Pop culture’s most recognizable duo of dolts was actually created in the intellectual hub of UC San Diego.
Mike Judge studied physics there from 1980 to 1985, but was often more interested in drawing caricatures than taking notes about electromagnetism and quantum mechanics.
“I used to draw a lot in notebooks when I was at UCSD,” the creator of “Beavis & Butt-Head” told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2006. “Also, a couple of my roommates for a while were in the UCSD communications department, in the film and TV program. And I also worked over there at the media center, doing a little tech job. So I was around that a little while.”
Judge — who was born in Ecuador and raised in New Mexico — said he had a love-hate relationship with school that he characterized as “maybe 15 percent love.” During college, he also worked at the UCSD cafeteria and Landmark La Jolla Village Theatres (demolished in 2015) as well as playing bass in the Blonde Bruce Band.
While “Beavis and Butt-Head” were partly modeled after classmates from Judge’s Albuquerque high school, he also cited a pair of boys he met while living in Mira Mesa as an inspiration.
“There were kids in the neighborhood who occasionally would just sneak into our backyard,” he recalled. “There was a kid who was called Iron Butt, because you could kick him in the butt as hard as you wanted. I didn’t, but a lot of kids did. And he had a friend my roommate started calling Butt-head at some point.”
After graduating from UCSD in 1985, Judge found employment at a Bay Area government contractor, where he worked on test systems for F-18 fighter jets. Feeling guilty, he said, about “working on bringing death to people,” he moved to Texas, where he played bass full-time in the blues-rock band Anson and the Rockets, and started expanding his doodles into animated short films as a hobby.
“Beavis & Butt-Head” grew out of a two-minute 1991 short called “Frog Baseball.” Featuring both Beavis and Butt-Head, it was included in that year’s “Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation,” first screened at the Sherwood Auditorium in La Jolla. Shortly thereafter, it got its big break airing on MTV’s “Liquid Television” program.
Premiering as its own MTV show on March 8, 1993, “Beavis & Butt-Head” gleefully devoured the hand that fed it. Its titular imbeciles brutalized many of MTV’s most popular music videos, and especially their stars.
“Hey Butt-Head, remember when these guys were cool?” Beavis asked his co-hort while they watched a Bon Jovi clip together.
“No,” Butt-Head replied.
Most recording artists were ambivalent. They hated being poked fun of, but loved the immense exposure that came with being featured in the show.
Eventually, the cartoon ne’er-do-wells disgraced the covers of both Rolling Stone and TIME magazines. They spawned their own hit movie, 1996’s “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.” And they gave Judge the freedom to create the 1999 movie “Office Space,” the FOX-TV animated series “King of the Hill” and HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” which begins airing its sixth and final season Oct. 27.
All because of some doodles drawn by someone not paying attention at UCSD.