Mike Judge: Mining Comic Joy From Workplace Pain Extract, the latest film from the writer and director of Office Space and the creator of Beavis and Butt-head, is another exploration of stupidity in the American workplace.
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Mike Judge: Mining Comic Joy From Workplace Pain

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Mike Judge: Mining Comic Joy From Workplace Pain

Mike Judge: Mining Comic Joy From Workplace Pain

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross.

You've probably heard Mike Judge's voice, though you may not recognize it in today's 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, as well as Hank's friend Boomhauer.

Mike Judge also made the film comedies "Office Space" and "Idiocracy," and he wrote and directed the film comedy "Extract," which is now out on DVD. "Extract" 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 in the opening scene 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) OK, 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 in 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) OK, thank you.

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

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Awesome.

DAVIES: While the sales clerks are in the back, she walks out of the store with the guitar. Terry spoke to Mike Judge in August, when "King of the Hill" was airing its final episodes and "Extract" was in theaters.


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 baby-sit 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 advantage 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: Now, one of the characters who works in the factory in your movie "Extract" is in a band, a grind-core band.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: And, you know, he's just obsessed with, like, passing out leaflets to get people to go to his performances and stuff. And describe him and who he's based on.

Mr.�JUDGE: Partly it's based on the guy I was talking about on "Beavis and Butthead," but that guy wasn't in a band. But actually, when I worked in the factory that made guitar amps, there was a guy that sat near me that I just had overheard him saying once, you know, he said: Actually, I'm in three bands right now.

And you know, there's a certain type of nerd that has, you know, that keeps tattooing themselves and piercing themselves and kind of Goth, you know, and I knew the kind of music I wanted him to play, but I didn't know what it was called, and so I had to I mean, people have really I mean, heavy metal has turned into this, I don't even know, it's esoteric - like just, there's so many subcategories.

GROSS: Just thousands of subgenres, I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�JUDGE: Yeah, I mean, you can read about people arguing about what's death-grind versus grind-core, and so I wanted him to be one of those guys, you know. And I had a pool cleaner, at one point - not to do with the gigolo pool cleaner in the movie; this was completely separate.

This guy was a really nice guy, you know, kind of had tattoos and stuff but just, you know, always talking about the chlorine levels and all this stuff and then gave me his CD once of his band, and it was just, like, this screaming music with titles like "Death to Soccer Mom" and all this stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr.�JUDGE: And it was just like - it just struck me as funny. It was just kind of like, he goes to work, he drives his forklift, he does all this stuff, but he's really all about this crazy it's almost like Dungeons & Dragons-type world of, you know hard-core, death...

GROSS: Anger, yeah.

Mr.�JUDGE: Yeah.

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, like, 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 said 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 goose bumps.

(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, like, by like huge amounts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

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.

DAVIES: Mike Judge, speaking with Terry Gross. Coming up, we'll hear how he developed the characters and voices for "King of the Hill," which aired its last episode in September. That's after this short break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's interview with Mike Judge, who co-created the TV series "King of the Hill." His film comedy "Extract" is now out on DVD.

GROSS: 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 to 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, eh?

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: Is he 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 - a 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, OK, 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: 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 I-35, 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 better than a month now, (unintelligible) about y'all (unintelligible) dang old "Loon Tune." Come on, you put on dang 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.

DAVIES: Mike Judge, speaking with Terry Gross. He'll be back in the second half of the show. Judge's film "Extract" is now out on DVD. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. Im Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. Our guest today is Mike Judge, who wrote and directed the film comedy Extract, which is now out on DVD. He also made the movies Office Space and Idiocracy. Judge co-created the Fox animated series King of The Hill, and did the voice of Hank Hill and his neighbor Boomhauer. The final episode of that series aired in September. Judge also created the animated series Beavis & Butt-Head, which ran on MTV from 1993 to 97, and did the voices for both characters. Terry spoke to Mike Judge in August.

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

Mr. JUDGE: Well, theyre also kind of hard to describe. But theyre 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: Well, lets hear a scene, and well get to hear what their kind of mumbly voices

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: are like and their famous laughs. So heres a scene. Its Halloween -it's Halloween night, and theyre watching TV.

Mr. JUDGE: Oh, boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

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

Unidentified Woman (Actor): (as character) Isnt this the same place that those other kids got killed two years ago?

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as character) Dont be crazy, Tina. You act like you dont 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 didnt even wait for that chick to take off her shirt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

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

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of doorbell)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Dammit. Thats 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 doorbell)

(Soundbite of door opening)

Unidentified Children: Trick or treat.

(Soundbite of door closing)

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

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

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

(Soundbite of door banging)

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (as character) You take my kids candy, and I kick your ass.

(Soundbite of fighting)

Unidentified Man #2: (as character) Happy Halloween.

(Soundbite of door slamming)

(Soundbite of laughter)

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

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Thats 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 that. I mean, these characters

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Oh boy.

GROSS: These characters sitting around watching TV condescending to what theyre watching all day, and theyre so stupid that they dont even know that its Halloween and this is a trick-or-treat bag.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: They think its free samples.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: But its 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 theyre

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Ive known guys like this that just, you know, I remember this guy in college, just like fat schlub of a guy and I was talking about, he's 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 pffft, basketball, pffft. You know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Im thinking like, who the hell are you to say pffft, 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-Heads mind he thinks hes super cool and he can put down whatever he sees on TV, and I dont know. Its kind of, that was fun to me. Its weird to hear it on the radio, though. Its

(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 didnt 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 didnt 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 Beaviss 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 wouldnt have worked. It kind of freaked me out a little bit.

GROSS: You know, I think a lot of people criticized 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 theres, you know, a few episodes that I think deserved to be criticized as being kind of dumb because they just werent - to me when it was good, though, it was - its a show about stupid people. Its not a stupid show, and thats a big difference, I think. And yeah, I think a lot of people didnt get that at all, especially early on. But I dont know, I - its my favorite thing Ive ever done. I think its - Im really proud of it.

DAVIES: Mike Judge, speaking with Terry Gross. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Lets get back to Terrys interview with Mike Judge, known for several films and two hit TV series, King of The Hill and Beavis & Butt-Head. His film comedy Extract is now out on DVD.

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

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: at 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: is 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, thats the

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Beavis and Butt-Heads intelligence levels were like ruling the world.

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

GROSS: Yeah, let me explain the premise of Idiocracy. The premise is that evolution has kind of headed in a backwards direction. Instead of people becoming smarter, theyre becoming stupider. And the reason why

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: is that all the kind of like, smart, professional, educated people are either not having babies or theyre having babies late, and theyre having very few babies. And all the stupid people dont even know whether theyre using birth control or not. And theyre 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, theres 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 hes in this new world, where everybody is incredibly dumb, including all the leaders of the country.

(Soundbite of movie, Idiocracy)

Mr. LUKE WILSON (Actor): (As Joe Bauers) Hey, wait a minute. Im the smartest guy in the world? Says who?

Mr. DAVID HERMAN (Actor): (as Secretary of State) The IQ test you took in prison. You got the highest score in history. Brought to you by Carls Jr.

Mr. BRENDAN HILL (Actor): (as Secretary Energy) Yeah, dumb-ass. Youre even smarter than President Camacho. Thats how come hes making you Secretary Interior.

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

Mr. HILL: (as Secretary Energy) Im the Secretary Energy.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) He won a contest, got to be a Cabinet member. Im the Secretary of State. Brought to you by Carls Jr.

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. Its a really good way to make money.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) Youre so smart, why dont you know that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) Hes 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 (Actor): (as Attorney General) And thats Secretary of Education.

Mr. ANTHONY CAMPOS (Actor): (as Secretary of Defense) Stupid, Vice President Camachos stepbrother. Still, thats a pretty good job, eh?

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

GROSS: Thats a scene from my guest Mike Judges film Idiocracy, which is on DVD. It came out in 2006, starring Luke Wilson.

Im 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 were 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 theres no predators and everybody survives - where would it go? But - so Id 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 - 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 theyd 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 Ill kick you ass and Ill - and I was just sitting there thinking, wow, the Disneyland of that was envisioned

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: way back in the 50s - to right now. And then I started thinking of, you know, its 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 hes 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 dont know, like in math class or something and saying, you know, oh I know, the - raise my hand, I know the answer and its 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 thats all you had? And yeah, thats why I had stuff like just seeing airplanes crashing in the background and, 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 its a - I guess its kind of a dark vision but its, I dont 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 loved seeing him in disbelief.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: You know, I like seeing him react to stuff. He has a real funny way of doing that. And also he 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: ...you 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 - its a total fast food world.

Its really been fun to talk with you. Thank you so much, Mike Judge.

Mr. JUDGE: Likewise, thank you.

DAVIES: Mike Judge speaking with Terry Gross recorded in August. Mike Judges movie, Extract is now out on DVD.

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