Twenty-five years ago this week, one of the most remarkable works of art in the Western canon emerged, shedding light on the big questions of life, and the very nature of existence itself. We’re talking, of course, about Beavis and Butt-head, which aired its first episode on MTV on March 8, 1993. Huh-huh, huh-huh.
Based on Real People
Horrifyingly, the two main characters are based on real people…or at least their names are. When he was in college, Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge lived next door to an ill-behaved 12-year-old who called himself “Iron Butt,” because he said he couldn’t feel any pain in his rear end. He had a friend known only as “Butt-head,” and the two of them used to hang out with another kid named Bobby Beavis, who, like TV’s Beavis, had a high-pitched, cackling laugh.
Just two weeks after Beavis and Butt-head debuted, MTV pulled it from its schedule. Not because it was unpopular—because it was too popular. Ratings were so high, and the network wanted more episodes as quickly as possible, but Mike Judge and his small production staff couldn’t keep up with demand. Rather than burn out viewers by running the same episodes day after day, the show went on a six-week hiatus while Judge got to work.
The Colorful Title
The show has a colorful, and for 1993, semi-profane title. But lots of people still couldn’t get it right. That year, the U.S. Senate held a hearing on TV violence. South Carolina senator Fritz Hollings tried to make an example out of Beavis and Butt-head, or as he called it, “Buffcoat and Beaver.” Creator Mike Judge once received a voice mail from an offended viewer, who thought the name of the show was “Porky’s B*******.” (The man talked so fast and with such a thick Texas drawl that he inspired the character Boomhauer on Judge’s next cartoon series, King of the Hill.)
Good for Album Sales
Half of the show’s running time was consumed with Beavis and Butt-head watching and commenting on music videos. Rarely did the two not proclaim an artist to be either good or bad, and in real life, bands that Beavis or Butt-head said were “cool” noticed a bump in record sales. For example, they praised a video by heavy metal band White Zombie. Before it was featured on Beavis and Butt-head, the group’s 1992 album sold 75,000. Immediately after it was on the show, it sold more than 300,000.
The show’s ability to dictate album sales led to a compilation of songs inspired by the show called The Beavis and Butt-head Experience. It featured a hit single: a remake of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe,” but with Sonny Bono replaced by Butt-head.
The fact that Beavis and Butt-head being 25 years old might make you feel old, but consider this. The title characters were born in 1979. That means today, those quintessential idiot teenagers would be just about ready to turn 40.