The Secret Art of Satire by Mike Judge

“Beavis and Butt-Head” premiered on MTV on March 8, 1993. The show’s protagonists — two rude, immature, violent, terribly cute, very American teens — have little else on the screen. Each episode involves the couple hanging out in their small Texas town, indulging in petty vandalism and silly conversation. In between these adventures, they watch TV, fart, and call each other names like “monkey spanking” and “grand thief.” They are so stupid, yet so pure that they acquire a kind of innocence. The critic Roger Ebert wrote that watching them is “learning about a culture of narcissism, alienation, functional illiteracy, instant gratification, and TV zombies.”

Both Beavis and Butt-Head are voiced by the show’s creator, Mike Judge. The 59-year-old judge grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After earning a degree in physics, he started sending homemade cartoons to festivals and quickly became one of the most prolific and accurate satirists of the past few decades. The judge misrepresented the corporate workplace (“Office Space”), the rise of anti-intellectualism in politics and popular culture (“Idiot”), the rhythm of the suburbs (“King of the Hill”), and the high-tech modern gold rush in which almost No consequences (“Silicon Valley”). He’s also a bit of a Nostradamus comedy: 2006’s “Idiot” predicted a near future where payments were automated, Crocs were popular, and presidents ordered fast food in bulk.

The judge has been very busy lately. With HBO failing to extend his two-year, eight-figure contract in 2021, he and his longtime partner Greg Daniels (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”) launched their own production company, Bandera Entertainment, With more than a dozen shows already in development. He also reunited with some old friends. In June, Paramount+ aired “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe,” the animated duo’s first feature-length feature film since 1996 and its first on-screen appearance since 2011. (The episode saw them sucked into a time portal in 1998, then spit out 2022, washed up on the shores of a very changed America.) On Thursday, “Beavis and Butt-Head” returns to TV with two This new season, also on Paramount+, has cast ages in both the youth and middle-class duo.

In June, I spoke with Judge over two afternoons on topics ranging from how tedious work affects his comedy to the importance of being able to create art without waiting for permission. Our conversation has been edited for clarity.

You once had a conversation with Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, on a topic that fascinated you: Why is being hit by a ball so fun?

I don’t think we’ve really come up with an answer. But he does have some insight into another question: Why did the testicles evolve in such a vulnerable place? Charles Darwin talked about male peacocks with these huge feathers. They are colorful, bright and difficult to escape from predators.why something evolved into it more Having trouble escaping predators? Why didn’t the testes evolve where the pituitary is? or any other number of glands? Maybe the idea is, yes they are there, what are you going to do? If I can protect these testicles, I can protect young people.

Getting hit in the testicles is a trope that pops up a lot in your work.

Maybe too much.We actually discussed a lot of new [“Beavis and Butt-Head”] The movie – we have a completely different start that doesn’t involve kicking the balls. But we ended up opting for the testicle kicking version. I think I may have been to that well too many times.

Do you think having a sense of humor is the purpose of Darwinism?

There are theories that it has something to do with signaling that everything is fine – that the danger is gone or something. I think it might be related to other abilities as well. The ability to make a group of people laugh has a certain power associated with it. bring people together.

You brought back a wilder, more anarchic comedy in the nineties with “Beavis and Butt-Head.” At the time, it reminded me of the ferocity of the Three Puppets and other early filmed comedies.

Yes. It disappeared for a while. I think for a lot of us – old people – there was a time when we were kids and in the seventies and eighties three stooges would be on some weird channel late at night and it seemed like a magic. I’m a huge fan of the Three Stooges. What’s interesting to me is that when the movie first had sound, people quickly realized that the best use of this technology might be when someone bangs another person on the head. I’ve been arguing about this with the mixer because now they layer all the sounds and it’s more fun when it’s a pure, unique sound, like three puppets, it’s probably just a take people sitting there with coconuts or lip smacking. These sounds are hard to beat. But they now have the ability to layer 20 different sounds into one big, mushy, meaningless, loud sound.

Writer and actor Buck Henry believes that when it comes to comedy, the simpler the better. Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy’s products – not so pretty in terms of lighting, photography or sound – are always more fun than a well-made movie. He implicates his own work—the Catch-22 film adaptation he wrote—into this theory.Humor tends to disappear when things happen also nice.

I think he might be right, although I do like that movie. I’ve been watching Laurel and Hardy a lot during the pandemic. I like the way they just made it play out in a wide angle shot. Buster Keaton did the same. When I was doing “office space,” there was that car crash scene. The typical practice now is to shoot a bunch of different angles, double cuts, triple cuts, like an action movie. But I just love the blandness and breadth of the comedy – like in Keaton’s movie, I was bingeing all the time – and you just see the whole thing. They don’t want to hide anything. That’s why I did all of this in one wide-angle lens like this.

In the decades since “Beavis and Butt-Head” first appeared, culture has changed a lot. If you started creating your own animations now and sending them to the web, as you did in your earlier work, do you think you’d be able to sell those ideas?

This is a good question. Does not look like. But, at the same time, there are so many animation tools available now. Anyone with an iPad or computer can produce very high-quality animations, given the investment of time. Now you can put it on YouTube. If it catches on, it catches on.

This is how I started. I make my own short films, transfer them to VHS, send them to people, and get them at festivals.

It’s a punk philosophy: do it yourself, then take it out.

Well, when I started animation, I had been a full-time musician for a few years and I was tired of touring. I don’t want to travel all the time, so my plan is to become a math teacher at a community college. I’m going to the University of Texas at Dallas part-time for a master’s degree in mathematics. I thought, I’m just going to be a math teacher and animation would be my hobby. When I found out that I could do it all by myself, I could do whatever I wanted, and I thought, why not? And, when I sent out my tape, I got all these calls and I got to work.


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