Judge's characterizations. Butt-Head has so many modes of insinuation as he endlessly tries to snow Beavis, the occasional authority, and chicks with his "dude-of-the-world" smoothness.
Butt-Head's constant guttural-nasal giggles run through a wide range of speed and pitch; an infectiously silly Greek chorus to his self-perceived coolness. Butt-Head is endlessly amused by the wittiness of his incessent stream of sarcasm and lewdness.
Their ultimate source of glee is to triumphantly expose the countless, delectable morsels of smut that are hidden away in everyday conversation. Two of Mike Judge's personal favorites are as follows:
Butt-Head: You should shine your pants so they look like that dude's.
Beavis: I do shine my pants.
Butt-Head: Huh huh huh, you said "douche".
(From "They're Coming To Take Me Away Huh huh"):
Psychiatrist: Beavis and Butt-Head are new here, so let's all try not to be too hard on them, OK?
Butt-Head: Huh huh, she said "hard on".
How humiliating! We are all closet potty-mouths.
Beavis' giggle can leap an entire octave when he gets really excited -- mostly at the prospect of viewing a naked rump, some gigantic Thingies or anything connected with fire and poop in a video. Butt-Head's "Huh-Huh-Huh"'s are slower and often sarcastically forced. As the wiser older brother figure he has a little "gravitas" to maintain. When he tries to scream, it comes out strangulated. When Beavis gets out of line, Butt-Head reprimands him severely with shaming scatological mutations: Butt-Munch, Dill-Hole, Dill-Weed, Dumb-Ass, Fart-Knocker, Butt-Wipe, Dill-Munch. If all else fails, of course, there's always "Whack!! Whack!! Whack!! Whack!! Whack!!" Their duet of pitched giggles forms a kind of continuous musical score to their lives.
Now that the long awaited movies "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" has brought in the highest ever weekend profits for December (40 million) it's obvious we're not dealing with some comic event on the level of "Ren and Stimpy" "Where's The Beef?" "Howard the Duck," and "Ace Ventura: When Excess Shrieks," or "Ernest Pulls His Finger."
There is a brand new cult in India that believes in the supreme mystical importance of laughter. The Ashram gets together and systematically force themselves to guffaw. The roar builds slowly, but eventually everyone really is ecstatically rolling down the aisles: spiritual mission accomplished. Could this phenomenon have anything to do with the powerful comedic resonance of those infectious intoxicating little "heh-heh-heh's and huh-huh-huh"s - one wonders.
And the lord saith (Chapter 5, Verse 39, Saint Mathew) onto Beavis:
"But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also . . ."
Beavis: "That's right! Then kick him in the nads and run like hell! . . . Heh-heh-he . . . heh-heh-heh . . . . Jesus Christ said, heh heh . . . . . her cheek . . . . . ."
Goblin Magazine: We're a very politically progressive magazine and we like to help out just causes. We've endorsed projects to help people in places like Serbia and Rwanda, and we were wondering if there's a foundation where we can donate TP to help the poor oppressed people of Cornholio.
Mike Judge: They are without TP for their Bungholes? Anything I can do to help in the way of TP . . . I was thinking of starting a TP Peace Corp.
Goblin: That's what we were hoping for: The Cornholio Institute Of Butt Wipe. We've been wanting to clear up some confusion about Beavis & Butt-Head. For one, why doesn't Butt-Head ever kick Beavis in the nads?
Judge: I don't know. Somehow it just seems right that Beavis would go for the nads. Maybe that should happen in season seven finally.
Goblin: Is it mathematical how many slaps in the face equals a kick in the nads?
Judge: Yeah, it is kind of. Beavis has this threshold. He doesn't do anything up until the threshold is reached and then it's a kick in the nads. We're always recycling the animation. The multiple slap cut away I actually animated every frame myself. It's just a repeat cycle, fourteen drawings over and over again. Tony Kluk animated the nads-kick and that's always the same every time too.
Goblin: Were you ever slapped in the face or kicked in the nads?
Judge: I think my brother may have kicked me in the nads. He was just sort of trying to kick my ass and missed. It took me awhile to realize but I think a lot of Beavis & Butt-Head is based on me on my brother.
Goblin: What's the most Beavis thing you ever did?
Judge: Cornholio is kind of similar to when I was a kid I used to follow my sister around the house. I just got in this mode where I followed her around talking in a Pakistani accent.
Goblin: Where did you get that from?
Judge: I didn't really know and then I started to figure it out. I got it from a couple of sources. I say Pakistani but one of the sources was this Harry Belafonte album my parents listened to. It was this Calypso album every one's parents had. I was also imitating a tourist I heard from Nepal once that was arguing with his wife. But the, "Are you threatening me," came from when I was a minimum wage guy tearing tickets at a movie theater. We used to have to tell people to wait outside. Once I told this Middle Eastern guy to wait in line four and he said, (In Cornholio Voice) "No, I will not wait outside. I want to buy some popcorn for my wife." I said, "okay you can get some popcorn but then you have to wait outside." But when he came out he mumbled something like, "Fucking Asshole." I didn't completely hear him and asked "whaa-aat?," and he kept saying, "Are you threatening me?"
Goblin: Did your brother say "you said," when you were a kid? Were you always looking for dirty words?
Judge: I don't remember my Brother and I doing that, but I remember being in the car with my Mom, my little sister and about five of her friends, (I was in sixth grade, she was in fourth) and they started laughing like maniacs because they read a sign that said, 'parking in rear.'
Goblin: Where did Butt-Head pick up "Make it snappy," -- it's a 50's expression.
Judge: I guess he got it from watching Leave it to Beaver.
Goblin: Is the fascination with poop autobiographical?
Judge: Not exactly, but I do have a five-year-old and a two-year-old (both girls) that might have something to do with it.
Goblin: B&B has a strange combination of the world's worst videos and the world's coolest videos: like Ween and Gwar. How much control do you have over the videos that are chosen?
Judge: I have a lot of control and a lot of it is me just being lazy. What would happen is a segment producer would bring me a bunch and I would choose from those and occasionally I would ask for one, and actually that's exactly what I'd ask for. I want them to be either really horrible or really good. For the last couple of seasons I was so burnt out I'd talk over anything.
Goblin: So you're improvising most of the dialogue.
Judge: Yeah, almost all of it. Sometimes there's a writer with me but usually they're just egging me on and I improvise the whole thing.
Goblin: That seems to be the funniest part of the show. B&B are like idiot savants. They have a very deep sense of when someone is being crass or commercial or clichZ˙d.
Judge: Sometimes my opinion comes through in a weird way. I think idiot savants is a good call because I don't want them to seem like they're not idiots. I got to a point where I had done four or five hundred videos and I was like, 'oh God, Let's do the show without videos.' But when I haven't seen the show for awhile and I watch it on TV it's usually the video stuff that makes me laugh. Sometimes I'll come in in a bad mood and just have them talk about how sick they are of videos. There have been some videos that probably weren't that bad that I really bashed just because I was in a bad mood. David Letterman said that's his favorite part of the show. That was when I started looking at it again. It's so loose. Videos have gotten to a point where there aren't many ideas you can come up with. And whenever someone's trying to be different they end up in being different in the same way.
Goblin: Who were your influences for character voices when you were growing up? Mel Blanc?
Judge: In Junior high seeing Monty Python just blew me away. That made me think that maybe the world wasn't such an awful place. I grew up in Albuquerque New Mexico which was a pretty awful place. Then Second City TV. My mother took me to see Woody Allen Take The Money And Run, and I remember I liked that a lot. I was big Peter Sellers fan. I saw all the Pink Panther movies and I thought Lolita was really cool. Lenny Bruce is great. I didn't see him until I was twenty-one but then I didn't start doing comedy until I was 27.
Goblin: What were you earlier cartoons like?
Judge: I did this character called Milton who is probably the charecter I'm most proud of. Then I did another one which really wasn't that good, I was just trying to test out my camera and see if everything worked. It was just this fat dumb looking guy watching a health food commercial on TV. The guy on the health food commercial just starts going off on this guy in particular. I was just figuring it out then. I had gotten a book on animation at the library and started figuring it out.
Goblin: You have a really sparse visual style. Is that economically based or is it that part of your whole message to keep it simple and direct?
Judge: I like to keep it simple and have you just get the information you need. So you pay attention to the right things for a reason. There is a philosophy about that. Also, there are cases, especially when I was animating my first four or five shorts, that it's just because I don't draw real well. When I'm doing everything myself there are economical problems in making it fuller.
Goblin: It gives it an integrity. Especially backed up with the flawless inflections and intonations in your voice.
Judge: What I always wanted to go into was being a Second City or Monty Python TV guy. I always imitated people in high school. My brother and sister and I transferred to Catholic schools because the public schools were so dangerous in Alburqurquee.
Goblin: Nuns are pretty dangerous too.
Judge: Oh man! I was kind of an outcast coming from a public school, but by my senior year I became popular because I could mimic all the teachers. In college I did the same thing, although I peaked out in high school. Sketch comedy is what I wanted to do but I thought it wouldn't be possible to get on TV -- you had to know somebody. I had a cassette four track and I was doing comedy sound things and I was thinking of doing a comedy album. Then when I got the idea to do animation. The third cartoon I did was just a soundtrack I animated to. I was going to make a couple of cartoons, get a camcorder, do some characters and put it all together like a mini show. Then I decided to just send out some tapes and it never stopped.
Goblin: It must seem unreal to you to go from doing that frog baseball short to having the number one movie of the year.
Judge: It didn't sink in right away. But in the last three or four weeks I've been thinking about that and how awesome it is. I hat to say it's the first time I've really enjoyed the success of Beavis & Butt-Head. For a lot of petty reasons really. I never pitched a movie, people came to me. A lot of people in the movie industry said it was too little too late or that I was screwing up making it animated. I could care less about them. To have it come in number one was just incredible.
Goblin: How much self-censorship do you have to impose? Why can you say turds but not tits, and nads but not balls?
Judge: It's really arbitrary. For example butt-munch -- which they say a lot: originally in junior high people used to call each other ass-munch. So we put ass-munch in a script but the MTV standards department said no. We changed it to butt-munch and said that for about a year. Then I forgot they said no to ass-munch and I put it in there. By then they were so used to butt-munch that they didn't even notice ass-munch.
Goblin: Is Dilhole Beavis mishearing dildo?
Judge: There was a guy named Robert Bilao at my highs school. On the swim team we started calling him Dildao. One of those stupid high school things. Trying to get dildo out of Bilbao is a real stretch.
Goblin: Butt-Head can stretch that far. Have you expanded what people can say on TV?
Judge: We've stretched what "we" can say on TV. I don't know about other people. Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers did an interview where he said Beavis and Butt-Head have made the word butthole okay.
Goblin: Are we ever going to see Beavis's mother? And why aren't they hanging out at Beavis's mothers house?
Judge: That's a tough one. It got to a point that we've gone this long without seeing it anything now would be a disappointment. I've noticed recently B&B have a lot of similarities to Charlie Brown. You never see the front, it's always the same side view of the house. There's a lot of things that you never see because he's been doing it for thirty years and that's the way it is. Maybe in the last episode it will happen.
Goblin: Were you as rebellious as B&B as a kid?
Judge: By outward appearances I was a straight guy and I got good grades. But I really hated the world and had a lot of anger. I was kind of a nerdy kid. I played in the All State Orchestra, but I didn't even fit in with the weirdo crowd. So I just did imitations.
Goblin: Did the imitations get you chicks?
Judge: The imitations didn't get me chicks at first, but all the guys thought I was cool and then the girls started to notice. In college there was a physics teacher I was good at imitating and I think that's how I scored with my current wife.
Goblin: Do you have any connection with the Church Of The SubGenius? We're good friends with Reverend Ivan Stang.
Judge: I wanted to meet him because I had heard he lived in Dallas. I have that book and I was reading it on the John like I was supposed to. What really hooked me and made me want to keep reading more was the part where it says "Bob" doesn't have any special powers. It's just that everything that "Bob" wants to happen happens to be what was going to happen anyway. You too can have these powers if you want what "Bob" wants.
Goblin: I think B&B are pretty much Bobist's in their attitudes. They're pretty content except for not scoring.
Judge: That's true. I get asked a lot if is there anything positive about them -- which is always tough to answer. The fact is Butt-Head is always in a good mood.
Goblin: Is Butt-Head sort of a father figure for Beavis?
Judge: Yeah definitely. I've seen that kind of situation in real life where one guy is the dominate one, and the other guy wouldn't have anyone to hang out with at all if the other guy wasn't around. Like I said it's kind of like my older brother and me when I was younger.
Goblin: It's not like Jeff and Akbar -- assumed homosexuals who never come out and say it.
Judge: I haven't read much of that. There might be. There's these two guys when I think of Beavis & Butt-Head. And the Beavis guy turned out to be bi. So who knows? This guy was the friend of the singer of this shitty band that I was in. They were friends since they were kids. He was a very bizarre guy. He would sit and do this weird laugh. But his laugh wasn't like Beavis's. Beavis's laugh came from this nerdy straight A student who would sit in the front of class and bite his lip, and go "hmhm-phhhp!" That's how it started and it's developed into something else.
Goblin: Are you ever going to do voices for other people?
Judge: I've never been asked. No one thinks of me as a voice person. I've done so many interviews with API or Hollywood Reporter where they say, "Oh, you do the voices? Well who draws it?" I say, "what do you think that I do exactly?" Most people think I'm just some idiot who said, "huhuhu, Beavis and Butt-Head, huhuhuhu."
Goblin: Do you think your work translates well to print? You have to imagine your voice when you read the books.
Judge: It doesn't work well. I don't like the comic books at all. Some of the pictures are funny but mostly it isn't. Usually one of the writers from the show will write it and I'll kind of glance over.
Goblin: Obviously you improvise the video commentary but how much writing do you do for the episodes?
Judge: I wrote a lot of the early ones, but not as much lately. Every now and then I'll write one, like Cornholio, but usually I'll just rewrite and improvise when I'm recording the actual episodes. Sometimes I'll do such a heavy rewrite that I'll think that I deserve a writing credit but my name is in the credits enough already. Some times an episode will suck and I won't like it and I'll think, well, I could sit here all night and fix it or I could be lazy and go home.
Goblin: We're big fans but it kills us that they keep showing the same episodes over and over and over. Every other night it's Feel A Cop. Why don't they play the early episodes?
Judge: The first season stuff got played to the point where if you see an episode like "Washing The Dog," it's aired about ninety times. I keep dissing them in press but what the hell, why stop now? There's very little thought that goes into the scheduling. It's just handed off to whoever's around. They'll send me the schedule and I'll try and look at it. I wish there was some mathematical way I could figure it out because there's almost two hundred episodes. There's about three or four episodes from seasons one and two that I don't let them play because I hate them so much.
Goblin: The earlier ones are much cruder than the later ones.
Judge: There was a small company in New York that did the animation. Some of them came out great some of them came out absolutely horrible.
Goblin: Can't you personally intercede and say "give my fans a brake?"
Judge: Yeah, you want me to right now? There's a lot of episodes with the "fire!" stuff they took out. What really pissed me off was when they edited out the word fire from all the episodes where Beavis says it. And they took it out of the originals. Those tapes only exist with people who taped it at home.
Goblin: Does that frustrate you that MTV can tamper with your vision because you've sold them the show?
Judge: Yeah, that sucks. It bothers me. Selling it to them didn't bother me at the time. It was just some two minute long cartoon. I was just going to make a couple more and do something else if I didn't sell it to them. I didn't know they were going to make a show. I don't know of any animated show where the network doesn't own it though.
Goblin: Do you think Beavis & Butt-Head will become a timeless cult or be subject to the fickleness of popular culture?
Judge: When I started I deliberately didn't want them to be like Paully Shore saying the latest, hippest California lingo. Like I read an interview with Michael Pailin who said he didn't want Monty Python's humor to be referential, and it's not so that's why it still holds up. A lot of the humor is pure so maybe it'll be like the Three Stooges.
Goblin: Are they like a classic comic duo, like Abbot & Costello and Laurel and Hardy?
Judge: I don't want to put myself up on that level but it is like Cheech and Chong, all the way back to . . .
Goblin: Whoever those two Romans were.
Judge: Actually In '93, when we were working on the show I met David Lee Roth and he said, "Mike, I guarantee ya, Beavis and Butt-Head is one of those things that's gonna be here 70 years from now, 80 years from now . . ." And I was thinking how strange it was that I was talking to David Lee Roth and he was saying this heavy thing to me.
Goblin: How confident are you with King Of The Hill, and what's happening with the Daria project?
Judge: Those are two completely different things. I have nothing to do with Daria I haven't even seen it. With King Of The Hill it's different. What happened with that was I wrote this pilot for Fox and did some drawings of all the main characters. I was working on that doing rewrites and then the B&B movie kicked in so I couldn't spend much time with it. Then Greg Daniels from the Simpsons took it over and he runs it now, for the most part. To run a half hour animated sitcom is a huge job and I've been kind of in and out of it and letting other people run it -because of the movie. I'm going to be more involved now.
Goblin: There's a lot of frontal nudity on Home Box Office and other cable networks. Now that you can see weenies on TV do you think there will soon be full nudity in cartoons?
Judge: Hmm, that would be cool. I've seen "Real Sex," they real go for it with the penises. But they get away with it because it's a serious documentary. Maybe I should do a cartoon sex documentary.
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