Renowned American writer/animator/director Mike Judge and hype often seem like complete strangers. As noted in the press, Judge’s friendly, calm demeanor is devoid of Hollywood pretension; his preference for living and working in Austin, Texas posits him by choice away from the center of the pop-cult radar. But when one surveys his vast body of work that, since the early ’90s, has had the functionality of an assembly line yet is packed the witty punch and subversive observation of the greatest comedy, it can easily bowl over.
Speaking with him, the inherent voices of his animated characters—notably the polar opposites that are Beavis and Butt-Head and Hank Hill—hint at the mental arsenal that has perfectly illustrated the damaged, stubbornly resilient fault lines of a national landscape. Personal aside: Judge’s impact on many young people can be demonstrated by the following; on summer vacations, I’d swim in MTV marathons of Beavis and Butt-Head, then go to the beach with a tie-in towel sprinkled with “Uh-huh-huh”s and “Heh heh heh”s. Upon returning to middle school, I’d face a bully who, by eighth grade, had deliberately morphed into an uncanny, doomed facsimile of Butt-Head. It was a ubiquitous combination of “This rules!” and “This sucks!” set to the sights and sounds of the very music Judge championed and skewered on the show beyond compare.
Judge’s contributions to live-action comedy are equally successful, and sometimes financially so. Released to little fanfare in 1999, Office Space eventually became both the perennial example of the DVD cult phenom and synonymous with modern cubicle hell. His high concept follow-up, Idiocracy, experienced a famously aborted theatrical release; in less than three years, Idiocracy is now celebrated and oft-quoted by many peoples as nothing less than faux-low brow prophecy and a sci-fi omelet of chuckling eugenic fatalism.
With his latest, Extract, Judge has written and directed a rare and original comedic defense of the modern-day boss that exudes newer shades of adult drama. As nicely played by Jason Bateman, Judge’s boss is overloaded with sexual frustration, a petty lawsuit, lazy employees, and an accidentally massive intake of weed. The smart, unobtrusive film, one of the funnier of 2009, enters a marketplace overrun by superheroes and spectacle to deliver laughs that are charmingly huge yet reserved, absurd yet realistic. Some might feel that its subject matter is too common-man, too anti-escape. But Judge creates works that are built to last and unconcerned with being hip. In addition, he continues to propel the dumbass dick joke towards Art Americana. Mike Judge discussed where his nascent interest in nuts humor originates, his layman’s knowledge of bongs, and many other things with /Film.