Q&A: Mike Judge


There's bad reception in Mike Judge's Austin home, so when he calls from "half a block away," his interviewer can hear the Texas wind blowing through the speaker. These days, Judge is wandering a bit from his home turf in another way. As his animated Fox series "King of the Hill" wraps its 13-season run, he's executive producing and voicing a lead role in ABC's "The Goode Family," which premieres tonight. And his latest live-action feature film, "Extract," is prepping for a Labor Day release.

The Hollywood Reporter: How do you feel about "King of the Hill" coming to a close?

Mike Judge: It's come to an end a few times now, so whatever feelings were there I have kind of been through. We're still working on it; there are still some episodes I have to record (my voice) for. So maybe it hasn't sunk in yet. But I'm fine with the show stopping. It's better to go out when I think it's still pretty good, and it's been an amazing run.

THR: You have a bachelor's degree in physics. In a way, it's interesting that you got into animation -- one field where you can ignore the rules of physics.

Judge: Well, you do have to follow some rules of physics. Michael Jordan didn't need to study projectile physics to know how to play ball. With animation, if a drawing just stops suddenly it doesn't look right to the eye, but you don't have to know about natural motion to know that. I'm from the old school: When I started out I didn't own a computer; I had a Bolex 16mm camera,

I was doing all the drawings and exposure sheets, and stopwatches were my tools. I was going to do claymation originally, and I was hoping a sketch-comedy show would hire me as a Terry Gilliam, writing and making some short films. I didn't expect to get my own animated series. I really don't draw very well.

THR: You tell stories about similar men: Hank Hill works in propane; there's the drones of "Office Space" (1999); and now Jason Bateman, who works in an extract factory in your new feature, "Extract." What interests you about these people?

Judge: I've had a ton of jobs. I used to read Harvey Pekar ("American Splendor") comics, and he said, "Everyday life has a huge effect on people." A friend of mine worked in a parts warehouse a while back, and he'd tell me about these people he worked with, and it was hilarious. Then I would remember jobs I've had in that environment -- I've worked in factory settings -- and it just seemed like an area of comedy nobody's doing much with. Maybe that's why I'm drawn to it.

THR: One of your other films, "Idiocracy" (2006), deals with the de-evolution of man in the future. Do you ever look around and think, "Gosh, that turned out to be a prescient picture."

Judge: I took what was already out there and exaggerated it. I guess it is coming true.

THR: A review of that film at the time said it showed "a combination of scathing humor and barely concealed rage" on your part. Are you an angry guy?

Judge: With the second engineering job I had, I was an angry guy. I used to be an angry person, so I can still tap into that. I don't feel like I am anymore -- at least, I hope not.