Beavis and Butt-Head appear to be immortal. Mike Judge’s dangerously dim-witted duo are now back for their second revival on Paramount+ that included another full-length movie, Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe. And despite a lot having changed in both comedy and culture since their last series in 2011, they’re as funny as they’ve ever been—maybe even funnier.
I recently spoke to Mike about what motivated him to return for another series of Beavis and Butt-Head and some of the quirks and storylines that have made the Paramount+ revival different from all of the mayhem that the characters have caused in the past. Here’s what he had to say about their latest exploits.
Brittany Frederick: The first question you must get asked is why? What drew you back to Beavis and Butt-Head after another decade, especially when you’ve expanded out into other comedy projects over the years?
Mike Judge: I like the way it all comes together. There’s something in animation, when it works, where the sum is greater than the parts, and I’d like to think that we have that here with this…It’s also just fun to have them comment on new stuff, too. I don’t do the characters when I don’t have to, but it was just really fun to come back to this time. Especially doing different stuff with them, having the Smart Beavis and Butt-Head characters and having Beavis and Butt-Head being old, that really was fun to do. It [felt] actually more relevant having them be old, because that’s the age they would be now. And it’s just been fun to do.
BF: Another standout was Morgan Murphy’s episode “Nice Butt-Head,” where viewers finally got to see what their dynamic would be like if Butt-Head wasn’t abusive to Beavis. What was it like to explore that more normal relationship?
MJ: As soon as I heard that idea, that he gets on some Ritalin or something that makes him nice, I just thought, “Wow, why did we never do that in 200 some episodes? That’s such a great idea.” It’s one of those ideas when someone pitches it, it’s like, “Okay, this is going to be fun to do. It’s going to be easy to write and all that.”
BF: Between that and Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, we’ve seen probably the most significant character development that these guys have ever had. Where is the balance for you between giving a little more depth, exploring new things, and not getting away from the uncomplicated comedy?
MJ: I think that’s mostly going on instinct, and I feel like a lot of that’s my job. There’s been a lot of different writers that’ve worked on [the show] over the years and I just try to keep everything in bounds. At the very beginning of the show, way, way back originally with Beavis, I thought maybe I don’t want to do the voice of Beavis, because I imagined him as these teenagers I knew in Albuquerque—just fry-brained, sniff too much glue…and don’t have much to say. But as it went on, it became Beavis is the one who can show a little bit of growth and then Butt-Head smacks him down. And that’s been the dynamic.
I loved different kinds of shows growing up. The Beverly Hillbillies, to me, is in the category of Beavis and Butt-Head. Those characters really didn’t change. They barely changed clothes, even. They stayed the same, and it was just good over and over again. You never saw Granny and Uncle Jed telling each other they loved each other or anything. Trey Parker, I think, said about Beavis and Butt-Head—which was a very nice compliment—that it was like the blues. It’s the same thing over and over again, but it’s good.
BF: The Paramount+ series has brought back the commentaries, and he highlight of the season so far was Beavis and Butt-Head arguing over BTS and Beavis twerking to “Dynamite.” How did that segment come together?
MJ: We worked a lot on that. DJ Javerbaum just pitched, “Beavis should just declare that he thinks this is great, and then Butt-Head doesn’t think he heard him right.” And then I just started improv-ing that. We never have scripts on these. We have ideas written down and we play with it, and then we build it from there. We have a really good editor, Mike Mendez, and [animator] Kevin Lofton is really great. He animated that dance thing on the couch.
We just keep refining it until it feels right. I was really happy with how that one came out. I like sugary pop music. I like BTS. When I watched that video, “I like this.” But I feel like Butt-Head wouldn’t, so I could have fun with that, looking at both sides.
BF: What is the sheer meta-ness of the show like for you, knowing that since you play both characters, you’ve been essentially talking to yourself on and off since 1992?
MJ: It’s like I’m doing this weird puppet show I’ve been doing forever. I was doing these things in my house, and I’ve always done imitations since I was a kid. It is a little weird if I think about it too much, so I try not to think about it too much. I still separate it out in my mind. When I watch the show or the movie, I’m never imagining me in front of a microphone.
I did years of King of the Hill with those actors, and I don’t think of Bobby [Hill] as Pam Adlon ever. That’s why I don’t look at the actors when we’re doing it. When I record, I face a wall or I close my eyes. I’m imagining the cartoon and I’m visualizing that, whereas as an actor, you’re in the scene that you’re in, and that’s different.
Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head is now streaming on Paramount+.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.