When it premiered in early 1993, there wasn’t much indication that Beavis & Butt-Head would be much more than a time passer for the MTV crowd. With purposely moronic leads watching unintentionally hilarious music videos, the animated series seemed destined to be a fad — albeit a notorious one that prompted a slew of decency groups to start clutching their pearls. But Beavis & Butt-Head became a phenomenon, overtaking pop culture with appearances on Letterman, countless video games, a music album and a 1996 feature film, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. When the show did go off the air in 1997, creator/star Mike Judge went on to great success with another animated classic, King of the Hill, and a respected career as a director of cult comedies Office Space and Idiocracy.
But not long after he got over his initial fatigue from the show, Judge says he got to missing his two malcontent teenagers. Periodically he would resurrect them for a special project, like the theatrical opening to Jackass 3-D, and MTV would often come to him with ideas for another Beavis & Butt-Head movie. It wasn’t until recently, when Judge saw the rise of reality TV and the celebrity gossip culture that he thought the time was right to bring the characters back to their proper setting. Starting at 10pm Oct. 27, new episodes of the show — now called Mike Judge’s Beavis & Butt-Head — will air on MTV, adding to their repertoire of ridicule Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, Cribs and various YouTube videos.
Judge previewed some of the new material this summer at Comic-Con, and the reaction was thunderous, with the duo’s “huh huhs” and “cools” not having grown the least bit stale. I caught up with Judge to ask him a few questions about the return of his most famous creation:
It’s been 14 years since you’ve done the voices regularly. Were you worried about being able to do them so they sounded the same?
Yeah. I listened, and they sounded the same to me and everybody else. I mean, I was thinking like I don’t want to be … I just keep thinking of country singers. Like, just great country singers whose voices held up nicely and some of them that didn’t. Brian Wilson sounds different now, but I think all of them sounded good until they were about in their mid-50s.
I imagine Beavis would be much harder on the voice.
Beavis is harder on the voice, but then that would probably be easier to do when I’m old because my voice would already sound like that. (Laughs) But I think I’m good for now, but that was actually a consideration, like, “If I’m going to do this, I should try to do it before I’m 80 or whatever.”
How about your production values? Do you have a bigger budget this go-round?
The budget is maybe a little better, but I think it’s definitely higher production values. We’re doing it the way quote-unquote cel animation is done nowadays because nobody does film anymore, which is what we did all the old episodes on. I kind of miss that look, but this new digital process has actually gotten to where it looks pretty nice. I really like the way it looks. We had a couple of kinks in the first episodes we were looking at that didn’t look right, but I think we’ve gotten there.
They’re definitely silly characters, but I always thought you were making a point about how Beavis and Butt-Head’s home life had a lot to do with how they turned out. Is that ever on your mind?
I don’t ever think that way, but maybe subconsciously. I remember growing up, and there was this kid Steve, and I guess he had a single mom, and you just never saw her. He’d be wandering around, I’d see him at the grocery store, and I’d be with my mom and my brother, and then he’d go across the street, and we’d just go like, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be like him?” He can just wander around and whatever. There’s just a little bit of that. I imagine them just kind of being losers. As far as their parents were, you don’t even want to know where their mom is. I think this guy’s mom worked the night shift, worked in the bars and then slept all day, so he was just out doing whatever. I knew a few kids like that growing up.
Yet when they’re on the couch, watching videos, Beavis and Butt-Head seem like experts.
I probably push it a little bit on that, because sometimes there’s just stuff I kind of want to say and I feel like it’d be funny to say it through them. But then I’ve also known people like this where you feel like there’s a person smarter than them inside their brain writing things for them to say, and so that’s kind of how I think of that. I mean, if I think about it. I try not to think about it too much.