Saturday night at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica provided a bit of catharsis for the long-suffering fans of Mike Judge. Not only did his new comedy “Extract” play like gangbusters to the packed house — an unusual feeling after the mishandled theatrical releases of “Office Space” and “Idiocracy” — but Judge also indulged the crowd by slipping in and out of the voices of his most popular characters during a post-screening discussion that quickly became a career retrospective.
“‘Beavis and Butthead’ is still probably my favorite thing that I’ve ever done,” Judge said during the 45-minute audience Q&A, before adding that he hasn’t closed the door on possibly returning to them. “I can imagine them in their 60s — in between, not so much,” he said, mentioning that he recently found himself starting to write “something about them as tech support guys.”
There were also plenty of “Idiocracy” fans in the house — “Extract” was actually one of five ideas that Judge had pitched to Fox post-“Office Space.” After the idea of another workplace comedy seemed like “poison,” the studio backed Judge’s futuristic satire, thinking it was the most commercial bet. He came up with “Idiocracy” while making “Beavis and Butthead Do America,” when he took his kids to Disneyland and stood in back of a harried mother being cussed out by her offspring, and wondered if this is what Walt Disney envisioned when he built the park. Judge also detailed the test screening process, saying it scored low as “Office Space” did, possibly because the effects weren’t complete, and surmised that Fox brass decided, “What did we do wrong on ‘Office Space’? We spent money marketing it.”
At that point, Judge said he was pretty much kept in the dark, citing how no one bothered to correct Moviefone when “Idiocracy” received a minimal release and they listed the film under the letter “U” for “Untitled Mike Judge Project” instead of the proper title. Until he saw an ad on Comedy Central, he was unaware they were airing it. On a positive note, he says he’s heard “Office Space” has sold close to six million DVDs — “I think it made enough money they even started sending me checks” — and even “Idiocracy” is inching into the black.
If the audience’s reaction to “Extract” was any indication, Judge won’t have to wait as long for his latest film to be billed as a success, though he still had to face plenty of questions about why he’s interested in writing about human failings. On why he’s attracted to writing about asses of the dumb and hole varieties, Judge said that he realized on a third viewing of “Badlands” that Martin Sheen’s Kit was a moron and was fascinated by him, and proved his point by breaking into a haughty British accent for an overly detailed threat to someone versus some hick saying “I’m going to take your car, how’d that be?” When the question was paraphrased by another audience member into a form of praise for his portrayal of jerks, Judge joked, “I’m on a mission to categorize all kinds of assholes and document them for all time.”
[Photo: Mike Judge on the set of “Extract,” Miramax Films, 2009]