Beavis and Butt-Head are back! The iconic animated duo returned to Comedy Central and Paramount Plus in the form of a reboot in 2022, with a second season airing in 2023.
This new series is produced by Mike Judge, the creator of the original Beavis and Butt-head show, which ran from 1993 to 1997. This article discusses the origins of Beavis and Butt-head, their controversy, and how they became such pop culture icons. We will also look at the reboot, including who is cast in the show.
The Origins of Beavis and Butt-Head
Beavis and Butt-head are perhaps the most iconic characters of MTV’s animated lineup. The two brain-dead teenagers were created by Mike Judge, who also voiced them on the show. Beavis and Butt-head first appeared in 1992 in the short film Frog Baseball. The film was later included as part of the Beavis and Butt-head volume of Liquid Television, an experimental animation anthology series.
In 1993, Beavis and Butt-head got their own spinoff series, which quickly became one of MTV’s highest-rated shows. The show followed the misadventures of the two teenage friends, who often engaged in crude antics. Beavis is distinguished by his high-pitched giggle and sugar attacks (which breeds his alter ego Cornholio), while Butt-head is known for his slow-wittedness and monotone voice.
Despite their low intelligence, the pair often find themselves in situations that result in violence or property damage. Beavis and Butt-head would watch videos on TV, insult them with their trademark wit, eat lots of nachos, and do things many teenagers invested in. Beavis and Butt-head proved to be popular with MTV’s teenage audience, and the show ran for four seasons before being canceled in 1997.
In the show’s final episode of its original run, the school speculates that Beavis and Butt-head are dead as they have been missing from school for an extended period. This leads the faculty to celebrate that their torment from the duo may finally be over. But, of course, in typical Beavis and Butt-head fashion, they were just home all along. In 2011, Beavis and Butt-head returned to MTV with an unsuccessful reboot which was canceled after a single season.
Main Beavis and Butt-Head Characters
The following recurring characters frequently appear on the show:
- Mike Judge as Beavis, Butt-Head, Coach Buzzcut, Principal McVicker, Mr. Van Driessen, Tom Anderson, among others
- Tracy Grandstaff as Daria Morgendorffer
- Adam Welsh as Stewart Stevenson
Are Beavis and Butt-Head based on real people?
In an interview done by John Kricfalusi (creator of Ren and Stimpy), Mike Judge claimed that he got the names of the characters from people he encountered in real life:
JOHN: How’d you come up with the names?
MIKE: It wasn’t his name, but when I was in college a twelve-year-old kid next door called himself Iron Butt. They all called him Iron Butt because supposedly you could kick him in the butt as hard as you wanted and it wouldn’t hurt him. He’d demonstrate this. He’d stick his butt out and kids would line up and just whack! kick him in the butt and he’d say, “See, it doesn’t hurt.”
JOHN: Did anyone ever cheat? Put a nail in their boot or something?
MIKE: [Laughing] Yeah, I did. I taught him a lesson. His parents were … he had a single mother and she was just never around, and he’d be at our house, he’d sneak into our house, he’d be in the backyard, he burned down the tree in front of the house once. He was just a maniac and his parents weren’t around. His friend, actually, we called Butt-Head, even though that wasn’t his name. Then there was a kid in the neighborhood about three blocks away, his name was Bobby Beavis.
JOHN: Uh-oh, he’s going to rear his head up and sue you or something.
MIKE: He wasn’t anything like Beavis. I just liked the name. And he was sort of an athletic guy. He was just like a guy people thought was cool. There was this kid I knew who used to always just say, “Yeah, man, Beavis is cool.” Out of the blue, he’d say that from time to time. It’s so weird when I think about it. When I did the first B&B cartoon, I’d drawn them before I named them, I was just thinking, What am I going to name these guys? I almost didn’t name Butt-Head “Butt-Head.” I came real close to calling him something else.
I can’t remember what it was, but I put the storyboard down and came back to it like two weeks later and saw that I had written “Butt-Head” next to the picture, and it kind of made me laugh and I thought, Well, might as well go for every laugh you can get. It was really weird, when this thing started, to hear lawyers and MTV people calling me and actually saying “Butt-Head.” People tried to avoid it too. Someone would say, “Yeah, this Beavis and … uh … uhh,” hoping I would save them: “and Butt-Head.” I’d just let them dangle. “Beavis and what?”
How Old Are Beavis and Butt-Head?
While their ages have never been verified, the duo are Freshmen in High School, placing their ages anywhere between 15-17.
Beavis and Butt-Head Controversy
Despite its popularity, the show was the subject of much controversy due to its perceived glorification of violence and juvenile behavior. In addition, some have criticized the show for its sexist and misogynistic humor. Some people argued that the show was crude and offensive and encouraged terrible behavior among its young viewers. Beavis and Butt-Head were even blamed for several violent incidents in the 1990s.
Beavis and Butt-Head: Inspiring Child Violence, Or Just Bad Parenting?
In 1993 when five-year-old Austin Messner set fire to his family’s mobile home, killing his two-year-old sister Jessica Matthews, the victim’s mother blamed the TV show. The children’s mother alleged that Austin watched an episode of the show featuring fire and was compelled to commit arson. Whether this is true is up for debate, as neighbors of the family claimed they did not have cable.
Nonetheless, all references to fire were erased from the show in future airings, with some master tapes even permanently being altered. The writers would poke fun at this, having Beavis say words that sounded close to the offending word or stop short of saying “fire,” but ultimately, the uncensored versions only exist in bootleg form.
In another incident, Natalia Rivera (eight months) was killed by a bowling ball dropped from an overpass by 18-year-old Calvin Settle. Like Austin Messner, Beavis and Butt-Head were again blamed for this act, despite the defendant not having cable television.
Ultimately, as with any violent media (video games, movies, etc.), it is the popular choice to blame entertainment over finding other root causes (mental illness, lousy upbringing). As the show says, “Beavis and Butt-Head are not role models. They’re not even human. They’re cartoons. Some of the things they do would cause a person to get hurt, expelled, arrested, possibly deported.”
Cartoons, much like video games, don’t make people violent.
Beavis and Butt-Head Movies
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was a 1996 American animated road comedy film based on the MTV television series Beavis and Butt-Head. The film was directed by series creator Mike Judge and starred the regular television cast of Beavis and Butt-Head. It also included Robert Stack in a highly memorable comedic role as Agent Fleming. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore also played leading roles in the movie.
This was the first theatrical Beavis and Butt-Head feature. In the film, Beavis and Butt-Head start on a quest to find a television after their TV is stolen, running into Muddy Grimes, who mistakes the duo for hired assassins.
Muddy enlists the boy to “do” (kill) his wife. Our intrepid team, hilariously misunderstanding the order, set off to find his wife with the expectation they’re going to ‘score.’ Many memorable moments occur throughout their travels, including sabotaging the Hoover Dam, causing a massive pileup on the interstate, and being mistaken for terrorists in the White House. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was generally well-received by movie critics and scored 70%.
New Beavis and Butt-Head Movie
A second film debuted on Paramount+ in 2022 called Beavis and Butt-Head Do The Universe. The official plot synopsis is below:
“In perhaps the dumbest space movie ever made, Beavis and Butt-Head were sentenced to Space Camp by a ‘creative’ judge in 1998. Their obsession with a docking simulator (huh huh) leads to a trip on the Space Shuttle, with predictably disastrous results.
After going through a black hole, they reemerge in our time, where they look for love, misuse iPhones, and are hunted by the Deep State. Spoiler: They don’t score.” Reviews of the film reboot were overwhelmingly positive — much more than Beavis and Butt-Head Do America — scoring a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
In addition to their regular episodes, Beavis and Butt-Head also starred in several extended TV specials. These include the Halloween special Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest, the Christmas special Huh-Huh Humbug, and the Thanksgiving special Beavis and Butt-Head Do Thanksgiving. Each of these specials is a hilarious and irreverent take on traditional holiday programming.
In Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest, for instance, Beavis and Butt-Head attempt to go trick or treating and are advised they cannot do so because they are too old. Beavis sneaks into Tom Anderson’s home and eats his bowl of candy, turning into Cornholio. Butt-Head gets kidnapped by Todd, Beavis gets hung up like a scarecrow and lots of hijinks ensue.
New Beavis and Butt-Head Episodes
After being off the air for over a decade, Beavis and Butt-Head made their triumphant return to television in 2011. The new series followed Beavis and Butt-Head as they navigated the modern world, making hilariously astute observations about pop culture along the way. The show was a massive hit with fans old and new, but its ratings ultimately diminished, and MTV did not pick it up for another season.
However, proving that you can’t keep Beavis and Butt-Head down, the boys returned once more on Paramount+. Much like the premise of Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, the new series shows Beavis and Butt-Head as they attempt to navigate a Gen-Z world.
As of late 2023, Paramount+ had not announced a renewal beyond the new series’ original planned two-season run.
Beavis And Butt-Head in Other Media
Beavis and Butt-Head have appeared in other media since their breakout success on MTV in the early ’90s. In addition to their cartoon series, the duo has also been featured in comic books by Marvel’s Absurd label, video games, and music albums. Perhaps one of their most famous appearances was their duet with Cher on a remake of the famous Sonny and Cher duet “I Got You, Babe”.
Beavis and Butt-Head appeared alongside the famous singer in the music video, with the video being directed by Tamra Davis and Yvette Kaplan. The duo also made an appearance in AC/DC’s live concerts during their Ballbreaker tour. In recent years, Beavis and Butt-Head have continued to appear in various forms of media, cementing their place as pop culture icons.
Even if you’ve never seen an episode of Beavis and Butt-Head, their legacy is felt in many of the shows you see today. While the duo was often engaged in childish hijinks, they also provided a sharp and often irreverent commentary on popular culture. In many ways, Beavis and Butt-Head were ahead of their time, and their legacy continues to influence pop culture today.
From South Park to Family Guy to Rick and Morty, many of today’s animated shows owe a debt to Beavis and Butt-Head. The show also helped to launch the career of its creator, Mike Judge. Since Beavis and Butt-Head went off the air, Judge has gone on to create some of the most successful animated shows of all time, including Beavis and Butt-Head’s spiritual successor, King of the Hill, the short-lived series The Goode Family, and the HBO series Silicon Valley.