Mike Judge first became famous for creating the crude and crudely drawn cartoon series Beavis and Butt-head (find complete episodes online here). The show was about two high school burnouts whose running commentary on the latest music videos was so boneheaded and baldly vulgar that you couldn’t help but laugh. Prissy culture warriors pointed to the show as yet another symptom of America’s decline while legions of stoned college students gleefully tuned in. In 1998, Judge made the jump to live action features with Office Space, a hilarious, if uneven, take on the banalities of American corporate culture. It’s one of those movies that no one saw in the theater but, thanks to cable, everyone of a certain age can quote. (“If you can come in on Saturday, that would be great.”) Currently, he is the creator for the hit HBO series Silicon Valley.
Judge started in animation after working for a spell as first a computer programmer and then a blues bassist. After seeing an animation cel on display in a local movie theater in 1989, he ran out and bought a Bolex 16mm camera and started making movies. Two years later, he was producing odd, thoroughly unpolished animated shorts that made the rounds in film festivals, eventually launching a career in Hollywood.
Above is a short about Milton, the nebbish stapler-obsessed cubicle dweller who was the genesis for Office Space. Stephen Root played him in the movie. His boss is the same passive-aggressive prick as in the movie though played with less unctuous zeal as Gary Cole’s performance. The short proved to be such a success that MTV’s Liquid Television ordered more.
Next is The Honky Problem, about an emotionally unbalanced country singer named ‘Inbred Jed.’ He wants you to know that he is really, really, really happy to be playing at a remote trailer parker populated by a bunch of characters out of a David Lynch movie. In fact, if it weren’t for the jokey voice over at the end, this short is creepy enough to almost pass for an episode of Lynch’s own animated series, Dumbland.
And there’s this short also from 1991 called simply Huh?, which pits the shrill against the oblivious.
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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.