Good-natured American adolescent idiocy is a hard essence to capture. Mike Judge has made it seem like child’s play for 30 years straight with his most prolific creations, Beavis and Butt-Head. This year, the titular duo have been on a comeback tour unlike any before with both their made-for-tv movie, Beavis & Butt-Head Do the Universe, and their revival series for Paramount+.
With the new series reaching its halfway point, the writers have now popped open a can of alternate universe possibilities. A recent episode explored the titular duo as middle-aged men living in our modern age, so there’s no guessing what Judge and his team have in store for viewers watching the day-to-day idiotic misadventures of Beavis and Butt-Head.
Paste got to chat with writer, creator, and voice of the terrible teenage two, Mike Judge, about bringing the duo into today’s culture, reacting to new forms of entertainment, and what we can expect from future episodes coming later down the line.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Paste Magazine: Was there any initial hesitance in bringing Beavis and Butt-Head from the late 1990s to today’s culture?
Mike Judge: At first, there was, and then when we started thinking about it, when we started writing the movie, it seemed like it was working. It was fun to do again. Also by having them old like this in the episode that’s coming out today, it started to feel more relevant, since that’s the age they would be. There are different kinds of stories we can tell. This sort of helped cure my hesitancy. Having them be old. It’s been really fun.
Paste: What was it like changing the episodic format, now that you blew the possibilities of exploring alternate universes wide open?
Judge: It was great. We do have episodes with some of the characters from the movie. The alternate universe smart Beavis and Butt-Head make appearances. We have at least one episode where it’s nothing but them, and that’s been fun. We kind of opened it up to new ideas, especially with Beavis and Butt-Head being middle-aged. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff we couldn’t do cause you know, they didn’t drive. There’s an upcoming episode that’s one of my favorites I think we’ve ever done. They do jury duty. There’s one where they get vasectomies. There’s one where they inadvertently end up getting married without knowing it. It’s been a lot of stuff like that that you can do with them as adults you couldn’t do before.
Paste: There’s a new slew of young writers on the team. How was it to bring so many like millennials to help tell these stories? A buddy of mine, Moss [Perricone], is part of it.
Judge: Oh yeah. Moss was great. He was great to have. People like him, young blood coming in and bringing new ideas, new energy. We ended up using a bunch of Moss’ ideas. By the time we get done, we’re all rewriting it and reworking it and I kind of forget who wrote what. But yeah, a lot of his original ideas like them being trapped in a box were good. That kind of breathed new life into it.
Paste: Was it difficult jumping from the movie to the series in such a short span of time?
Judge: It was just a lot of work. Once the movie was done, we had a little bit of a breather. It was a lot, but you know, I mean, it’s sort of like doing three seasons of a show. We started quite a while back, I guess. Well, it’s all a blur now. I guess we started right at the beginning of 2021 when we had started writing the movie, but the movie was mostly written by the time we started all of this. It was just a ton of work, but I liked doing it.
Paste: What do you find yourself watching and reacting to get ideas for the commentary segments?
Judge: That one sort of varies. A lot of times there’ll be a music video or a clip that you’d think would be a slam dunk and then it ends up being just really hard to come up with something for, and it’s usually just, you know, looking for some, any kind of angle on it. Way back in the day, in the 1990s when we were doing it, they were doing a lot of just kind of dumb critiquing. After a while it becomes less interesting to me than just having them sort of start a conversation or tell a story or do an imitation of the person on screen, you know? There are all kinds of different ways, I think, to make it funny and interesting. I don’t know if there’s one clear formula, you know, like the ones we’ve done so far. In the ones that have aired, a guy is showing you how to do tattooing in prison and they just talk about how he looks like a criminal, they imitate him. Stuff like that is fun. I don’t know until I see it, if there’s gonna be something worth doing. Just hard to say, there’s not a set formula.
Paste: Since the 1990s, animation has evolved. Can you talk about the updated look on the show and working with Titmouse on the new episodes?
Judge: Technology’s changed everything, [but] I think it’s still kind of the same. It’s more the same than people would think. It’s still hand-drawn. 95% of it is people drawing on tablets. It’s a lot easier to change things at the last minute. It’s the same thought process. Titmouse has brought us some great people. I love the way it looks now more than ever, probably. Beavis and Butt-Head, it’s still my horrible drawings from way back. Any time we’ve tried to refine ‘em too much, they just stop being funny. And so we’ve kind of kept them pretty close to the same, but just sort of really beefed up everything around it. I love full animation. The very first studio we used way back in the day was pretty horrible. And this guy was telling people to just draw crappy. So it would look like my stuff and that’s just not the way to go. I like what all the directors and art directors and animators have done now. I love the way it all looks.
Paste: With the many forms of entertainment these days, how was writing about Beavis and Butt-Head navigating and reacting to modern forms of technology?
Judge: We tried to shoot for that, especially for the versions where they’re young. We’ve had a little bit of iPhone stuff in there. We have an episode where they think they’re a virtual reality game and they’re just wearing these sunglasses that look like that. You know, there’s stuff like that. We sort of avoided that except for the episodes where they’re old. That’s where I think you’ll see more of the technology. I mean, they’re not good at technology, but you’ll just see, they’re more aware of it.
Beavis and Butt-Head is currently streaming on Paramount+.
Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a film graduate of Brooklyn College. They have been featured in Vulture, The Daily Beast, AV Club and CBC News.