Beavis and Butthead

A tale of two idiots that changed the face of television.
May 29, 2007

Beavis and Butthead, the brainchild of creator Mike Judge, was a cartoon on MTV about two teenage delinquents who lived in the small town of Highland, Texas. The storylines centered on crude and often dangerous humor, as well as the duo ridiculing the world around them. Beavis and Butthead were both lollygaggers who lacked any intellect whatsoever and had no goals or aspirations for the future (other than trying to get laid, which they never were able to come close to). Between segments, they would watch real life music videos, either criticizing or praising the artists.

Beavis and Butthead both made their debut in 1992 in a short film titled “Frog Baseball”, which was based on a demented game that Mike Judge overheard a couple of kids talk about playing as he was taking a walk one day. After seeing it for the first couple of times, I can honestly say that I have never laughed harder at any other cartoon short in my entire life. Mike Judge made two more shorts featuring Beavis and Butthead, “Peace, Love & Understanding” and “Insect Court”. Beavis and Butthead, the series made its debut in March of 1993. Although the number of episodes in the premiere season fell well short of a typical season for a show on network television, the cartoon quickly developed a cult following.

Butthead, the name, came from a couple of friends Mike Judge knew while attending college who gave him nicknames such as “Iron Butt” and “Butt-Head”. The name Beavis came from a kid Mike Judge knew in his neighborhood also during his college days named Bobby Beavis.

Beavis’ look was actually based on Mike Judge’s crude illustrations of singer Barry Manilow. In the duo, Butthead was usually the leader, who came off as nonchalant. Beavis was usually Butthead’s polar opposite, especially with his alter ego, Cornholio, to which Beavis would pull his shirt over his head after consuming too much sugar or caffeine.

Although there is no evidence to suggest otherwise, Beavis and Butthead lived together in the same shoddy household at too young an age, with absolutely no parental supervision, watched television, and ate junk food. They did however both work at a fast food restaurant called Burger World to help pay the bills. They would screw up on the job constantly, but the duo still kept their jobs at the restaurant, which was almost always understaffed.

In late summer of 1993, a news story broke about a five-year-old boy who set fire to his mother’s trailer home in Ohio, killing his two year old sister. The homeowners blamed Beavis and Butthead for the incident and the show became more popular than before. MTV, however, opted not to rerun any of the episodes associated with arson. They also called for a tighter reign on the scripts and storylines. The show has been credited for lending popularity to many derogatory terms used by the duo, to which MTV also tried to subdue.

Beavis and Butthead was moved to a later time slot at 11:00PM, which included the following disclaimer:

“Beavis and Butt-head are not role models. They're not even human, they're cartoons. Some of the things they do could cause a person to get hurt, expelled, arrested... possibly deported. To put it another way, don't try this at home.”

In December 1996, the movie Beavis and Butthead Do America was released in theatres. The film featured the voices of Mike Judge, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, the late Robert Stack from Unsolved Mysteries, and Greg Kinnear. Although it is still unknown who the duo’s parents are, the men in the desert scene, with whom Beavis and Butthead encounter on their long journey to Washington D.C., each bear a strong resemblance to their biological fathers.

Beavis and Butthead left an indelible mark on popular culture throughout much of the 1990s that the show spun off Daria, based on one of its minor characters, Daria Morgendorffer, which became wildly popular on MTV. Creator Mike Judge ended the Beavis and Butthead series in the fall of 1997 to work full time on the Fox animated series King Of The Hill.

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