Beavis and Butt-Head's brilliant, enduring stupidity

Beavis and Butt-Head

March makes 27 years since Beavis and Butt-Head originally premiered on MTV. And almost three decades later, especially in light of current world events, these two idiots are still hilarious – perhaps funnier than they’ve ever been.

If you still haven’t seen it, the gist is that teenage miscreants Beavis and Butt-Head (both voiced by series creator Mike Judge, who’d go on to give us two other comedy classics in Office Space and King of the Hill) wander around the fictional city of Highland never really accomplishing much. In between their misadventures, they’d offer hilarious commentary on all kinds of music videos, from R.E.M. to Motley Crue.

It’s the latter that made Beavis and Butt-Head famous, but thanks to rights issues, the music videos have largely faded away except for a few that MTV was able to include on the show’s DVD release and others that have been randomly uploaded to YouTube. Yet without the music videos, it’s made it easier to see how funny the crazy stories are. They have a simple, outrageous humor that never gets old because it’s never stopped being absurd. In fact, the more time that passes, it seems even more ridiculous.

The crux of Beavis and Butt-Head is that almost entirely, the joke is on them. We’re meant to laugh at them, and a good 80 percent of the stupid things they do only manage to hurt them; of the other 20 percent, probably half of that involves them getting some kind of comeuppance. Not that they ever learn from it, but this is a show where viewers can enjoy themselves without feeling bad, and without having to think too much. There’s not a lot of complex humor that goes into fast food mishaps and remembering not to copy one’s butt.

Growing up with the show, as I did in the early 90’s, you laughed because it was juvenile humor and that’s where you were in life. Two-plus decades later, you still laugh, but the same things are funny for different reasons, like trying to figure out how these two idiots manage to survive.

One of my favorite episodes is “Pregnant Pause,” in which Beavis confuses constipation with being pregnant thanks to grossly misinterpreting a TV program and a couple of off-hand comments. It’s hilarious because the hole his stupidity digs keeps getting deeper and deeper, and his panic is so genuine. He honestly doesn’t understand how pregnancy works, and when he takes a pregnancy test, thinks it needs to go in his belly button. The utter cluelessness and his panicked reactions make for a perfect episode because we’re already in on the joke. We’re just waiting for him to figure it out.

“These guys think they’re funny,” Butt-Head comments at the end, “but they’re really just, like, stupid.”

Touche. Or there’s “Blood Pressure,” in which the dimwits mistakenly think that a blood pressure testing machine is a ride, and Butt-Head makes very little attempt to help his friend out of it. While he wanders around the store eating pizza samples, Beavis’ blood pressure actually does skyrocket. The episode ends on the cringe-worthy caveat of him accidentally kicking his medication into a storm drain…then getting his arm stuck while attempting to pull the pill bottle out, thus starting the whole issue all over again.

They don’t learn. They can barely read. It’s stated in several episodes that they’re failing their way through school (in “Held Back,” they end up being demoted all the way down to kindergarten, and don’t seem to have a clue there either). Somehow, they’ve managed not to get fired from their jobs at Burger World, so they must have money to pay bills and buy groceries, but the house they live in just gets further and further into disrepair. And it’s never clear how long they’ve been living alone.

As an adult, you have to wonder how either of them are still alive, yet alone able to get by in society with their complete lack of intelligence and social awareness. It adds an extra layer of entertainment to watching them fumble, injure and humiliate themselves.

Yet despite their complete incompetence, Beavis and Butt-Head are endearing. Maybe it’s their almost childlike approach to life; they’re excited about almost everything and able to laugh at anything. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re not total lost causes (in one Christmas episode, an alternate universe shows Beavis happily working at a soup kitchen, revealing that he’s not mean-spirited, just incredibly stupid). Maybe it’s that they don’t worry about all the things that we, as mature and functional adults, have to worry about. They just have to remember not to photocopy their butt.

Whatever the reason, Beavis and Butt-Head is as funny now as it was almost 30 years ago, and if you need a laugh, this is definitely a series to revisit.

Beavis and Butt-Head streams on the MTV Guy Code channel on Pluto TV. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Amazon Video, and FandangoNOW.

Article content is (c)2020 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr.

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