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New Lost City Ramblers Look Back At 50 Years

Few groups get to achieve a 50th anniversary, but the pioneering American folk trio the got to do just that this year. The release of a three-disc commemorative set by the New Lost City Ramblers was darkened, though, but the death of co-founder Mike Seeger.



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Other segments from the episode on August 25, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 25, 2009: Interview with Mike Judge; Commentary on folklorist and musician, Mike Seeger.


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Mike Judge, Finding A Comic 'Extract' In The Office


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross.

You’ve probably heard my guest’s voice, yet you may not recognize it in this
interview. Mike Judge has done the voices of the title characters for his
animated MTV series, “Beavis and Butt-Head.” He also co-created the Fox
animated series, “King of the Hill,” and does the voice of the main character,
Hank Hill, and Hank’s friend, Boomhauer. “King of the Hill” will air its final
episode in September.

Mike Judge also made the film comedies “Office Space” and “Idiocracy.” Judge
wrote and directed the new film comedy, “Extract,” which stars Jason Bateman as
the beleaguered owner of a small factory making vanilla extract and other

When a beautiful, young woman, played by Mila Kunis, asks for a job at his

factory, he wants to figure out how he can have an affair with her without
feeling guilty about his wife. What he doesn’t know is that this innocent-
looking woman is a con artist. Here she is the opening scene of the film, in a
music store, shopping for a guitar. She’s asked the two young, male sales
clerks about a guitar that’s caught her attention. Meanwhile, her good looks
have caught their attention.

(Soundbite of movie, “Extract”)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) Yeah, it’s expensive, but it’s

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) Yeah, are you familiar with Gibson
humbucking pickups at all, or…

Ms. MILA KUNIS (Actor): (As Cindy) No, I’m sorry. I actually don’t play. It’s
for my dad, for his 50th birthday.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) That’s really sweet.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Yeah, my sisters and I are all chipping in. So…

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Your dad will love these humbuckings. I
mean, they really kick ass.

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) Excuse me, I just have a quick
question about…

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) So what kind of music does your dad play?

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) I guess it’s kind of jazz-ish, maybe.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Oh, this is an excellent jazz guitar. Pat
Metheny plays one of these.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Probably the best one. Is your dad into
Metheny at all?

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Oh, I’m sorry. I actually have no idea who that is.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Pat Metheny is probably the best fusion
player of our times. He’s like the Jake E. Lee of fusion guitar players. Are
you into fusion?

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) I don’t really know what that is, either.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) It’s just - I was asking because I play
fusion guitar.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Yeah, I play fusion, too, actually.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) I teach kids.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Really?

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Yeah, I work with a lot of kids.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) You should come check our band out.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Okay, sure, that’s awesome.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Yeah, so what do you think?

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Well, do you guys maybe have it other colors?

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Colors? You mean finishes.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Yeah, we have a sunburst that’s beautiful.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Yeah, I just stocked one of those in the
back. I could go grab it.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) No, I can pick it up.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Do you want to see it?

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) I’ll get it.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) I’m going to get the case.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Okay, thank you.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) I’m going to grab the case.

Ms. KUNIS: (As Cindy) Awesome.

GROSS: Well, while the sales clerks are in the back, she walks out of the store
with the guitar. Mike Judge’s new movie, “Extract,” opens Labor Day weekend.
Mike Judge, welcome to FRESH AIR.

“Office Space,” your movie from a few years ago, is from the point of view of
workers who think their bosses are incompetent. “Extract” is from the point of
view of the head of a company, who founded the company. It must have been a
shift in frame of mind for you to go from the employee-employer point of view
to the head-of-the-company point of view.

Mr. MIKE JUDGE (Filmmaker, Voice Actor): Yeah, I’d worked just dozens and
dozens of jobs before I started my animation career. And by that point, I was
pushing 30. So I’d always been the employee. I had never had anybody work for
me. It was always me working for somebody else. And then suddenly, when “Beavis
and Butt-Head” started, I had anywhere from 30 to as many as 90 people working
for me. And so, I just suddenly became sympathetic to my former bosses.

You know, I was just, like, God, these people don’t appreciate anything. I’ve
got to babysit them. They’re always fighting with each other and me. And so,
yeah, I’d wanted to do something that was kind of the counterpoint to “Office

GROSS: So describe some of the characters in the extract factory in your new
movie, “Extract,” that have a similarity to people you worked with on “Beavis
and Butt-Head.”

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Well, for example, when “Beavis and Butt-Head” happened, you know, I
was – you know, you try to be a nice boss, and then that doesn’t really work
very well most of the time, you know, because you get taken advantaged of.

There was a guy when - we did this album of Beavis and Butt-Head. It was just
called “The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience.” It was a CD, it was with Geffen
Records, and I’d done the line art for the cover. And back then, the way you
would do it is you’d actually paint a cell.

So cell painting is something you’d pay somebody, I don’t know, at the time,
$10 an hour to do, but there was some money in this budget for this album
cover. So I said, well, I’m going to throw someone a bone here. You know, the
show’s a hit, and I got one of the painters, and I said, hey, can you paint

Now mind you, I had done all the line art. All he’s doing is basically coloring
it, filling in the spaces with color. So I got him $800 to do one cell, and I
go by, and I hear him, I won’t use the explicit language, I guess, but I go by,
and he’s going, man, this is BS, man. These guys are going to make millions of
dollars, and they’re paying me $800, man. This is – and I was, like, God, I
can’t win.

GROSS: So you actually cast in your movie “Extract” my good friend Gene
Simmons, and I say that because a lot of listeners to the show know that we had
a kind of rough interview together.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, I actually looked that up because I had heard about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did you? You’d heard about that? So you cast him as this kind of sleazy
lawyer who has, you know, all those slip-and-fall, sue-now, tacky TV ads and
billboards. So how did you think of Gene Simmons to play somebody sleazy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I’ll tell you. I had written in the script that the lawyer
looks like, – I say he looks like Gene Simmons with a suit and tie and a
ponytail. And then when we started casting it, we were just looking at a bunch
of people, and some really good actors wanted to do that, actually, and nothing
– you know, really good actors read for it. Nothing was popping in the right
way, and actually, my producer, John Altschuler, goes, you know, because I was
trying to articulate what it is I’m looking for, and he goes, he just needs to
be a running sore of a human being.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And then I – well, shortly after that, we had Gene Simmons come in.
You know, he’s a piece of work. He’s a very intelligent guy. You know, I was a
little worried maybe he’d be on musician time or, you know, dealing with a rock
star, that can be a pain in the butt. But I mean, he came in, and he was just a
total pro. Like, I would start to give him direction, and he’d just – I’d say
hey, do you want to do such and such, and he would say: I will do whatever you
want. Just tell me.

You know, he’s got that voice, too, that – there’s one line he says where he
says: I’m sorry, did you just threaten me? And someone at the lab was saying
that every time he’d watch one of those takes, he’d get goose bumps.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: So, you know, I think it was a good choice. You know, he’s a piece
of work, and when he’s on the set, he’s on the set, you know.

GROSS: One of the characters in the movie I have to ask you about, the
character’s played by David Koechner. He’s Jason Bateman’s next-door neighbor,
and he’s the neighbor who’s always inviting you over to dinner or to the
movies, and like, you don’t really want to go, and you want to be nice, you
want to decline politely, but he doesn’t get it when you’re polite. He thinks
oh, well, tomorrow night you won’t be as busy.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: I thought it just really captured a certain dynamic awfully well.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, awhile back, we rented and then bought a place in this gated
community out in L.A. for the summer by the beach and, you know, a pretty
expensive place, and you pay all this money, and then there was this one woman
who was just single-handedly bringing down the property value for me, by like
huge amounts.

I mean, basically she would just park herself in your window and start talking
to you and give you a choice of either being really rude or listening to her
for as long as, you know, an hour and a half. I mean, and yeah, and just
constantly, like, getting herself into your life somehow. And I know – I mean,
there’s somebody who I actually kind of like and who does the same thing, but
he’ll, like, actually more than one. There’s a lot of people who do this, but
who are just a master of making you think the conversation is winding down so
that you kind of start to get nice again, and then they just suck you back in,
you know.

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Mike Judge, and he wrote and
directed the new comedy “Extract,” which stars Jason Bateman, and he also
created “King of the Hill” and “Beavis and Butt-Head,” and he did the movies
“Office Space” and “Idiocracy.”

Now, your animated series, “King of the Hill,” is coming to a conclusion. When
does it end?

Mr. JUDGE: I think it’s September 13 is when the last episodes air. It’s two
episodes back to back.

GROSS: That’s really soon.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: So let’s talk about the series, and then we’ll talk about the ending of
it. Would you describe Hank Hill and his family?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, Hank is, he sells propane and propane accessories, and he’s
got his house and his family, and he’s kind of - has this way that he thinks
the world ought to be that’s maybe – maybe he belongs in the ‘50s or something
like that. And, you know, he’s just up against all the ridiculous things that
the modern world brings, and…

GROSS: He lives in a suburb. He’s the kind of guy who goes to Home Depot and
drinks beer with his friends. He’s probably politically conservative. At the
same time, he’s very open-minded and often does things that would go against
whatever ideology he would seem to profess, and he wants to always do the right
thing by individuals, whether or not that coincides with what his, like, larger
ideological belief might be. Now, you do the voice of Hank.

Mr. JUDGE: Yes.

GROSS: I want to play a scene from a recent episode, and you do two regular
voices in this series, Hank and his friend, Boomhauer, and Boomhauer has this
kind of like post-modern mumble that’s really hard to make sense of what he’s

Mr. JUDGE: Yes, I like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And so Boomhauer has just swapped homes with a Canadian couple. So he’s
about to leave for Canada for three months.

Mr. JUDGE: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: So here’s Hank and Boomhauer, and I think a couple of friends are with
them there, too.

(Soundbite of TV show, “King of the Hill”)

Mr. JUDGE: (As Hank Hill) This will no doubt be the best summer of our entire

Mr. JOHNNY HARDWICK (Actor): (As Dale Gribble) Yup.

Mr. STEPHEN ROOT (Actor): (As Bill Dauterive) Yup.

Mr. JUDGE: (As Boomhauer) Well, I’ll tell you what, man, love just chill back
and get a dang old grill and chill, man, but I’m about to head up to Canada
this summer, man.

Mr. JUDGE: (As Hank) Canada? A man only has so many summers, Boomhauer. Why
would you waste yours in a country that’s dismantling its navy?

Mr. JUDGE: (As Boomhauer) (Unintelligible) house-swap with Canadian family for,
you know, (unintelligible).

Mr. HARDWICK: (As Dale) House-swap? There’s going to be Canadians living here,
walking around, touching things for three whole months?

Mr. ROOT: (As Bill) You’re going to be gone for an absurd amount of time. What
if we all make new friends or get remarried? It could happen. Love is funny.

GROSS: That’s a scene from a recent episode of “King of the Hill” with my
guest, the creator of the series, Mike Judge, as Hank Hill and as his friend,
Boomhauer, and what I was saying about, you know, Hank Hill always doing the
right thing, even though he’s, like, so uptight about the idea of Canadians. At
the same time, when the house-swap is over, he invites the Canadians – he and
his wife, Peggy, invite the Canadians to live in their home. They’re always
going to do the right thing.

So, you know, as I’m talking to you, I’m listening for the sounds of Hank Hill
in your voice, and I hear it, but also what you’re doing for Hank Hill,
thought, is different. There’s much more of a Southern twang to it. Can you
talk about creating the voice for Hank?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, you know, I had a paper route when I was a kid in Albuquerque,
New Mexico, and on my paper route, there was a guy, it was the first time my
brother and I shared this paper route, and we’d go collect at the end of every
month, and this guy was always out on his front lawn drinking a beer, and we
came to collect, and it was our first time collecting, and this guy looks at us
and is kind of staring at us.

I said hey, we’re collecting for the Albuquerque News, and he says: Well, you
ain’t my paper boy. And I said, well, I know, but your paper boy quit, and
we’re the new paper boys. Well, I know what my paper boy looks like, and you
ain’t my paper boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And I said, well, yeah, he’s gone and, you know, and then he brings
his wife over and says: See the paper boy? No. This went on. We said well,
we’re going to cancel the paper then. He said: Oh, I’m going to get the paper
when the real paper boy comes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And so, we just kept delivering, and we’d skip his house, and he’d
be out there drinking his beer, kind of eyeballing us. And finally, he
swallowed his pride after, like, four months, and he called in a subscription.

I mean, the other – there was also – when the first time my ex-wife and I, we
bought a house outside of Dallas, and there’d be these guys out there drinking
their beers in the alley and, you know, like I was – the storm had, like, blown
off, just knocked loose a little part of my fence.

So I went out there, and I was – you know, I got a hammer, and I’m just
thinking, okay, I’ll just nail this thing back there. And I see this guy over,
kind of eyeballing me, looking at what I’m doing, and then he comes over,
followed by a couple others, and he says: Well, you’re going to have to take
the whole section out, and this post here is a little rotted. And then before I
know it, one of them brings over a wheelbarrow. They’d yanked out the whole
thing. They’re digging up a fence post, they’re pouring concrete or mixing
concrete, and finally, I kind of became kind of useless.

I went back inside, and my wife at the time, like, you know, we hadn’t even
eaten breakfast, and we’re looking out the window, and she goes, what’s going
on? And I said, oh, they’re building me a fence, I guess.

(Soundbite of laughter)

And then I went back out there. Finally, they got the post set, and they did
the string across, whatever, and he’s saying, you know, you’ve got to leave a
one-inch gap. Otherwise, them termites are going to get on your palings.

And so he tells me how to do it. I start putting on the palings. This is much –
you know, like three or four hours later. I’m hammering the nails in. I see him
over, and he peeks his head out of the alley, and he’s looking at me, and he
walks over, and I’m going, oh God, what now? And he comes over, and he says:
Those are the wrong kind of nails. You’re going to need galvanized steel. Here,
I’ll go get you some.

Anyway, I just thought this would be, like, a funny kind of world because they
really were good neighbors. I mean, they were nice people, and they were
helpful. And it’s kind of like what you were saying about, you know, I don’t
even know what their politics were. I don’t even care. I don’t know what – I
think people who analyze shows like this probably tend to put too much of
politics on it because I don’t think people like this, including myself, don’t
wake up and think about politics all day. You’ve got work to do and this kind
of stuff, and so yeah, I think – anyway, I think it’s just kind of like about
neighbors who – and like you say, ultimately, do the right thing and do right
by people and are basically good people.

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Mike Judge, and he wrote and
directed the new comedy, “Extract,” which stars Jason Bateman, and he also
created “King of the Hill” and “Beavis and Butt-Head,” and he did the movies
“Office Space” and “Idiocracy.” Let’s take a short break here, and then we’ll
talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Mike Judge, and he has a new
movie comedy, which is called “Extract.” It stars Jason Bateman. He’s also the
creator of “King of the Hill,” which is coming to a close in September.

So let’s talk about the character of Boomhauer that has that post-modern
mumble. Can you do that for us, break it down for us?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I’d actually had the idea for this character in the second
“Beavis and Butt-Head” short I did where they go to a monster truck show. And
I’d actually recorded it and did a drawing of a guy, but I ended up cutting it
because I was just – that was when I was animating everything myself, and it
was going to take too long. I had to cut stuff.

But I’d known – there was a guy I knew in Dallas that was actually from
Louisiana, and when he would get really, when he’d have a few drinks, he would
just start slipping into this deep accent, and you couldn’t understand what he
was saying, but you kind of knew what he was talking about. Another time, I was
getting directions from somebody in Oklahoma City over the phone, and the guy
just said: Yeah, man, come up, Exit 5, then turn over there by the gas station,
and you’re just right there, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: This long bunch of stuff I didn’t understand, ended with then you’re
right there, man.

But I think what I really kind of – on “Beavis and Butt-Head,” there was a guy
who left a voicemail complaining about the show, and I don’t know how he got
this, but he thought the name of the show was “Porky’s Butthole,” and he left
this voicemail that I still have. I have a tape of it, where he said: I’ve been
calling y’all for about a month now, (unintelligible) Porky’s frigging-old
butthole, you with them (unintelligible) dang old commercials on time and time
again, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And it was just – I kind of could understand it. He was kind of
complaining that the show is on too often and that it doesn’t start right on
the hour, but I don’t know where – anyway, so yeah. I actually kind of listened
to that tape a lot to sort of - when I was first trying to get the voice down.

GROSS: Well, “King of the Hill” has been going on for how many years?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I guess this would be Season 13. I mean, it came on in January
of ’97, so…

GROSS: Okay, so that’s a long time.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, wow.

GROSS: So how do you feel about it coming to a close?

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I’m okay with it. I mean, I think it’s been a good run, and
I’d rather stop it, you know, because I think the last couple seasons have
actually been pretty good. And I think it’s better to stop it while it’s still
decent than to run it into the ground.

You know, the show was canceled – it was kind of canceled before, but it was
completely canceled, I guess it was three or four years ago. I mean, everyone
moved out of their offices, cleaned out their desks and was gone. It was over,
and then it came back. So – and we actually did a final episode.

We actually did a last episode that I thought was really great, and then we had
to – it was kind of unfortunate. We had to alter it and make it not seem so
final. And, yeah, so you know, whatever – I mean, I was good with it ending
back then, and I was also good with it coming back. I mean, right now, I think
it’s probably a good time to stop.

GROSS: So for anybody who missed “Beavis and Butt-Head” when it was on,
describe the two characters.

Mr. JUDGE: Well, they’re also kind of hard to describe. But they’re just, you
know, basically kind of inane, dumb 15-year-olds, and they would – it started
out as it was going to be them just sitting on a couch watching music videos,
not talking to camera but talking to each other, and then we started doing
these little mini-episodes, well, from the get-go. And, yeah, they became the
scapegoat of bad television or something for a while there.

GROSS: We’ll hear more about “Beavis and Butt-Head” and Mike Judge’s other work
in the second half of the show. Judge wrote and directed the new movie comedy,
“Extract,” starring Jason Bateman. It opens Labor Day weekend. I’m Terry Gross,
and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of TV show, “King of the Hill”)

Mr. JUDGE: (As Hank) So, are you ready to rock?

Mr. HARDWICK: (As Dale) Yup.

Mr. ROOT: (As Bill) Yup.

Mr. JUDGE: (As Boomhauer) Mm-hmm.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Mike Judge. He wrote and
directed the new movie comedy "Extract," which opens Labor Day weekend. He
also made the movies "Office Space" and "Idiocracy." Judge co-created the Fox
animated series "King of the Hill," and does the voice of Hank Hill. The final
episode will be shown next month. When we left off, we were talking about
creating the animated series "Beavis and Butt-Head," which ran on MTV from 1993
to '97. Judge did the voices for both characters.

Well, let’s hear a scene and we'll get to hear what their kind of mumbly(ph)

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …are like and their famous laugh. So, here's a scene. It's Halloween -
Halloween night and they're watching TV.

Mr. JUDGE: Oh boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of TV show, "Beavis and Butt-Head")

Unidentified Woman (Actor): (as character) Isn't this the same place that those
other kids got killed two years ago?

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as character) Don't be crazy, Tina. You act like
you don’t even want to get it on.

(Soundbite of saw)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) That dude with the mask is messed up.

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Yeah, really. He didn’t wait for that chick to take off
her shirt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Yeah. It's like this could never happen in real life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of doorbell)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Dammit. That's like the tenth time tonight or something.

(Soundbite of doorbell)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Um, maybe we should see who it is.

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Uh, oh yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of doorbell)

(Soundbite of door opening)

Unidentified Group: Trick or treat.

(Soundbite of grunts)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Cool.

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Who was that?

(Soundbite of grunts)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Beavis) Just some dudes passing out free samples.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Cool. Hey, free samples rule. Yeah.

(Soundbite of banging door)

Unidentified Man #2: You take my kid's candy and I kick your ass.

(Soundbite of fighting)

Unidentified Man #2: Happy Halloween.

(Soundbite of door slamming)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: (as Butt-Head) Ween.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's a scene from "Beavis and Butt-Head" with my guest Mike Judge, the
creator of the series doing the voices of Beavis and Butt-Head. I love it. I
mean these characters…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Oh boy.

GROSS: These characters sitting around watching TV condescending to what
they're watching all day and they're so stupid that they don't even know that
it’s Halloween…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …and this is a trick or treat bag.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: They think it's free samples.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: It's like you really captured in this condescension as a way of life, as
just like a sport, just sitting around making fun of other people, not
realizing quite how stupid you are yourself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, well they're…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: I've known guys like this that just, you know, I remember this guy
in college, this like fat schlub of a guy and I was talking about, just, like
sitting on the couch and I said, I was talking about somebody that my roommate
knew. And I said yeah, he just made the basketball team, you know, UC San Diego
and yeah, I was impressed. He just made the basketball team. This guy just sits
there and he goes…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …basketball. Huh. God.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: I'm thinking like, who the hell are you to say pff, basketball? And
so yeah, it was always fun to have these guys who were just obviously complete
losers and no one hangs out with them but each other. And yet, you know, in
Butt-Head's mind he thinks he's super cool and he can put down whatever he sees
on TV and I don't know. It's kind of, that was fun to me. It's weird to hear it
on the radio though. It's…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Well, tell us about the voices that you came up with for "Beavis and

Mr. JUDGE: Well, this was the first time - when I was making animated shorts,
this was the first time that I had started with a drawing that I didn’t have a
voice for. Usually I had different voices that I did kind of characters and
then I would try to come up with a drawing. This one I had these drawings and I
didn’t know what they would sound like.

But there was a guy I went to high school with who was not like Beavis and
Butt-Head at all. He was actually a straight A student and he sat, he always
sat in the front of class and he would kind of laugh at everything the teacher
said, just kind of a suck-up move, you know,? And he was always kind of like
biting on his lower lip and just kind of sitting there like writing, taking
notes really fast, and just kind of going…

(Soundbite of grunting)

Mr. JUDGE: So I figured that would be Beavis's laugh. And then Butt-Head, I had
written ha-ha-ha on the storyboard for the first short I did. And I actually
remember finding this tape of myself trying out different laughs. After the
show was a hit I going through tapes looking for something and I was listening
to this going, man if I had done the laugh that other way or that other way,
you know, maybe the show wouldn’t have worked. It kind of freaked me out a
little bit.

GROSS: You know, I think a lot of people criticize "Beavis and Butt-Head" in
its time for bringing down the intelligence level of television and for being

Mr. JUDGE: Oh yeah.

GROSS: But it was about stupid people and, you know…

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, I mean. Exactly. Yeah.

GROSS: …and so did you feel like it was misunderstood, that what you were
trying to ridicule you were ridiculed for, you were criticized for?

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah. I mean, I think it was really hugely misunderstood. The
problem was though that we did, we cranked out so many so quickly that
sometimes there's, you know, a few episodes that I think deserved to be
criticized as being kind of dumb because they just weren’t - to me when it was
good though, it was - it's a show about stupid people. It's not a stupid show
and that's a big difference I think. And yeah, I think a lot of people didn’t
get that at all, especially early on. But I don't know I - it's my favorite
thing I've ever done. I think it’s, I'm really proud of it.

GROSS: My guest is Mike Judge, the creator of the animated series "Beavis and
Butt-Head" and co-creator of "King of the Hill." He wrote and directed the new
movie comedy "Extract." It opens Labor Day weekend. More after a break. This is

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Mike Judge. He wrote and directed the new movie comedy
"Extract," co-created the Fox animated series "King of the Hill" and created
the MTV animated series "Beavis and Butt-Head." He did the voices of the lead
characters in both series.

I recently saw the adult version of Beavis or Butt-Head…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …at the airport.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: He was reuniting with a friend and it - I swear he had his laugh. He was
probably like 35 or something, but…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …he just sounded like it was one of the characters from the series and
it was just so odd. In a way, I think your movie from 2006, "Idiocracy"…

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: …is about, like, what if Beavis and Butt-Head grew up and if everybody
was, like, that smart.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And like people…

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, that's the…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …Beavis and Butt-Head's intelligence levels were like ruling the world.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah that's, I definitely felt like that there was a connection
between that and Beavis and Butt-Head. So, yeah, there’s definitely a
connection there.

GROSS: Yeah, let me explain the premise of "Idiocracy." The premise is that
evolution is kind of headed in a backwards direction: instead of people
becoming smarter, they're becoming stupider. And the reason why…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …is that all the kind of like smart, professional, educated people are
either not having babies or they're having babies late and they're having very
few babies. And all the stupid people don’t even know whether they're using
birth control or not. And they're just like having babies right and left and
not educating them particularly well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: And then so like the world is taken over by people who are not smart.
And, as part of the setup, there's somebody, played by Luke Wilson, who
participates in this military - this secret military experiment to be put into
hibernation for a year. But the experiment goes terribly wrong and he is in
hibernation for 500 years. And when he emerges from hibernation, everybody is
just, like incredibly dumb.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So let me play a scene here after he gets out of hibernation and he's in
this new world where everybody's incredibly dumb, including all the leaders of
the country.

(Soundbite of movie, "Idiocracy")

Mr. LUKE WILSON (Actor): (as Joe Bauers) Hey wait a minute. I 'm the smartest
guy in the world? Says who?

Mr. DAVID HERMAN (Actor): (as Secretary of State) That IQ test you took in
prison. You got the highest score in history. Brought to you by Carl's Junior.

Mr. BRENDAN HILL (Actor): (as Secretary Energy) Yeah, dumbass. You’re even
smarter than President Camacho. That's how come he's making you Secretary of

Mr. WILSON: (as Joe Bauers) Okay, so who are you?

Mr. HILL: (as Secretary Energy) I'm the Secretary Energy.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) He won a contest, got to be a cabinet
member. I'm the Secretary of State. Brought to you by Carl's Junior.

Mr. WILSON: (as Joe Bauers) Why do you keep saying that?

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) Because they pay me every time I do. It's a
really good way to make money.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) You’re so smart why don’t you know, that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) He's the Secretary Defense.

Mr. ANTHONY CAMPOS (Actor): (as Secretary of Defense) Ha.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Secretary of State) And fun bags over there is the attorney

Unidentified Woman: And that's secretary of education.

Mr. ANTHONY CAMPOS (Actor): (as Secretary of Defense) Shut up stupid, Vice
President Camacho's step-brother. Still, that's a pretty good job, hey?

Mr. WILSON: (as Joe Bauers) You know, I think there's been some kind of mistake
because the test I took was real, real easy. I am not the smartest guy in the
world. Okay?

GROSS: That's a scene from my guest Mike Judge's film "Idiocracy," which is on
DVD. It came out in 2006 starring Luke Wilson.

I'm sure that this movie must be based on your thoughts that people around you
seem to be getting less intelligent. So…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …can you give us some examples of like the frustrations you were
experiencing at the time you wrote this that led to the fear…

Mr. JUDGE: Well…

GROSS: …that we're evolving backwards when it comes to intelligence?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Sure. Yeah. I had the idea while I was writing the "Beavis and Butt-
Head" movie. I guess I was just thinking about evolution and now that there's
no predators and everybody survives - where would it go? But, so I'd written
down something about this idea. And then it was in 2001, I was at Disneyland
and I was waiting in line at the Alice in Wonderland ride with my daughter and
somebody - or both daughters I guess - and somebody behind me had a stroller
and 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 you ass and I’ll - and I was just sitting there
thinking wow, the Disneyland of that was envisioned…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …way back in the ‘50s and - to right now. And then I started
thinking of, you know, it’s the year 2001. What if, you know, I loved the movie
"2001," but I thought what if instead of that movie it was just like a movie
about “The Jerry Springer Show" and the giant Wal-Marts…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …and what if they had really actually gotten it right? And, so I
thought I would take, you know, from those ‘50s sci-fi movies to now and just
kind of go out another 500 years on that progression.

GROSS: So Luke Wilson, who comes out of hibernation and is intelligent and
surrounded by all these really kind of like dumb people, they all call him,
they all call his style of speaking faggotty(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: He can actually - he actually knows a lot of words and you can
understand what he's saying.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I thought that was really funny.

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah. I remember when I was in junior high, which was just downright
scary - I mean, I was actually like afraid I was going to get stabbed every

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: I remember just answering a question in class, I don’t know, like in
math class or something and saying yeah, oh I know the - raise my hand. I know
the answer and it's a blah, blah, blah, and you know, being articulate and
saying it, you know, and just hearing someone behind me go, fag.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And, you know, like I was also thinking okay, all those people in
junior high who wanted to beat me up because I got answers right on quizzes and
stuff. What if they were just all running the world, you know? What if that's
all you had? And yeah, that's why I had stuff like, just seeing airplanes
crashing in the background and the, you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …just seeing everything go to hell and…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: So yeah, it was a - I guess it’s a - I guess it's kind of a dark
vision but it's, I don’t know. I thought it was pretty funny. I also thought
Luke was great. Part of the reason - that's part of the reason I made the movie
was Luke Wilson wanted to do it. And I did a rewrite with imagining him doing
it and it was just kind of, it kind of started to come alive a little more. I
love seeing him in disbelief, you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …I like seeing him react to stuff. He has a real funny way of doing
that. And also it just seemed like the perfect guy to play somebody who's in a
current world, present world just very average, but…

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JUDGE: …you know, see him be the smartest guy around…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …and not believe that he's the smartest guy around and not know what
to do with that and…

GROSS: I should mention in this film too, like, everybody is supersized.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Like they're not only not bright but they're really big.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah.

GROSS: Because that's what everybody eats. It's just a - it’s a total fast food

Now, so our listeners don’t get the wrong idea, I should mention that you’re
also part of the ABC series, I think now the late ABC series "The Goode Family"
which satirized a liberal, you know, family that tries to be politically
correct in, you know, in terms of, you know, being green and they listen to

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: I think so. Yeah, we have…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: Yes. We have an episode where they get an NPR affiliate actually.

GROSS: Right. Lets' get a clip in and - even if it's not on TV it is on the

Mr. JUDGE: Oh. Okay.

GROSS: So here’s the scene from “The Goode Family.” You play the father of the
family and…

Mr. JUDGE: Yes.

GROSS: …the son has just walked into the house.

(Soundbite of TV show, “The Goode Family”)

Mr. DAVID HERMAN (Actor): (as Ubuntu) I ran all the way home from school. I
can’t wait to hear what today’s project was going to be.

Ms. NANCY CARELL (Actress): (as Helen) Actually kids, starting today, your
father and I are going to be teaching the arts to students at PS-146. So, you
two are going be on your own for a few hours every day after school.

Ms. LINDA CARDELLINI (Actress): (as Bliss) What?

Mr. HERMAN: (as Ubuntu) What? But I always do projects after school with you

Ms. CARELL: (as Helen) You’ll be fine.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Ubuntu) I would do Trail Scouts but you guys said the
religiously biased and notoriously homophobic.

Mr. JUDGE: (As Gerald) See, we’ve taught you well.

Ms. CARELL: (as Helen) And these average kids need some of the care enough to
teach them about homophobic service groups.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (as Bliss) Absolutely.

Mr. HERMAN: (as Ubuntu) Well, what am I ‘posed to do?

Ms. CARELL: (as Helen) You’ll find something. Go online. That’s where young
teens find all the fun.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: That’s a scene from “The Goode Family,” the ABC Series. My guest Mike
Judge is a co-creator of the series and does the voice of the father. Compare
the voice that you do for the father in “The Goode Family,” to Hank Hill in
“King of the Hill.”

Mr. JUDGE: Well, I hope they’re very different. I was - you know, it’s kind of
a – it’s similar to a voice I did on “Beavis and Butt-Head” of the hippie
teacher. And I was, you know, I used to be a musician. I played with this old
blind black guy, Sam Myers. He is a great singer, harmonica player who had
written blues songs. He’d - like Eric Clapton, had done a couple of his songs
in the 60s. And I was touring with this guy and I just remember somebody
interviewing him out in California, here - a blues society, they had this blues
society’s guy - and he’s just… You know, Sam is sitting there, trying to get
something to eat actually because we were kind of had a break before we were
gonna play. And this guy is – just starts interviewing and saying…

Sam, it must’ve been wonderful for you having grownup in the deep South to be
able to share some of your culture with Europe and experience some of their
culture is well.

Mr. JUDGE: And…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …Sam was just sitting there. When he got irritated, his eyeballs
would kind of – jiggle back and forth and he kind of said, yeah, Brother Judge,
they got any food up in here?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And I don’t know if that imitation sounds like that guy. But I kind
of developed this thing. We’d be on the bus and the bus had a CB Radio. This
was back in 1989 or ’90 and people still used CB Radios. And the truckers would
just be cussing each other out and just very like red neck guys, like almost
getting into fights on the CB Radio and I would go on and I would just say,
breaker one nine…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …I’m here on…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …I-10. I’m looking for…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: … you know, I-35. I’m looking for a…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …nice vegetarian restaurant somewhere near Norman, Oklahoma. Could
anybody help me out?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And actually that – once a guy comes back. He says, you got a death
wish, buddy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: And a…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Oh, gosh.


GROSS: That’s not real funny in a way, you know?

Mr. JUDGE: …so…

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. JUDGE: …I guess. I mean, I – but that was - I…

GROSS: And you’ll be scarier if you really were that guy. You…

Mr. JUDGE: Yeah, I’d be scarier, if - yeah…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …if anybody could track it down on a CB Radio.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JUDGE: I – yeah, you can be a lot more cowardly with CB Radios and…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JUDGE: …you can – with phones nowadays. But I think I kind of developed
that character that kind of, you know, offshoots of that - different versions
of that when I was way back then before I had even started doing animation.

GROSS: It’s really been fun to talk with you. Thank you so much, Mike Judge.

Mr. JUDGE: Likewise, thank you.

GROSS: Mike Judge wrote and directed the new movie “Extract.” It opens Labor
Day weekend. This is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
New Lost City Ramblers Look Back At 50 Years


Few groups get to achieve a 50th anniversary, but the pioneering American folk
trio - the New Lost City Ramblers got to do just that this year. The release of
a three-disc commemorative set by Smithsonian Folkways Records, though, was
darkened by the death on the evening of August 7th, of co-founder Mike Seeger,
one of America’s greatest folklorists. Our rock historian Ed Ward, one of many
who was profoundly influenced by the Ramblers, has this tribute to Seeger and
the band.

(Soundbite of music)

ED WARD: Mike Seeger was born in 1933, the son of folklorist Charles Seeger and
his composer wife Ruth Crawford Seeger, who had transcribed field recordings
her husband made, like this one, of The Rich Family, into standard notation.
Mike, like his sister Peggy and older step-brother Pete, grew up imbued with
this stuff. And before long, he was playing it and exploring the techniques
these traditional musicians used.

(Soundbite of music)

WARD: While doing this, he met others who had the same interests, including
John Cohen, a photographer and film student who had been introduced to folk
music by his family; and Tom Paley, a Yale-trained mathematician and banjo
wizard. After some informal playing and swapping of repertoire, they burst onto
the New York folk scene with an album for Folkways Records in 1959, bearing
only the name of their group, The New Lost City Ramblers. The album was an
immediate sensation, selling hundreds of copies, which was a sensation for this
sort of thing back then. Many folk fans were astonished to hear rare old
records come to life, both on vinyl and in the concerts The Ramblers started

Others were more discerning, realizing that while the Ramblers were guided by
the old music’s template, they were actually adding their own ideas to
performances. Others, like me, had just never heard anything like it and got

(Soundbite of song, “Battleship of Maine”)

Mr. TOM PALEY (Singer): (Singing) McKinley called for volunteers. I went and
got my gun. First Spaniard I saw coming. I dropped my gun and run. It was all
about that Battleship of Maine. At war with that great nation Spain. When I get
back from Spain I want to honor my name. It was all about that Battleship of

(Soundbite of music)

Why are you running? Are you afraid to die? The reason that I’m running is
because I cannot fly. It was all about that Battleship of Maine. The blood was

WARD: “Battleship of Maine,” sung here by Tom Paley, shows one of the Ramblers’
virtues. They weren’t entirely dependent on traditional material. The original
of this had been recorded by someone called Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log
Rollers and it was obviously a showbiz tune, albeit Southern showbiz. Rik

Elswit, a budding L.A. guitarist who’d been thinking of joining a Kingston Trio
like folk band, saw them at that city’s Ash Grove folk club and said they were
so faithful to the old 78s they learned from, you could almost hear the
scratches. But they never lost sight of the reason the music existed in the
first place - fun. I envy Rik because I never got to see The Ramblers.

They weren’t making a lot of money. And Seeger had a job with the Smithsonian,
Cohen made industrial films, and in 1962, right when I was getting interested,
Tom Paley got an offer he couldn’t refuse from Cambridge University in England
and moved there to continue his research. Eventually, though, another multi-
instrumentalist named Tracy Schwarz joined Seeger and Cohen. And The Ramblers’
focus changed slightly. Schwarz had grown up partially in rural Pennsylvania
and knew his way around country music, including a genre regarded with some
suspicion by folkies, called bluegrass. Bluegrass, many purists thought, was
commercial, which was ironic. In 1963, great bluegrass musicians like Bill
Monroe, Earl Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers were all but starving.

To The Ramblers, the continuity between the old-style stuff they’d been playing
and bluegrass was obvious. And without abandoning the older stuff, they now had
a rich new seam to explore.

(Soundbite of song, “Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake”)

THE NEW LOST CITY RAMBLERS (Folk Group): (Singing) Our darling wandered far
away while she was out at play. Lost in the woods she couldn't hear a sound.
She was our darling girl the sweetest thing in all the world. We searched for
her but she couldn’t be found. I heard the screams of a little girl far away.
Hurry Daddy there’s and awful dreadful snake. I ran as fast as I could through
the dark and dreary woods. But I reached our darling girl too late.

WARD: The band toured whenever they could and recorded prolifically for
Folkways. I’ve never heard a bad album from them. Their shows are legendary for
their onstage banter.

Unidentified Man #1: This was recorded back in the late 20s, while it wasn’t
recorded actually. The guys who were going to record it lost their way on the
way to the recording studio.

Unidentified Man #2: Actually it wasn’t a studio and maybe that was the

Unidentified Man #1: That’s right. They couldn’t find the studio because there
wasn’t one. But this was the song that we’ve recorded that they’ve gotten

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man: …they say was the studio. But we’ve found the old ledger
sheets, that’s (unintelligible) discographic research and found ledger sheets
and found that they were blank for that day. But there were little marking. So
we rubbed graphite into this little indentations and found out what would have
been on that sheet if the pencil hadn’t broken. And from that we’ve put
together a clear picture of what their intentions were. So, we’ve transcribed
those intentions and this is the song. What key is it in?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

WARD: Eventually, The New Lost City Ramblers’ message got out. American
traditional music wasn’t a monolith. Some of it was as old as humanity and some
wasn’t even as old as your dad. And it was for entertaining, not just for
studying. In the 1980s, a new generation of folkies picked up the message and
ran with it, which was good because the three Ramblers by then had substantial
careers and families, and one hears, weren’t getting along too well. But they
did realize one thing. Their final album recorded during a 1997 reunion was
called “There Ain’t No Way Out.” Once a Rambler, always a Rambler. One of Mike
Seeger’s last albums, though, typified the larger effect the three individuals

It’s called “Southern Banjo Sounds: An Anthology of Style and Technique.” And
its back cover notes that it’s a survey of techniques, styles, instrumentals
and songs played on 23 mostly vintage banjos. There are 24 pages of notes, some
technical, and photographs of each of the banjos used. I play it now and again.
It’s fun.

GROSS: Ed Ward lives in the South of France. The Ramblers’ three-disk set is on
Smithsonian Folkways Records.

I’m Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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