Mike Judge Is My Xanax
Or Whatever People Take to Not Hate Everything All the Time
Photos by Terry Richardson
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Mike Judge. By that I mean in a cab, on the way back from a fancy hotel in midtown Manhattan, where an hour ago I watched Mike and Terry Richardson hold cardboard Beavis and Butt-Head masks over their faces and chuckle like teenage idiots while everyone else in the room giggled their asses off.
But I also mean I wouldn’t be me, a highly cynical person who, at the end of the day, would rather ridicule the absurdity of this often-terrible world than cry about it or become a serial killer. You could say that Mike’s work—especially Beavis and Butt-Head and his feature films Office Space and Idiocracy—served as coping mechanisms of sorts, visual antidepressants that at various times in my life helped me say, “This guy’s making a good living by making fun of all this crap. Things can’t be that bad.” I think it’s safe to assume that most of the people whose company I enjoy feel the same way, whether or not they want to get that obnoxiously analytic about it.
When news came earlier this year that Beavis and Butt-Head would return to MTV, I was excited. Then I started to wonder whether today’s kids would get it—whether the combination of pop culture’s current state of awfulness and the fact that internet commenting has turned young people into defensive pussies who never have to deal with retribution for their half-formed opinions would mean they’d take one look at the show and say, “I like what they’re making fun of, and this makes me feel stupid, so fuck these guys.” Either way, I’m going to laugh really hard at all of it.
So I was ecstatic when Mike, who I’ve been chasing since last year’s Larfs Issue, agreed to an interview. When he said he’d illustrate this month’s cover I pooped my pants (just a little bit). And when I emailed Terry to see if he could drop whatever he was doing for a last-minute shoot with Mike, he replied minutes later: “Holy shit… me, Mike, and Beavis and Butt-Head together? Sounds awesome! What time do you have him?” Then I threw up all over my keyboard from overexcitement.
Thank God I was able to keep it together when it came time for the interview.
VICE: I’m a little weirded out by meeting you.
Mike Judge: [laughs] Because I’m weird?
No, that’s a good thing. It’s just that your work has informed so much of my sense of humor, especially as a kid. My whole generation, really. You made it OK for me to let people know how much I thought certain things sucked, and laugh about it.
How old are you?
Yeah, I’ve been getting that a lot lately—people saying, “I grew up on your stuff” or “I grew up being told not to watch it.” Versions of that.
My parents were cool enough to let me watch it, but I did go to Catholic school and the nuns there totally didn’t approve of shows like The Simpsons, and especially not Beavis and Butt-Head. You went to Catholic school too, right?
Yeah, a Catholic high school. I went to public school until ninth grade. Actually—I just heard about this—but back when the show came out, the school’s newspaper said some negative stuff about me, but now they claim me. So…
How do you think kids who never watched the original series are going to react to the new show? I feel that the culture of this generation sucks so badly that they may be too far-gone to understand the nuances of Beavis and Butt-Head’s commentary. Or, more likely, I’m just getting old and crotchety.
When I started doing the show, I was already old. I was pushing 30; about your age, so obviously I already felt like I was older than the characters. But it’s weird, even at the time in ’92, I remember people at MTV would say that AC/DC and Metallica were old references. They were like, “Maybe it should be Nirvana or Pearl Jam or something else, you know?” It was already unhip to begin with, but to me it’s more like a state of mind than a cultural reference to a particular time period, even though there are some specific references. So it’s about going to that same place, except now I’m watching Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant. The last episode was 14 years ago, so yeah, things have changed, but…
But they haven’t.
No, they haven’t, and the other characters haven’t. Like, I was looking at the hippie teacher character, and back when I first did the show I thought, “Are there really guys like this anymore?” Then I looked around and there were plenty of hippies in tie-dyed shirts, and it’s the same thing today. There are other parts that we had to adjust a little bit, but The Simpsons are still wearing the same clothes and have the same hair and have been on this long.