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Uncovering the origins of Beavis and Butt-head

By Daily Bruin Staff

Jan. 21, 1997 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday, January 22, 1997


Former aerospace scientist inspired by his childhood memories
hits the mark in HollywoodBy Michael Nazarinia

Daily Bruin Contributor

Going from aerospace scientist to animator isn’t as large a jump
as it seems ­ at least not for Mike Judge, creator of "Beavis
and Butt-head."

That’s exactly what he did some five years ago when he found his
day job a bit boring. Judge was unhappy working in the aerospace
field with a physics degree from UCSD. He felt that his life was
not all that he thought it could be, especially considering he was
working on the F-18 electronic test system. Instead of continuing
his work on weapons, he picked up animation.

As the voice of Beavis and Butt-head, Judge took the popular TV
show to the big screen this past December with "Beavis and
Butt-head Do America" and found an eager and supportive audience to
the tune of a $20 million opening week, the largest ever for a
December opening.

Since the movie, Judge has noticed a newfound interest in the
dynamic duo. Coupled with their screen debut and the premiere of
Judge’s new creation, "King of the Hill," the characters Beavis and
Butt-head are back. And now many are wondering how they actually
came about, and Judge is happy to explain.

"Butt-head was the result of an attempt to draw this guy I went
to school with," Judge says. "I drew sort of the profile which
didn’t really look like him, but I kept going in that direction
with the gums and everything."

Butt-head’s unique speech was also the result of Judge’s high
school experiences. As the voice of both characters, Judge found
inspiration for Butt-head’s way of speaking from his own during his
teenage years.

"I had braces in high school and they’d scrape your cheek, and
you ended up talking like Butt-head," Judge recalls. "That’s how I
got the voice for Butt-head, just a guy talking with a mouth full
of wires."

Beavis, on the other hand, actually originated from an animating
fluke. His voice, however, came from one of Judge’s classmates.

"Beavis came about while I was actually trying to draw the same
guy," Judge says. "His laugh came from this guy in my calculus
class that would sit in the front, and always bite his lip and turn
back and go ‘heh heh.’ That to me just turned into his laugh."

Although their mannerisms are based on real people, their
actions are entirely fiction. Beavis and Butt-head always end up on
top, even though their adventures would lead anyone else to the
hospital or jail. And in "Beavis & Butt-head Do America," their
antics are even more outrageous. Judge was determined to make the
movie bigger and better than the show.

"We had to write a story around them, like a Peter Sellers
movie," Judge says. "Inspector Clouseau was never aware of what was
going on. He was a complete idiot and stumbling through the whole
movie, but there is a plot that happens around him, and everything
is to service these slapstick jokes. It works."

The process of creating an exciting script for a "Beavis and
Butt-head" movie produced several interesting stories ­ many
of which Judge might save for a rainy day.

"There were alternate scripts like ‘Beavis and Butt-head do
Europe’ or ‘Clockwork Butt-head,’" Judge says. "At one point I’d
like to see Beavis’ appendix removed."

This example shows the thought process that fuels the series and
the film. Much of the popularity of "Beavis and Butt-head" results
from a mix of traumatic events and shocking stupidity. These events
give the impression of teen invulnerability. Judge discovered the
charm of Beavis and Butt-head’s continual traumas and unending
stupidity through trial and error. Even their speech took great
practice and patience.

"I found a tape recently of me trying different Butt-head laughs
and I kept going, ‘that doesn’t work,’ or ‘no that’s not right.’
Hearing myself doing different voices was kind of scary because I
was thinking, ‘Boy if I’d tried a different one, the difference
would have been between a huge success and a day job," says

Luckily, Judge made the right decisions and enjoys the continued
success of his show. But in order to keep the ball rolling, Judge
needs to continually find hilarious episode ideas. And all too
often he draws from his childhood to think up appropriate "Beavis
and Butt-head" scenarios.

"Originally there was this guy that went to my elementary school
named John Fritz," Judge says. "I remember my friends and I had
built this fort in the back of our house in an empty lot by digging
a hole and putting boards and dirt over it, kind of like this
secret clubhouse. Fritz came up to us one day on the playground and
said, ‘You guys have that vacant lot on Madison.’ I said ‘Yeah’ and
he said ‘Yeah, we’re going to break it.’ Sure enough the next day
it was destroyed. He came up to us again and said ‘Huh huh, we
broke your clubhouse.’ I think about those guys, and that dumb
vacant thing in junior high."

Judge not only uses his own experiences, but universal teenage
emotions as well. He finds the perpetual teenage struggle for
friendship as the force that keeps Butt-head from ditching the less
intelligent, more obnoxious Beavis.

"Butt-head has always been the one who can almost think
clearly," Judge says. "It’s kind of sad, you’ve got this guy
Beavis, and Butt-head is the only guy that will hang out with him
and guide him through the world, and, well, he’s kind of dumb too.
Beavis was always the guy who didn’t say much and just hehehed all
the time."

Though "Beavis and Butt-head" centers on comedy, it was also the
center of a controversy several years ago.

"Beavis and Butt-head" was moved to a later slot on MTV when a
youngster set a trailer on fire with his sibling inside after
watching the show. Judge agrees with MTV’s response to the tragedy.
With the show’s success, Judge feels it was being watched by an
inappropriate audience.

"To me it’s like going out and buying Penthouse and leaving it
on the coffee table and then complaining to the publisher that your
kid was seeing naked pictures," says Judge. "I always thought the
show should go on late, and I was happy when it did because it was
getting overexposed."

Geffen Pictures

Mike Judge is the creator of "Beavis and Butt-head" and "King of
the Hill."Geffen Pictures

Beavis and Butt-head in the animated, "Beavis and Butt-head Do

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