Mike Judge Explains Why ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ Won’t Drop F-Bombs in New Series and Reveals Secret Message Put in Original Show

Mike Judge Explains Why ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ Won’t Drop F-Bombs in New Series and Reveals Secret Message Put in Original Show

Mike Judge has no interest in Beavis and Butt-Head riding on the coattails of nostalgia. He wants his new Paramount+ series to on its own, with excellent (and hilarious) storytelling.

The second revival of the popular cartoon starring two dimwitted teen boys (both voiced by Judge) will Aug. 4 on Paramount+. Just like the original ’90s MTV show — beloved by teens and hated by their parents — Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head will mock videos in between stories, but with a twist. In addition to music videos, the buffoonish duo will also poke fun at viral content from YouTube and TikTok, à la Tosh.0.

For Judge, that was an important aspect of bringing the series into 2022, where Beavis and Butt-Head have changed slightly (Hey, they upgraded to a flat-screen TV!), but remain those classic, hopeless losers, who spout nonsense while getting into one ill-advised situation after another.

In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter prior to the series debuting on the streamer, Judge explained why Beavis and Butt-Head won’t be dropping F-bombs (even though they could now) as well as the difficulties of making the cartoon both in the ’90s and today.

In the below talk, Judge also reveals that he put a hidden message in one ’90s Beavis and Butt-Head episode, says whether he still has that “Porky’s Butthole” answering machine tape and shares the terrifying ’90s complaint that made MTV get him a bodyguard.

What was the ‘90s duality like for you, being so loved by kids and teens, and so loathed by their parents?

(Laughs.) At that period of time, especially in the early episodes of the show, a lot of the episodes were just horrible. So, if I had never seen the show, and saw the wrong episode, I probably would not like it either. So I was sympathetic to parents or older people who didn’t like it. That said, if I were to show two or three of the episodes that I’m proud of, and they didn’t like, I would say, “Well, I don’t care.” The show is probably my favorite thing I’ve done. (Laughs.) What always threw me about all of that was it was on paid cable. You had to be responsible and pay your bill and have it installed. And then to act like you have no power over turning it off from your kids, that just didn’t make a lot of sense.

Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe

Courtesy of MTV Entertainment Inc.

What was your biggest challenge during the ’90s series, and what is going to be your biggest challenge now with this new iteration of the show?

In the ‘90s, I had never done a show. I didn’t know anyone who ever did a show. I was making these animated shorts by myself, in my house, and suddenly had a TV show. And then on the other side of that, MTV had basically never done a show, definitely never done an animated show. They didn’t know what they were doing, and then they hired an animation studio that didn’t know what they were doing. It was just a train wreck. Then, ultimately, all the controversy and defending it.

And now, I don’t want it to be necessarily this nostalgia, so how do you bring it into 2022? One of the things that I really wanted to try doing, that we set up in Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, is where there’s sort of this quantum entanglement, split-universe thing. So, there will be episodes where they’ll be middle-aged, and those are a lot of fun to do. I think it’s just kind of keeping the pure nature of the characters, always has been, but now in the modern day. That was a big thought going into this. But if it feels right, it’s usually good.

Will the crudeness, the profanity of the characters remain the same, or might you ratchet it up now that you don’t have to abide by network standards and practices?

You know, way back with Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, we could have said the word “shit,” but somehow, it just didn’t seem like them. I don’t know, like there’s something kind of naive and innocent about them that makes it work. There’s just something funny about a bunch of stupid phrases like “butt-wagon” and “butt-munch.” We won’t start playing with the F-word; we’re not really changing it.

Now that so many years have passed and your children have grown, has your view on these characters changed? Such as, “Wouldn’t it be nice if, maybe, they weren’t such buffoons?”

(Laughs.) I was already pushing 30 when my first short aired on MTV, so I was already old, I already had a kid. For me, what changed a little bit when the characters became really popular and mainstream was, they were just supposed to be horrible, horrific little monsters. And it was sort of like, “Wow, we’re doing 100 episodes, so we have to find some side of them that is likable,” which was usually just finding some way to feel sorry for them. I like keeping them pretty much close to where they were [at first], but they did get a little smarter over the years. They got a little smarter watching videos than maybe they should be.

I loved the two episodes I was able to screen, especially when Beavis talks to the dumpster fire, and it makes him do positive deeds. I could not help but wonder, “Is this Mike somehow atoning for those kids in the ‘90s allegedly getting in trouble with fire and parents blaming the show?”

(Laughs.) There might be some subconscious thing going on there. Somebody was pitching doing a musical episode, and I was like, “South Park has done that better than anybody ever.” One of the ideas in that was that fire would be a character. Then Lew Morton and I just started kicking that idea around that the fire is not telling him to do anything bad. It was so fun to write. Actually, back in the ‘90s, there was still that lingering thing from the late ‘80s about how metal albums were accused of putting in backward messaging. (Laughs.) And I actually had a couple of cases where Beavis starts talking backward, and if you played that backward, he’s saying, “Stay in school and go to college.” I knew if I put him talking backward, somebody’s going to go after the show, and that’s what they discovered.

That’s amazing! The other moment in the new episodes that had me rolling was Beavis being a BTS fan. Is the band a guilty pleasure of yours, or how did happen?

BTS is a guilty pleasure — but maybe not even that guilty: I like them. I have pretty mainstream tastes. I think because I used to be a musician, people think I’m going to be a music snob. I’m not at all. I like a lot of very sugary pop music. We did that a little bit with Bon Jovi in the ‘90s, Beavis liking them more than he should.

Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head

Courtesy of Paramount+

With Tosh.0 being gone, there certainly is a void to fill making fun of videos. I love that Beavis and Butt-Head is doing that. How did that enter the planning?

When we start talking with Paramount+, they just assume we were going to have videos in it, like there used to be. I kind of thought maybe they weren’t going to want that, so I was glad they did. There are just all kinds of people killing it on YouTube with videos of them watching other videos, so why not have animated people commenting on it? And it’s just been really fun to do. Some of that stuff has been hard to clear because a lot of these people are making so much money just posting their videos, so why would they want these two talking over it?

One of the funniest stories you’ve ever told was years ago on Jimmy Kimmel Live! about the irate phone message you got from someone who called the show “Porky’s Butthole.” And their pattern of speech helped you create Boomhauer on King of the Hill. I must know, do still have the tape? Is that your favorite complaint? And do you still get to this day?

(Laughs.) I still have the tape, and I digitized it. I was thinking about putting it out because I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it, but then I thought maybe this guy’s not all there and that would be mean. It is definitely my favorite complaint. I still get complaints, but they aren’t quite as interesting as they used to be. It’ll be someone just blasting me on Twitter, telling you to “fuck off” for something. You know, I used to get pretty serious death threats. One person even wrote an entire poem that rhymed about how he or she was going to kill me. That was probably my least favorite. (Laughs.) MTV got me a bodyguard to go to the studio. Another time, someone called and described the inside of my building, in the lobby, like taunting to prove that they knew where I lived.

The Beavis and Butt-Head video game for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis was outstanding. Have you given any thought to doing another game?

That hasn’t come up, but that’s actually something that would be fun to do. I’m not a big gamer myself, but we could do so much more now with it. Back then, some company had started to develop — and I don’t know why it fell apart — but it was a ride with hydraulics, like Back to the Future used to be at Universal Studios. It was a taxi that Butt-Head was driving, running over a bunch of shit, and Beavis was in the passenger seat. There were going to be 3D graphics all coordinated with all the shaking and rumbling. They were going to set the first one at a baseball stadium in Chicago.

That’s hilarious! When the show caught fire and merchandise was everywhere, was there one item in particular that blew your mind when you saw it?

(Laughs.) I wasn’t crazy about a lot of the T-shirts. One that just comes to mind, I don’t know what you call it, like a pendant you wear over your neck, with a leather band, with Beavis headbanging, made out of pewter. I still have it. They didn’t make many of them, maybe there were too expensive. One thing, I guess it’s not merchandise, but it really blew my mind, they made a hot air balloon for the ’93 MTV Video Music Awards. It was crazy. It was the MTV logo with Beavis and Butt-Head on either side. I don’t know how that thing ever floated, but it floated for a little while — then it caught fire. (Laughs.)

How apropos!

Exactly. And you just never heard about it again. It’s very hard to find any trace of it, but there was a picture somewhere online that I found once.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head premieres Aug. 4 on Paramount+.