I had the good fortune of sitting at a relatively small roundtable discussion with Beavis & Butthead creator Mike Judge on Thursday at Comic-Con. Fourteen years after the series has ended, Judge has decided to revamp it with twenty-four original episodes, still airing on its original network MTV. Though the original audience in the mid ’90’s may not have MTV’s current queue set for DVR, Judge feels confident that if people want to watch something, they don’t care what channel it’s on. Furthermore, now the eternal-teenagers are using MTV’s new programming as fodder for, er…discussion. Though Judge says he’s gotten into a few spats about harping on Sixteen and Pregnant too much, he isn’t too fazed, delightfully vowing to “put it up online” if producers have a real issue with it. In addition, we also asked him about directing again. Hit the jump for more.
Question: Were you nervous about the panel at all? Because obviously everyone loves these characters that we know. But do you ever worry about it translating, since it’s been a while?
JUDGE: Oh yeah. I mean I was feeling pretty good about this stuff. Everything I’ve done you get a little bit of that…first pancake principle. The first one is like “Oh, man…” But once we hit our stride on this I was feeling pretty good. I almost don’t want to say that because I feel like I’m going to jinx it, because usually I feel pretty crappy about everything. But, yeah I was feeling pretty good going into this. It’s always ugly if you’re showing something and it doesn’t go over, but at least with this I felt like “Well, even if the audience doesn’t like it, I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
The MTV audience has changed enormously since the show was first on. Is that a concern for you?
JUDGE: Yeah I mean I hear about the statistics. I try not to care about it at all. I think if you put something good on TV, people are going to find it. You can take the Sopranos and put it on at four in the morning and somebody’s going to find it. So I try not to think of what the audience is watching, because hopefully the people who like it will find it. But I do hear a lot about how their audience is all female now, and so yeah I think it has changed.
Is it challenging to try to find a balance of reaching out to the people who loved the show in the ‘90s and the people who are watching MTV today?
JUDGE: I try not to think about it. Well, I do think about it like, “OK someone’s who’s watching it fresh who’s never seen it before.” I thought about it like that with people who might go see the movie who had never seen the show. But other than that, to me I just think about who the characters are and what’s funny to them. I don’t think about trying to appeal to this group or that group. But, I was conscious about—well, putting Jersey Shore and Sixteen and Pregnant—and all that stuff in there. I was conscious of someone putting on the TV hoping to see Jersey Shore, at least they’ll get to see a little bit of Beavis & Butthead talking over it (laughs). Maybe that’ll kind of hook them in, so yeah I think about it that way. I don’t think about it like changing Beavis and Butthead the characters themselves, how they are to the new world, except just putting the new world around them and letting them react to it.
JUDGE: (Laughs). That’s a good way to think about it. I definitely needed a break! Part of the problem with Beavis & Butthead for me was that it was just such a grind. We did so many of them so fast. It never let up, and then we did the movie. I just needed to stop. I didn’t want to run it into the ground. At the time I stopped I felt like “Well it’d be fun to do something with them again but I don’t need to just keep doing what I’m doing with it.” So yeah, maybe so. I remember John Dolgen who was running Paramount at the time saying “Oh, I want these characters around! I want to see what they’re going to have to say in the next Millennia!” This was maybe in ’95, so I remember thinking kind of what you’re saying…that there might be great stuff for them to watch and talk about later on. But when I was done back then, I was kind of done.
Coming back to it ten years plus, what’s the creative process like? Do you find yourself digging or is it coming naturally?
JUDGE: Oh, I think it definitely came more naturally [now] then it did towards the end of the run. I had probably ideas for maybe eleven or twelve episodes of the twenty-four that we’re doing. But then you start kicking around with other people. That’s the other thing. I have some really good writers that have worked with me over the years on other stuff that have wanted to do this, and it’s kind of good to get fresh perspective. But you start kickin’ around and things start to take shape and I felt like we really hit a good stride. And I’ve worked a bunch of TV and I think there’s some shows, or writing screenplays where you feel like you do a certain amount of work and you get a little bit back. I feel like with Beavis & Butthead you put a little bit in and you get more back. It’s kind of hard to explain, but you kind of get more ‘funny’ for what you put in when it’s all working. And it felt like with this run it was starting to really work well.
Was there ever any consideration that you might age the characters or advance them somehow, give them jobs?
JUDGE: There’s an episode where they’re in their eighties which I had always wanted to do. I actually might want to do more of those. I always imagined them the age they are or really old. In between is hard… I mean, I like seeing them in nursing homes….dirty old men, and I felt like I could do a lot of that. Yeah, at one point I thought about having them older, maybe not quite as old as eighty. Yeah, I thought about it, but I thought, even though they’re supposed to be whatever they are, fifteen—or however old people think they are—they probably seem sometimes a little older than that. I think there’s some animated characters like…how old is Bugs Bunny? Who knows.
How does it feel knowing you’ve made a mark on pop culture? Just knowing that you’ve done something that’s created action figures and general fandom, that you know, most people don’t get to do in their lifetimes?
JUDGE: You know, it feels really good actually (laughs). You know, I don’t dwell on that too much. If I think about it too long it’ll weird me out…But if I think about it a little bit it feels good! It is a good feeling. It’s really nice when people come up and say “Oh, I grew up on that.” I mean that’s a good feeling, because there’s stuff like that that I grew up on that’d be cool to meet the people who did it. I mean, well Cheech & Chong… I mean I got to know Cheech when I worked on Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids movies and we became friends. It was just awesome. I was kind of star struck but then immediately we just kind of hit it off. I mean I’m pretty lucky I get to be friends with one of my comedy heroes. There’s been a few like that. I mean, John Kricfalusi really—Ren & Stimpy—although that came along when I was already an adult. But a few that I’ve gotten to meet like that it’s been really cool.
JUDGE: I don’t have any immediate plans to do a movie. There’s stuff I didn’t write, that I probably won’t direct, but that I’m attached to as a producer. My partners who actually were producers on this, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky—they wrote on King of the Hill for forever and they wrote Blades of Glory—there’s some stuff they’ve written that I really love that I’m considering directing but would probably just produce. I don’t know how much of that we’re talking about but something may happen next year.
Watching the clips and noticing that you guys have kind of expanded on what Beavis and Butthead watched on television, its not just music videos, will it be mostly MTV stuff that they watch and comment on? And are there any limitations on what they can see?
JUDGE: Hm, well. They got upset about something on Sixteen and Pregnant and we had a little battle.
Did it stay or do you have to take it out?
JUDGE: I think it’s in there. I think it’s all in. I think, for the most part, if it is something I have to take out, it might just go straight online. I don’t know (laughs)! There were thoughts about going outside to stuff on other networks and trying to license it but so far I’m pretty happy with the stuff. And you know, YouTube stuff, and UFC’s on another network. We might do some more of those. So I’m pretty happy. I feel like I could do a whole bunch more of Jersey Shore’s and Sixteen and Pregnant’s and have fun with that. And I mean they watched MTV then so it kind of fits.
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