‘Yep’: 61 Trivia Tidbits About Mike Judge on His 61st Birthday
The propane-loving Hank Hill and his prop comedy-loving son, Bobby. Nacho enthusiasts Beavis and Butt-Head. Milton and that godforsaken red stapler. We wouldn’t have any of these iconic pop culture duos if it weren’t for Mike Judge. The man who has shaped so much animated and live-action comedy turns 61 today, and to celebrate, we’re diving into 61 tidbits about his career, including the character he relates to the most…
Born in Ecuador
Judge was born on October 17, 1962, in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, while his dad, an archaeologist, was working for a non-profit organization.
A Former Engineer
Before he would get lost in the world of animation, Judge got a degree in physics at U.C. San Diego and worked as an engineer in Texas.
One of His Movies Changed TGI Fridays
“One of my A.D.s asked once at the restaurant why their flair was missing, and they said they removed it because of that movie Office Space,” Judge told Deadline. “So, maybe I made the world a better place.”
He Thought of ‘Silicon Valley’ Back in the 20th Century
“Way back, before the dotcom burst in 2000,” Judge explained in the same interview, “I thought about doing something like this, about a tech billionaire Paul Allen-type, but that was as a movie. But then John Altschuler of King and the Hill suggested an idea like Falcon Crest, but instead of wine and oil money, it would be tech money.”
’Silicon Valley’ Was Almost About Gamers
Judge went on to say that HBO first approached him to do a show about gamers, but Judge told them that he “didn’t know enough about the gaming world, but I had worked as an engineer in Silicon Valley, and I suggested we do a project about that.”
’Office Space’ Was His Breakthrough Into the Industry
His Office Space short was picked up by Comedy Central after screening at an animation festival in Dallas.
He Once Voiced Kenny From ‘South Park’
Judge voiced the un-hooded and un-muted Kenny in the 1999 movie South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut.
He Wanted to Be a Toymaker
After graduating, he considered starting his own toy company. This came about after he and a friend programmed a small microprocessor-controlled car to balance objects for an award-winning class project.
He Worked On Fighter Jets
Instead of pursuing a career as Willy Wonka, Judge landed a job as a military subcontractor, programming electronic test systems for F-18 fighter jets. However, he found the cubicle gig soul-crushing and soon followed his girlfriend to California’s Silicon Valley.
He Was Asked to Do ‘The Office’
Judge said that NBC approached him to run the American version of The Office, and that he may well have done it if one of the pitch’s accompanying reviews didn’t read: “The Office succeeds where movies like Office Space failed.”
Judge Worked With a Milton
There was an employee at Judge’s engineering firm who had an outburst the day Judge decided to talk to him. According to Judge, the guy told him, “If they move my desk one more time, I’m quittin’!” and was beside himself because his fish tank wasn’t getting enough sunlight. Judge told The New York Times that he remembered thinking, “He’s not going anywhere. You could move his desk a hundred times; he’s not gonna quit.”
His Musical Talents
Judge first started playing the trombone in the 5th grade and also played bass in Texas and California blues bands before going into animation.
From Clay and Camera to Pencil and Paper
Before he started drawing his Miltons and his Bobby Hills, Judge wanted to dabble in claymation. “I always wanted to do claymation,” he told Lone Star Music Magazine. “My sophomore year in high school, I worked all summer at this drug store, and I saved up — it wasn’t much money, but I was either going to buy an electric bass or a movie camera. I ended up choosing the bass. I wanted to get the camera to start doing claymation stuff, but I realized it wasn’t just the cost of getting the camera, but also film and processing and projector, and I realized it just wasn’t going to happen because I didn’t have enough money for all of it.” So, he turned to the cheaper alternative: pencil and paper.
'Frog Baseball' Was His Fourth Short
While Office Space was Judge’s first short and would become his first feature film soon after, it was Frog Baseball that had MTV jump at the chance to employ him and his edgy animated characters.
His Wife Helped Him Produce His First ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ Shorts
“The animated shorts I did were literally homemade cartoons,” he told LSM Magazine. “It would take me like, six to eight weeks to do two minutes. My ex-wife helped me paint the cels, but other than that, it was just me, doing every single drawing, all the voices, the music, the sound effects, the whole deal.”
His Inspiration For Hank in ‘King of the Hill’
“When I was pitching the show,” Judge shared in the same interview, “one of the stories I’d tell was, there was this storm that had come through, and it blew a piece off of this wooden fence I had. And I saw one of my neighbors looking at it, and he came over and was like, (Hank Hill’s voice) ‘Well, you’re going to have to take the whole thing out.’ And then like three other guys came over, going, ‘I’ll go get my wheelbarrow.’ Before long, they’d knocked the entire fence down, and they’re in there digging and I’m trying to help out, but finally, I just went back inside. And my wife was like, ‘What’s going on out there?’ I hadn’t even had my coffee yet, and they’re out there fixing the fence. I went back out; they’ve already got string going across, another guy got some concrete out of his garage, and another actually had a fence post. And the first guy — he was kind of like the alpha bubba or whatever — goes, ‘Well, you’ve just got to put the palings on now.’ So I go and buy palings, and I come back and start to put the first one on, and the guy walks over again, going, ‘Uh, you’re gonna need different kinda nails for that…’”
His First Job in Silicon Valley Was Awful
Judge started calling in sick for work during his second week on the job and lasted two months at Parallax Graphics, a video card company. He also had nothing in common with his co-workers, who would put in extra hours for God knows why. “It really felt like a cult. The people I met were like Stepford Wives,” Judge told Wired. “They were true believers in something, and I don’t know what it was.”
He’s Making a New Adult Swim Show
As we’ve previously reported, Judge and his King of the Hill co-creator, Greg Daniels, are working on an animated show for Adult Swim revolving around the pharmaceutical industry. More specifically, the premise sees a conspiracy by Big Pharma to cover up the healing properties of some kind of mushroom. Sounds trippy.
He Cast T.J. Miller in ‘Silicon Valley’ Because the Man’s Silhouette Made Him Laugh
Judge told The New York Times that he immediately started laughing when he saw the actor — who’d go on to play Erlich Bachman in Silicon Valley — pass the audition room with only his silhouette visible through the frosted glass windows. “If someone’s silhouette can make you laugh, they’re probably pretty funny,” Judge said.
One of His Shows Accurately Predicted How We Would Feel About Personalized AI Chatbots
Just watch this clip from a 2019 Silicon Valley episode and see for yourself.
It All Started At the Movies
Judge’s interest in animation began after seeing animation cels hanging in a movie theater in Dallas. He immediately went out and bought himself a $200 1950s Bolex camera, shot some sequences, and ran them through a projector. “I was like, oh shit, it looks like a cartoon!” Judge said to Wired. “The clouds parted. Even if I have a job I don’t like, this is something I can do. Nothing can stop me now.”
He’s Making an Adult Animated Puppet Show
Judge and Daniels are working on In the Know, an upcoming Peacock series featuring “a fictional NPR host who is a puppet,” as per Collider, and will have real celebrity interviews in each episode.
The Mike Judge Netflix Show We’ll Probably Never See
Around the time Warner Bros. pissed off everyone by pulling Batgirl from their release slate, Netflix decided to ax Judge, Daniels, and Nicole Silverberg’s upcoming animated series, Bad Crimes, which was already midway through its 10-episode production. The show would’ve seen two impulsive female FBI agents solve various murders while banging their way across the world. Alas, Netflix says we can’t have nice things.
Judge Pitched ‘King of the Hill’ as Hank
Instead of doing a pilot, Judge did this:
He Had a Ham Radio License At the Age of 12
This is no mean feat for a 12-year-old as you must pass a technical test to get one. “I actually had a ham radio license, and would be in my garage with a dipole antenna on the roof and a Heath-kit transceiver doing Morse code, and talking to people all around the country,” he told Mother Jones. “People throw the term ‘nerd’ around loosely nowadays. I was a major nerd for my time.”
He Doesn’t Do Award Shows
“I didn’t even go when King of the Hill won,” Judge told Deadline, saying he knows very little about the Emmy Awards. “When King of the Hill would get nominated, we would lose sometimes to The Simpsons, and I don’t know if the year we won was particularly better than the years we lost. I just remember being kinda surprised when I got the phone call saying we won.”
He Wrote the ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ Theme Song
As fans familiar with the Beavis and Butt-Head Do America DVD commentary would know, the show’s riff is AC/DC’s “Gone Shootin” guitar riff played backward.
He Literally Phoned MTV
When Howard Stern asked him how he got his work out when first making his own shorts, Judge said he literally called 4-1-1 and asked for MTV’s number. “I felt really stupid,” he said, laughing. “But I called New York Information — there was no internet back then — and just say, ‘Yeah, MTV please’ or ‘Comedy Central.’ And I would just get the runaround, and then I would get a name and an address and send out VHS tapes.”
He Tries to Avoid Political Messaging as Much as Possible
During a 2006 IGN interview about King of the Hill, Judge said: “I try to not let the show get too political. To me, it’s more social than political I guess you’d say, because that’s funnier. I don’t really like political reference humor that much. Although I liked the episode ‘Hank’s Bully’ where Hank’s talking to the mailman, and he says, ‘Why would anyone want to lick a stamp that has Bill Clinton on it?’ To me, that’s just like more of a character thing about Hank than it is a political joke or anything. I don’t want to do a bunch of stuff about the war, particularly.”
He Argued With the Studio Over the Marketing of ‘Idiocracy’
“They’re just overthinking it, which is what they always do,” Judge told Esquire at the time. “It’s just about an average dumb-ass person who winds up in the future. It’s not about ‘What if you could travel through time…’ I’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s just dragged on way too long — a good seven months longer than Office Space. I could have made another movie after I locked the picture before this one comes out.”
He’s a Fan of Suburbia
“I like the suburbs,” Judge said in the same interview. “Not for any ironic reason. I just actually like them.” He added that since most folks in Hollywood “are from this corridor of Manhattan, up through Connecticut, up through Westchester,” he doesn’t think it fair to be mocking suburbanites. “It feels more rebellious to make a show on their side,” he explained.
He Loves the ‘South Park’ Episodes Featuring His Staff
In “Cartoon Wars,” the South Park guys featured Judge’s King of the Hill staff just going about their work while Cartman and Kyle fight each other. “I loved those two episodes,” Judge told IGN. “I thought they were brilliant, actually. I was just glad there was any reference to it at all in there. It was an honor to just be sitting in there calmly while those two were fighting.”
Judge stopped doing Beavis and Butt-Head in 1997 because he was experiencing creative burnout. “I actually wanted to stop a little sooner,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve done over 200 episodes (since 1993). After the second season, I thought, ‘How are we gonna do this anymore?’ I was completely burnt out. I got a second wind in season three and again in season five. But I don’t know, you do it as fast as you can, get it on the air as fast as you can, and there’s never a break. I felt, like, why not retire before it gets too stale or whatever?”
He Was Inspired By Charlie Brown
“I love the way it’s just simple animation,” he said on The Howard Stern Show. “I love the way Pig-Pen had all those lines of dirt around him.”
Judge Improvised All Those ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ Music Videos
“The video comments are never scripted. I just go in and improvise a lot of them. A lot of times, one of the writers will come and just hang out and kind of help out,” Judge explained. “But we just watch the video a bunch of times, and then I go into the booth and mess around.”
He Got Obsessed With Ratings
“I didn’t think I would be so obsessed with watching the ratings,” he told the Los Angeles Times about being impressed with King of the Hill’s Nielsen rating back in 1997. “Now, I’m like on Monday, going, ‘How did we do against Touched by an Angel?’”
His Favorite ‘King of the Hill’ Episodes
“For the first three seasons, I used to say that the episodes were Hank has a junkie employee,” Judge revealed to IGN. “The guy is protected by the Disabilities Act, the Civil Liberties, and he can’t fire him. That was one of my favorites.” He added that he was also a big fan of the one where Hank “unwittingly” becomes a pimp, as well as the episode “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”
‘Do the Right Thing’ Inspired ‘King of the Hill’
“When I watched Do the Right Thing, I loved the moments of the old guys sitting out there, talking about the Korean grocer,” Judge told Esquire. “I thought somebody should make a movie like that, but just about my suburban neighborhood.” Years later, that idea of his would become the Hank Hill show.
He Didn’t Care Much For School as a Kid
“I had a love-hate relationship with school that was 90 percent hate, 10 percent love,” he told Wired.
His Elaborate Dick Joke
For the wild dick joke in Silicon Valley, Judge hired Stanford mathematicians to accurately calculate the maximum “mean jerk rate” and everything related to said joke. The paper was published and titled “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency: a model for male audience stimulation,” which you can read here.
The ‘Mean Jerk Rate’ Scene Was Based on ‘A Beautiful Mind’
“I had wanted to do a version of the scene in A Beautiful Mind where (Russell Crowe) is talking about the way men and women behave in bars, and it leads to a mathematical epiphany,” Judge explained to Mother Jones. “I was trying to find something really funny. (Executive producer and writer) Alec Berg overheard another writer talking about being in some discussion and saying, ‘No, you can jerk off four guys if you put their dicks tip to tip.’ Alec came to me and said, ‘I think I’ve got the epiphany moment.’ In the writers’ room, we were actually drawing diagrams on the dry-erase board. It just kept making us laugh more and more. And then we got our Stanford compression expert, Vinith Misra, and had him weigh in, and he just went to town on an entire paper (Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency) that’s now published online!”
Where Judge Got Beavis and Butt-Head’s Names
“When I was in college, a 12-year-old kid next door called himself Iron Butt,” Judge explained in a Wild Cartoon Kingdom interview. “They all called him Iron Butt because supposedly you could kick him in the butt as hard as you wanted, and it wouldn’t hurt him. He’d demonstrate this. He’d stick his butt out, and kids would line up and just whack! kick him in the butt and he’d say, ‘See, it doesn’t hurt.’ He was just a maniac, and his parents weren’t around. His friend, actually, we called Butt-Head, even though that wasn’t his name. Then, there was a kid in the neighborhood about three blocks away; his name was Bobby Beavis. He wasn’t anything like Beavis. I just liked the name.”
He Went to Catholic School
“I went to a Catholic high school, and it seemed like every time I drew something for a class project, it either got thrown away by the teacher or something,” Judge said in the same interview. “One time, we were supposed to write a story and draw a picture to go with it, and I wrote this really kind of weird story about this fly that I thought was pretty cool, and I drew this really colorful, wild picture of this crazy-looking fly. The teacher, Sister Margaret, who had these really thick Coke bottle glasses, just took this thing I did – and I wanted it back when I was done because I wanted to hang it up in my room or something – and took a big Magic Marker and just scribbled all over it. She said I didn’t know how to draw and she was going to show me how. And she just scribbled all over this thing and defaced it.”
‘Extract’ Relied on Judge’s Personal Experience
“I actually worked in a factory a little bit myself,” he said. “I hopefully write stuff that is recognizable as the archetypes of this world.”
He's Had Some Wild Experiences With Neighbors
Judge once said Nathan from Extract was “based on a female neighbor I had at one point who literally would just stop cars. She would just plant herself in the window of your car and stay there and give you no choice but either be incredibly rude or listen to her for I don’t know how long.”
The ‘King of the Hill’ Spin-Off
Judge and company wrote and shot a pilot for a live-action Monsignor Martinez show based on the “Monsignor Martinez” segments in King of the Hill.
He Tries to Stay Away From Hollywood
That is why Judge moved to Austin, Texas, years ago.
He Doesn’t Give Two Shits About Smart Comedy
“I don’t even know what people mean when they say ‘smart comedy,’” he said during a GQ Q & A. “To me, the goal is to make people laugh. I think the smartest comedies are the ones that have figured out how to make you laugh the most.”
On Favorite Comedians
“I like the Stooges,” said Judge to Wild Cartoon Kingdom. “You know what movie I saw that I sort of discovered late was Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor. I really liked that. I sort of became a Jerry Lewis fan. I liked him when I was a kid, and I just never saw any of his movies for years.”
Why Judge Relates With Richard From ‘Silicon Valley’
Talking to Deadline about the Viacom merger with Paramount, Judge explained, “It was regarding (David) Geffen and (Viacom Executive Chairman) Sumner Redstone. I just found myself in the center of this — it was with Beavis & Butt-Head mostly. At one point, I met with all the studios, and I was going to do it with Fox and Peter Chernin, then Geffen said no, and then Redstone bought MTV. All this craziness that started with these billionaires battling over something I made in my house with pen, paper, ink, and animation cells. There’s some parallels there. There’s a lot of similarities between Hollywood and the Tech world — very different character types, but just in how something becomes hot. There’s more money in tech.”
On the Purpose of Having a Sense of Humor
“There are theories that it has something to do with signaling that everything is okay — that danger is gone or something,” Judge said when prompted by The New Yorker. “I think it could also be connected to other abilities. The ability to make a bunch of people laugh has a certain amount of power associated with it. To unite people.”
On Making Cult Movies
“I want to be liked,” he admitted to GQ. “I want to be loved. But I’m honestly not trying to make cult movies. It’s happened more than once, though, so maybe there’s something wrong with me.”
On His Favorite Cult Movies
Judge is a fan of both The Big Lebowski and Dazed and Confused. “Those are movies that I can watch over and over again,” he said during the Q & A. “I tend to like comedy that gets funnier the more you think about it. To me, The Beverly Hillbillies is like that. Cheech & Chong is like that.”
On Cartoons He Watched As a Kid
“I watched the Warner Brothers stuff, Hanna-Barbera,” Judge shared with Wild Cartoon Kingdom. “I used to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle and that kind of stuff. George of the Jungle. At a pretty early age, I didn’t like the Saturday morning stuff.”
On His Favorite Cartoon Director From the Old Cartoons
“I guess Tex Avery,” he said when asked in the same interview. “It seems like when you see Avery’s name on something, it’s pretty cool. And also I like the Road Runner. My dad and I used to watch the Road Runner a lot together. We kind of bonded a little bit.”
His Other Favorite Comedian
“Rodney Dangerfield,” he told IGN. “Of course, you could argue that Rodney Dangerfield is kind of character humor, in a way, especially in something like Caddyshack. But yes, I definitely gravitate toward that stuff, I guess.”
A Harvey Pekar Fan
“I was a big fan of (the late comic book writer) Harvey Pekar,” Judge told Esquire during a 2016 interview. “He did American Splendor. I actually didn’t read this quote until I was doing my second TV show, but he said something like, ‘Everyday life has a huge effect on people.’ It’s kind of an interesting way to look at it. It’s the little things that have a big effect, and a lot of movies and TV shows are about big things.”
He Has Beef With Disney
During his Wild Cartoon Kingdom chatting, Disney animation came up, and Judge did not hold back on expressing his general disdain for the House of Mouse’s movies. “Beauty and the Beast seemed like it all was really brown,” he said. “The whole thing was just so brown and orange and yellow, like Burger King or something. I’ll tell you another thing while I’m ragging on this Disney stuff. All the Disney lead male characters always have this kind of John Davidson kind of look to them. They all look like the same guy, and all the females look like the same, and I think the guys are just way too big. They don’t have a lot of character, but it’s hard to describe what it is I don’t quite like about them. They all look like the same characters.”
Inspiration at Disneyland
In 2001, Judge took a trip to Disneyland with his daughters and, while waiting in line for the Alice in Wonderland ride, “Somebody behind me had a stroller,” Judge told NPR. “Two little kids and her and this other woman with two little kids was passing by. I guess they’d had an altercation, and they just start getting in this cussing match with each other, just, you know, ‘bitch’ this. But you know, just yelling and like, ‘I’ll kick your ass.’ And I was just sitting there thinking, wow, the Disneyland that was envisioned way back in the ’50s and to right now.” And that’s how he got the idea for Idiocracy.
A ‘King of the Hill’ Revival is Coming
In January of this year, Hulu announced that, by the grace of the Propane Gods, a new season will be heading out soon from Judge and remaining company. Super.