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Mike Judge, Finding A Comic 'Extract' In The Office

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Mike Judge, Finding A Comic 'Extract' In The Office

Movie Interviews

Mike Judge, Finding A Comic 'Extract' In The Office

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

You've probably heard my guest's voice, yet you may not recognize it in this interview. Mike Judge has done the voices of the title characters for his animated MTV series, "Beavis and Butt-Head." He also co-created the Fox animated series, "King of the Hill," and does the voice of the main character, Hank Hill, and Hank's friend, Boomhauer. "King of the Hill" will air its final episode in September.

Mike Judge also made the film comedies "Office Space" and "Idiocracy." Judge wrote and directed the new film comedy, "Extract," which stars Jason Bateman as the beleaguered owner of a small factory making vanilla extract and other flavors.

When a beautiful, young woman, played by Mila Kunis, asks for a job at his factory, he wants to figure out how he can have an affair with her without feeling guilty about his wife. What he doesn't know is that this innocent-looking woman is a con artist. Here she is the opening scene of the film, in a music store, shopping for a guitar. She's asked the two young, male sales clerks about a guitar that's caught her attention. Meanwhile, her good looks have caught their attention.

(Soundbite of movie, "Extract")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) Yeah, it's expensive, but it's sweet.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) Yeah, are you familiar with Gibson humbucking pickups at all, or...

Ms. MILA KUNIS (Actor): (As Cindy) No, I'm sorry. I actually don't play. It's for my dad, for his 50th birthday.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) That's really sweet.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Yeah, my sisters and I are all chipping in. So...

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Your dad will love these humbuckings. I mean, they really kick ass.

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) Excuse me, I just have a quick question about...

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) So what kind of music does your dad play?

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) I guess it's kind of jazz-ish, maybe.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Oh, this is an excellent jazz guitar. Pat Metheny plays one of these.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Probably the best one. Is your dad into Metheny at all?

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Oh, I'm sorry. I actually have no idea who that is.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Pat Metheny is probably the best fusion player of our times. He's like the Jake E. Lee of fusion guitar players. Are you into fusion?

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) I don't really know what that is, either.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) It's just - I was asking because I play fusion guitar.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Yeah, I play fusion, too, actually.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) I teach kids.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Really?

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Yeah, I work with a lot of kids.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) You should come check our band out.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Okay, sure, that's awesome.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Yeah, so what do you think?

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Well, do you guys maybe have it other colors?

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Colors? You mean finishes.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Yeah, we have a sunburst that's beautiful.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Yeah, I just stocked one of those in the back. I could go grab it.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) No, I can pick it up.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Do you want to see it?

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) I'll get it.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) I'm going to get the case.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Okay, thank you.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) I'm going to grab the case.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Awesome.

GROSS: Well, while the sales clerks are in the back, she walks out of the store with the guitar. Mike Judge's new movie, "Extract," opens Labor Day weekend. Mike Judge, welcome to FRESH AIR.

"Office Space," your movie from a few years ago, is from the point of view of workers who think their bosses are incompetent. "Extract" is from the point of view of the head of a company, who founded the company. It must have been a shift in frame of mind for you to go from the employee-employer point of view to the head-of-the-company point of view.

Mr. MIKE JUDGE (Filmmaker, Voice Actor): Yeah, I'd worked just dozens and dozens of jobs before I started my animation career. And by that point, I was pushing 30. So I'd always been the employee. I had never had anybody work for me. It was always me working for somebody else. And then suddenly, when "Beavis and Butt-Head" started, I had anywhere from 30 to as many as 90 people working for me. And so, I just suddenly became sympathetic to my former bosses.

You know, I was just, like, God, these people don't appreciate anything. I've got to babysit them. They're always fighting with each other and me. And so, yeah, I'd wanted to do something that was kind of the counterpoint to "Office Space."

GROSS: So describe some of the characters in the extract factory in your new movie, "Extract," that have a similarity to people you worked with on "Beavis and Butt-Head."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Well, for example, when "Beavis and Butt-Head" happened, you know, I was - you know, you try to be a nice boss, and then that doesn't really work very well most of the time, you know, because you get taken advantaged of.

There was a guy when - we did this album of Beavis and Butt-Head. It was just called "The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience." It was a CD, it was with Geffen Records, and I'd done the line art for the cover. And back then, the way you would do it is you'd actually paint a cell.

So cell painting is something you'd pay somebody, I don't know, at the time, $10 an hour to do, but there was some money in this budget for this album cover. So I said, well, I'm going to throw someone a bone here. You know, the show's a hit, and I got one of the painters, and I said, hey, can you paint this?

Now mind you, I had done all the line art. All he's doing is basically coloring it, filling in the spaces with color. So I got him $800 to do one cell, and I go by, and I hear him, I won't use the explicit language, I guess, but I go by, and he's going, man, this is BS, man. These guys are going to make millions of dollars, and they're paying me $800, man. This is - and I was, like, God, I can't win.

GROSS: So you actually cast in your movie "Extract" my good friend Gene Simmons, and I say that because a lot of listeners to the show know that we had a kind of rough interview together.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, I actually looked that up because I had heard about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did you? You'd heard about that? So you cast him as this kind of sleazy lawyer who has, you know, all those slip-and-fall, sue-now, tacky TV ads and billboards. So how did you think of Gene Simmons to play somebody sleazy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I'll tell you. I had written in the script that the lawyer looks like, - I say he looks like Gene Simmons with a suit and tie and a ponytail. And then when we started casting it, we were just looking at a bunch of people, and some really good actors wanted to do that, actually, and nothing - you know, really good actors read for it. Nothing was popping in the right way, and actually, my producer, John Altschuler, goes, you know, because I was trying to articulate what it is I'm looking for, and he goes, he just needs to be a running sore of a human being.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And then I - well, shortly after that, we had Gene Simmons come in. You know, he's a piece of work. He's a very intelligent guy. You know, I was a little worried maybe he'd be on musician time or, you know, dealing with a rock star, that can be a pain in the butt. But I mean, he came in, and he was just a total pro. Like, I would start to give him direction, and he'd just - I'd say hey, do you want to do such and such, and he would say: I will do whatever you want. Just tell me.

You know, he's got that voice, too, that - there's one line he says where he says: I'm sorry, did you just threaten me? And someone at the lab was saying that every time he'd watch one of those takes, he'd get goosebumps.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: So, you know, I think it was a good choice. You know, he's a piece of work, and when he's on the set, he's on the set, you know.

GROSS: One of the characters in the movie I have to ask you about, the character's played by David Koechner. He's Jason Bateman's next-door neighbor, and he's the neighbor who's always inviting you over to dinner or to the movies, and like, you don't really want to go, and you want to be nice, you want to decline politely, but he doesn't get it when you're polite. He thinks oh, well, tomorrow night you won't be as busy.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: I thought it just really captured a certain dynamic awfully well.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, a while back, we rented and then bought a place in this gated community out in L.A. for the summer by the beach and, you know, a pretty expensive place, and you pay all this money, and then there was this one woman who was just single-handedly bringing down the property value for me, by like huge amounts.

I mean, basically she would just park herself in your window and start talking to you and give you a choice of either being really rude or listening to her for as long as, you know, an hour and a half. I mean, and yeah, and just constantly, like, getting herself into your life somehow. And I know - I mean, there's somebody who I actually kind of like and who does the same thing, but he'll, like, actually more than one. There's a lot of people who do this, but who are just a master of making you think the conversation is winding down so that you kind of start to get nice again, and then they just suck you back in, you know.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Mike Judge, and he wrote and directed the new comedy "Extract," which stars Jason Bateman, and he also created "King of the Hill" and "Beavis and Butt-Head," and he did the movies "Office Space" and "Idiocracy."

Now, your animated series, "King of the Hill," is coming to a conclusion. When does it end?

Mr. JUDGE: I think it's September 13 is when the last episodes air. It's two episodes back to back.

GROSS: That's really soon.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: So let's talk about the series, and then we'll talk about the ending of it. Would you describe Hank Hill and his family?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, Hank is, he sells propane and propane accessories, and he's got his house and his family, and he's kind of - has this way that he thinks the world ought to be that's maybe - maybe he belongs in the '50s or something like that. And, you know, he's just up against all the ridiculous things that the modern world brings, and...

GROSS: He lives in a suburb. He's the kind of guy who goes to Home Depot and drinks beer with his friends. He's probably politically conservative. At the same time, he's very open-minded and often does things that would go against whatever ideology he would seem to profess, and he wants to always do the right thing by individuals, whether or not that coincides with what his, like, larger ideological belief might be. Now, you do the voice of Hank.

Mr. JUDGE: Yes.

GROSS: I want to play a scene from a recent episode, and you do two regular voices in this series, Hank and his friend, Boomhauer, and Boomhauer has this kind of like post-modern mumble that's really hard to make sense of what he's saying.

Mr. JUDGE: Yes, I like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And so Boomhauer has just swapped homes with a Canadian couple. So he's about to leave for Canada for three months.

Mr. JUDGE: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: So here's Hank and Boomhauer, and I think a couple of friends are with them there, too.

(Soundbite of TV show, "King of the Hill")

Mr. JUDGE: (As Hank Hill) This will no doubt be the best summer of our entire lives.

Mr. JOHNNY HARDWICK (Actor): (As Dale Gribble) Yup.

Mr. STEPHEN ROOT (Actor): (As Bill Dauterive) Yup.

Mr. JUDGE: (As Boomhauer) Well, I'll tell you what, man, love just chill back and get a dang old grill and chill, man, but I'm about to head up to Canada this summer, man.

Mr. JUDGE: (As Hank) Canada? A man only has so many summers, Boomhauer. Why would you waste yours in a country that's dismantling its navy?

Mr. JUDGE: (As Boomhauer) (Unintelligible) house-swap with Canadian family for, you know, (unintelligible).

Mr. HARDWICK: (As Dale) House-swap? There's going to be Canadians living here, walking around, touching things for three whole months?

Mr. ROOT: (As Bill) You're going to be gone for an absurd amount of time. What if we all make new friends or get remarried? It could happen. Love is funny.

GROSS: That's a scene from a recent episode of "King of the Hill" with my guest, the creator of the series, Mike Judge, as Hank Hill and as his friend, Boomhauer, and what I was saying about, you know, Hank Hill always doing the right thing, even though he's, like, so uptight about the idea of Canadians. At the same time, when the house-swap is over, he invites the Canadians - he and his wife, Peggy, invite the Canadians to live in their home. They're always going to do the right thing.

So, you know, as I'm talking to you, I'm listening for the sounds of Hank Hill in your voice, and I hear it, but also what you're doing for Hank Hill, thought, is different. There's much more of a Southern twang to it. Can you talk about creating the voice for Hank?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, you know, I had a paper route when I was a kid in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and on my paper route, there was a guy, it was the first time my brother and I shared this paper route, and we'd go collect at the end of every month, and this guy was always out on his front lawn drinking a beer, and we came to collect, and it was our first time collecting, and this guy looks at us and is kind of staring at us.

I said hey, we're collecting for the Albuquerque News, and he says: Well, you ain't my paper boy. And I said, well, I know, but your paper boy quit, and we're the new paper boys. Well, I know what my paper boy looks like, and you ain't my paper boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And I said, well, yeah, he's gone and, you know, and then he brings his wife over and says: See the paper boy? No. This went on. We said well, we're going to cancel the paper then. He said: Oh, I'm going to get the paper when the real paper boy comes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And so, we just kept delivering, and we'd skip his house, and he'd be out there drinking his beer, kind of eyeballing us. And finally, he swallowed his pride after, like, four months, and he called in a subscription.

I mean, the other - there was also - when the first time my ex-wife and I, we bought a house outside of Dallas, and there'd be these guys out there drinking their beers in the alley and, you know, like I was - the storm had, like, blown off, just knocked loose a little part of my fence.

So I went out there, and I was - you know, I got a hammer, and I'm just thinking, okay, I'll just nail this thing back there. And I see this guy over, kind of eyeballing me, looking at what I'm doing, and then he comes over, followed by a couple others, and he says: Well, you're going to have to take the whole section out, and this post here is a little rotted. And then before I know it, one of them brings over a wheelbarrow. They'd yanked out the whole thing. They're digging up a fence post, they're pouring concrete or mixing concrete, and finally, I kind of became kind of useless.

I went back inside, and my wife at the time, like, you know, we hadn't even eaten breakfast, and we're looking out the window, and she goes, what's going on? And I said, oh, they're building me a fence, I guess.

(Soundbite of laughter)

And then I went back out there. Finally, they got the post set, and they did the string across, whatever, and he's saying, you know, you've got to leave a one-inch gap. Otherwise, them termites are going to get on your palings.

And so he tells me how to do it. I start putting on the palings. This is much -you know, like three or four hours later. I'm hammering the nails in. I see him over, and he peeks his head out of the alley, and he's looking at me, and he walks over, and I'm going, oh God, what now? And he comes over, and he says: Those are the wrong kind of nails. You're going to need galvanized steel. Here, I'll go get you some.

Anyway, I just thought this would be, like, a funny kind of world because they really were good neighbors. I mean, they were nice people, and they were helpful. And it's kind of like what you were saying about, you know, I don't even know what their politics were. I don't even care. I don't know what - I think people who analyze shows like this probably tend to put too much of politics on it because I don't think people like this, including myself, don't wake up and think about politics all day. You've got work to do and this kind of stuff, and so yeah, I think - anyway, I think it's just kind of like about neighbors who - and like you say, ultimately, do the right thing and do right by people and are basically good people.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Mike Judge, and he wrote and directed the new comedy, "Extract," which stars Jason Bateman, and he also created "King of the Hill" and "Beavis and Butt-Head," and he did the movies "Office Space" and "Idiocracy." Let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Mike Judge, and he has a new movie comedy, which is called "Extract." It stars Jason Bateman. He's also the creator of "King of the Hill," which is coming to a close in September.

So let's talk about the character of Boomhauer that has that post-modern mumble. Can you do that for us, break it down for us?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I'd actually had the idea for this character in the second "Beavis and Butt-Head" short I did where they go to a monster truck show. And I'd actually recorded it and did a drawing of a guy, but I ended up cutting it because I was just - that was when I was animating everything myself, and it was going to take too long. I had to cut stuff.

But I'd known - there was a guy I knew in Dallas that was actually from Louisiana, and when he would get really, when he'd have a few drinks, he would just start slipping into this deep accent, and you couldn't understand what he was saying, but you kind of knew what he was talking about. Another time, I was getting directions from somebody in Oklahoma City over the phone, and the guy just said: Yeah, man, come up, Exit 5, then turn over there by the gas station, and you're just right there, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: This long bunch of stuff I didn't understand, ended with then you're right there, man.

But I think what I really kind of - on "Beavis and Butt-Head," there was a guy who left a voicemail complaining about the show, and I don't know how he got this, but he thought the name of the show was "Porky's Butthole," and he left this voicemail that I still have. I have a tape of it, where he said: I've been calling y'all for about a month now, (unintelligible) Porky's frigging-old butthole, you with them (unintelligible) dang old commercials on time and time again, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And it was just - I kind of could understand it. He was kind of complaining that the show is on too often and that it doesn't start right on the hour, but I don't know where - anyway, so yeah. I actually kind of listened to that tape a lot to sort of - when I was first trying to get the voice down.

GROSS: Well, "King of the Hill" has been going on for how many years?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I guess this would be Season 13. I mean, it came on in January of '97, so...

GROSS: Okay, so that's a long time.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, wow.

GROSS: So how do you feel about it coming to a close?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I'm okay with it. I mean, I think it's been a good run, and I'd rather stop it, you know, because I think the last couple seasons have actually been pretty good. And I think it's better to stop it while it's still decent than to run it into the ground.

You know, the show was canceled - it was kind of canceled before, but it was completely canceled, I guess it was three or four years ago. I mean, everyone moved out of their offices, cleaned out their desks and was gone. It was over, and then it came back. So - and we actually did a final episode.

We actually did a last episode that I thought was really great, and then we had to - it was kind of unfortunate. We had to alter it and make it not seem so final. And, yeah, so you know, whatever - I mean, I was good with it ending back then, and I was also good with it coming back. I mean, right now, I think it's probably a good time to stop.

GROSS: So for anybody who missed "Beavis and Butt-Head" when it was on, describe the two characters.

Mr. JUDGE: Well, they're also kind of hard to describe. But they're just, you know, basically kind of inane, dumb 15-year-olds, and they would - it started out as it was going to be them just sitting on a couch watching music videos, not talking to camera but talking to each other, and then we started doing these little mini-episodes, well, from the get-go. And, yeah, they became the scapegoat of bad television or something for a while there.

GROSS: We'll hear more about "Beavis and Butt-Head" and Mike Judge's other work in the second half of the show. Judge wrote and directed the new movie comedy, "Extract," starring Jason Bateman. It opens Labor Day weekend. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of TV show, "King of the Hill")

Mr. JUDGE: (As Hank) So, are you ready to rock?

Mr. HARDWICK: (As Dale) Yup.

Mr. ROOT: (As Bill) Yup.

Mr. JUDGE: (As Boomhauer) Mm-hmm.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Mike Judge. He wrote and directed the new movie comedy "Extract," which opens Labor Day weekend. He also made the movies "Office Space" and "Idiocracy." Judge co-created the Fox animated series "King of the Hill," and does the voice of Hank Hill. The final episode will be shown next month. When we left off, we were talking about creating the animated series "Beavis and Butt-Head," which ran on MTV from 1993 to '97. Judge did the voices for both characters.

Well, let's hear a scene and we'll get to hear what their kind of mumbly(ph) voices...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...are like and their famous laugh. So, here's a scene. It's Halloween -Halloween night and they're watching TV.

Mr. JUDGE: Oh boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of TV show, "Beavis and Butt-Head")

Unidentified Woman (Actor): (as character) Isn't this the same place that those other kids got killed two years ago?

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as character) Don't be crazy, Tina. You act like you don't even want to get it on.

(Soundbite of saw)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) That dude with the mask is messed up.

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Yeah, really. He didn't wait for that chick to take off her shirt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Yeah. It's like this could never happen in real life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of doorbell)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Dammit. That's like the tenth time tonight or something.

(Soundbite of doorbell)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Um, maybe we should see who it is.

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Uh, oh yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of doorbell)

(Soundbite of door opening)

Unidentified Group: Trick or treat.

(Soundbite of grunts)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Cool.

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Who was that?

(Soundbite of grunts)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Just some dudes passing out free samples.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Cool. Hey, free samples rule. Yeah.

(Soundbite of banging door)

Unidentified Man #2: You take my kid's candy and I kick your ass.

(Soundbite of fighting)

Unidentified Man #2: Happy Halloween.

(Soundbite of door slamming)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Ween.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's a scene from "Beavis and Butt-Head" with my guest Mike Judge, the creator of the series doing the voices of Beavis and Butt-Head. I love it. I mean these characters...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Oh boy.

GROSS: These characters sitting around watching TV condescending to what they're watching all day and they're so stupid that they don't even know that it's Halloween...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...and this is a trick or treat bag.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: They think it's free samples.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: It's like you really captured in this condescension as a way of life, as just like a sport, just sitting around making fun of other people, not realizing quite how stupid you are yourself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, well they're...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: I've known guys like this that just, you know, I remember this guy in college, this like fat schlub of a guy and I was talking about, just, like sitting on the couch and I said, I was talking about somebody that my roommate knew. And I said yeah, he just made the basketball team, you know, UC San Diego and yeah, I was impressed. He just made the basketball team. This guy just sits there and he goes...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Huh. God.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: I'm thinking like, who the hell are you to say pff, basketball? And so yeah, it was always fun to have these guys who were just obviously complete losers and no one hangs out with them but each other. And yet, you know, in Butt-Head's mind he thinks he's super cool and he can put down whatever he sees on TV and I don't know. It's kind of, that was fun to me. It's weird to hear it on the radio though. It's...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Well, tell us about the voices that you came up with for "Beavis and Butt-Head."

Mr. JUDGE: Well, this was the first time - when I was making animated shorts, this was the first time that I had started with a drawing that I didn't have a voice for. Usually I had different voices that I did kind of characters and then I would try to come up with a drawing. This one I had these drawings and I didn't know what they would sound like.

But there was a guy I went to high school with who was not like Beavis and Butt-Head at all. He was actually a straight A student and he sat, he always sat in the front of class and he would kind of laugh at everything the teacher said, just kind of a suck-up move, you know,? And he was always kind of like biting on his lower lip and just kind of sitting there like writing, taking notes really fast, and just kind of going...

(Soundbite of grunting)

Mr. JUDGE: So I figured that would be Beavis's laugh. And then Butt-Head, I had written ha-ha-ha on the storyboard for the first short I did. And I actually remember finding this tape of myself trying out different laughs. After the show was a hit I going through tapes looking for something and I was listening to this going, man if I had done the laugh that other way or that other way, you know, maybe the show wouldn't have worked. It kind of freaked me out a little bit.

GROSS: You know, I think a lot of people criticize "Beavis and Butt-Head" in its time for bringing down the intelligence level of television and for being stupid.

Mr. JUDGE: Oh yeah.

GROSS: But it was about stupid people and, you know...

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, I mean. Exactly. Yeah.

GROSS: ...and so did you feel like it was misunderstood, that what you were trying to ridicule you were ridiculed for, you were criticized for?

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah. I mean, I think it was really hugely misunderstood. The problem was though that we did, we cranked out so many so quickly that sometimes there's, you know, a few episodes that I think deserved to be criticized as being kind of dumb because they just weren't - to me when it was good though, it was - it's a show about stupid people. It's not a stupid show and that's a big difference I think. And yeah, I think a lot of people didn't get that at all, especially early on. But I don't know I - it's my favorite thing I've ever done. I think it's, I'm really proud of it.

GROSS: My guest is Mike Judge, the creator of the animated series "Beavis and Butt-Head" and co-creator of "King of the Hill." He wrote and directed the new movie comedy "Extract." It opens Labor Day weekend. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Mike Judge. He wrote and directed the new movie comedy "Extract," co-created the Fox animated series "King of the Hill" and created the MTV animated series "Beavis and Butt-Head." He did the voices of the lead characters in both series.

I recently saw the adult version of Beavis or Butt-Head...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: the airport.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: He was reuniting with a friend and it - I swear he had his laugh. He was probably like 35 or something, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...he just sounded like it was one of the characters from the series and it was just so odd. In a way, I think your movie from 2006, "Idiocracy"...

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: about, like, what if Beavis and Butt-Head grew up and if everybody was, like, that smart.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And like people...

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, that's the...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...Beavis and Butt-Head's intelligence levels were like ruling the world.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah that's, I definitely felt like that there was a connection between that and Beavis and Butt-Head. So, yeah, there's definitely a connection there.

GROSS: Yeah, let me explain the premise of "Idiocracy." The premise is that evolution is kind of headed in a backwards direction: instead of people becoming smarter, they're becoming stupider. And the reason why...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: that all the kind of like smart, professional, educated people are either not having babies or they're having babies late and they're having very few babies. And all the stupid people don't even know whether they're using birth control or not. And they're just like having babies right and left and not educating them particularly well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: And then so like the world is taken over by people who are not smart. And, as part of the setup, there's somebody, played by Luke Wilson, who participates in this military - this secret military experiment to be put into hibernation for a year. But the experiment goes terribly wrong and he is in hibernation for 500 years. And when he emerges from hibernation, everybody is just, like incredibly dumb.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So let me play a scene here after he gets out of hibernation and he's in this new world where everybody's incredibly dumb, including all the leaders of the country.

(Soundbite of movie, "Idiocracy")

Mr. LUKE WILSON (Actor): (as Joe Bauers) Hey wait a minute. I 'm the smartest guy in the world? Says who?

Mr. DAVID HERMAN (Actor): (as Secretary of State) That IQ test you took in prison. You got the highest score in history. Brought to you by Carl's Junior.

Mr. BRENDAN HILL (Actor): (as Secretary Energy) Yeah, dumbass. You're even smarter than President Camacho. That's how come he's making you Secretary of Interior.

Mr. WILSON: (as Joe Bauers) Okay, so who are you?

Mr. HILL: (as Secretary Energy) I'm the Secretary Energy.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) He won a contest, got to be a cabinet member. I'm the Secretary of State. Brought to you by Carl's Junior.

Mr. WILSON: (as Joe Bauers) Why do you keep saying that?

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) Because they pay me every time I do. It's a really good way to make money.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) You're so smart why don't you know, that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) He's the Secretary Defense.

Mr. ANTHONY CAMPOS (Actor): (as Secretary of Defense) Ha.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) And fun bags over there is the attorney general.

Unidentified Woman: And that's secretary of education.

Mr. ANTHONY CAMPOS (Actor): (as Secretary of Defense) Shut up stupid, Vice President Camacho's step-brother. Still, that's a pretty good job, hey?

Mr. WILSON: (as Joe Bauers) You know, I think there's been some kind of mistake because the test I took was real, real easy. I am not the smartest guy in the world. Okay?

GROSS: That's a scene from my guest Mike Judge's film "Idiocracy," which is on DVD. It came out in 2006 starring Luke Wilson.

I'm sure that this movie must be based on your thoughts that people around you seem to be getting less intelligent. So...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...can you give us some examples of like the frustrations you were experiencing at the time you wrote this that led to the fear...

Mr. JUDGE: Well...

GROSS: ...that we're evolving backwards when it comes to intelligence?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Sure. Yeah. I had the idea while I was writing the "Beavis and Butt-Head" movie. I guess I was just thinking about evolution and now that there's no predators and everybody survives - where would it go? But, so I'd written down something about this idea. And then it was in 2001, I was at Disneyland and I was waiting in line at the Alice in Wonderland ride with my daughter and somebody - or both daughters I guess - and somebody behind me had a stroller and two little kids and her and this other woman with two little kids was passing by. I guess they'd had an altercation and they just start getting in this cussing match with each other - just, you know, bitch this. But you know, just yelling and like I'll kick you ass and I'll - and I was just sitting there thinking wow, the Disneyland of that was envisioned...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...way back in the '50s and - to right now. And then I started thinking of, you know, it's the year 2001. What if, you know, I loved the movie "2001," but I thought what if instead of that movie it was just like a movie about "The Jerry Springer Show" and the giant Wal-Marts...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...and what if they had really actually gotten it right? And, so I thought I would take, you know, from those '50s sci-fi movies to now and just kind of go out another 500 years on that progression.

GROSS: So Luke Wilson, who comes out of hibernation and is intelligent and surrounded by all these really kind of like dumb people, they all call him, they all call his style of speaking faggotty.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: He can actually - he actually knows a lot of words and you can understand what he's saying.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I thought that was really funny.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah. I remember when I was in junior high, which was just downright scary - I mean, I was actually like afraid I was going to get stabbed every day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: I remember just answering a question in class, I don't know, like in math class or something and saying yeah, oh I know the - raise my hand. I know the answer and it's a blah, blah, blah, and you know, being articulate and saying it, you know, and just hearing someone behind me go, fag.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And, you know, like I was also thinking okay, all those people in junior high who wanted to beat me up because I got answers right on quizzes and stuff. What if they were just all running the world, you know? What if that's all you had? And yeah, that's why I had stuff like, just seeing airplanes crashing in the background and the, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...just seeing everything go to hell and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: So yeah, it was a - I guess it's a - I guess it's kind of a dark vision but it's, I don't know. I thought it was pretty funny. I also thought Luke was great. Part of the reason - that's part of the reason I made the movie was Luke Wilson wanted to do it. And I did a rewrite with imagining him doing it and it was just kind of, it kind of started to come alive a little more. I love seeing him in disbelief, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...I like seeing him react to stuff. He has a real funny way of doing that. And also it just seemed like the perfect guy to play somebody who's in a current world, present world just very average, but...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JUDGE: know, see him be the smartest guy around...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...and not believe that he's the smartest guy around and not know what to do with that and...

GROSS: I should mention in this film too, like, everybody is supersized.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Like they're not only not bright but they're really big.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: Because that's what everybody eats. It's just a - it's a total fast food world.

Now, so our listeners don't get the wrong idea, I should mention that you're also part of the ABC series, I think now the late ABC series "The Goode Family" which satirized a liberal, you know, family that tries to be politically correct in, you know, in terms of, you know, being green and they listen to NPR.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: I think so. Yeah, we have...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yes. We have an episode where they get an NPR affiliate actually.

GROSS: Right. Let's get a clip in and - even if it's not on TV it is on the Internet.

Mr. JUDGE: Oh. Okay.

GROSS: So here's the scene from "The Goode Family." You play the father of the family and...

Mr. JUDGE: Yes.

GROSS: ...the son has just walked into the house.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Goode Family")

Mr. DAVID HERMAN (Actor): (as Ubuntu) I ran all the way home from school. I can't wait to hear what today's project was going to be.

Ms. NANCY CARELL (Actress): (as Helen) Actually kids, starting today, your father and I are going to be teaching the arts to students at PS-146. So, you two are going be on your own for a few hours every day after school.

Ms. LINDA CARDELLINI (Actress): (as Bliss) What?

Mr. HERMAN: (as Ubuntu) What? But I always do projects after school with you guys.

Ms. CARELL: (as Helen) You'll be fine.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Ubuntu) I would do Trail Scouts but you guys said they're religiously biased and notoriously homophobic.

Mr. JUDGE: (As Gerald) See, we've taught you well.

Ms. CARELL: (as Helen) And these average kids need some of the care enough to teach them about homophobic service groups.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (as Bliss) Absolutely.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Ubuntu) Well, what am I 'posed to do?

Ms. CARELL: (as Helen) You'll find something. Go online. That's where young teens find all the fun.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: That's a scene from "The Goode Family," the ABC Series. My guest Mike Judge is a co-creator of the series and does the voice of the father. Compare the voice that you do for the father in "The Goode Family," to Hank Hill in "King of the Hill."

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I hope they're very different. I was - you know, it's kind of a - it's similar to a voice I did on "Beavis and Butt-Head" of the hippie teacher. And I was, you know, I used to be a musician. I played with this old blind black guy, Sam Myers. He is a great singer, harmonica player who had written blues songs. He'd - like Eric Clapton, had done a couple of his songs in the 60s. And I was touring with this guy and I just remember somebody interviewing him out in California, here - a blues society, they had this blues society's guy - and he's just... You know, Sam is sitting there, trying to get something to eat actually because we were kind of had a break before we were gonna play. And this guy is - just starts interviewing and saying...

Sam, it must've been wonderful for you having grownup in the deep South to be able to share some of your culture with Europe and experience some of their culture is well.

Mr. JUDGE: And...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...Sam was just sitting there. When he got irritated, his eyeballs would kind of - jiggle back and forth and he kind of said, yeah, Brother Judge, they got any food up in here?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And I don't know if that imitation sounds like that guy. But I kind of developed this thing. We'd be on the bus and the bus had a CB Radio. This was back in 1989 or '90 and people still used CB Radios. And the truckers would just be cussing each other out and just very like redneck guys, like almost getting into fights on the CB Radio and I would go on and I would just say, breaker one nine...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...I'm here on...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...I-10. I'm looking for...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ... you know, I-35. I'm looking for a...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...nice vegetarian restaurant somewhere near Norman, Oklahoma. Could anybody help me out?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And actually that - once a guy comes back. He says, you got a death wish, buddy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And a...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Oh, gosh.

Mr. JUDGE: I...

GROSS: That's not real funny in a way, you know?


(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. JUDGE: ...I guess. I mean, I - but that was - I...

GROSS: And you'll be scarier if you really were that guy. You...

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, I'd be scarier, if - yeah...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: ...if anybody could track it down on a CB Radio.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JUDGE: I - yeah, you can be a lot more cowardly with CB Radios and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: can - with phones nowadays. But I think I kind of developed that character that kind of, you know, offshoots of that - different versions of that when I was way back then before I had even started doing animation.

GROSS: It's really been fun to talk with you. Thank you so much, Mike Judge.

Mr. JUDGE: Likewise, thank you.

GROSS: Mike Judge wrote and directed the new movie "Extract." It opens Labor Day weekend. This is FRESH AIR.

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