Mike Judge on His “Nerd Cred,” His New HBO Show and How He’s Never Doing Another Network Show
In case you did not know, Mike Judge — the man responsible for such wicked comedies as “Office Space,” “Beavis & Butt-Head” and “King of the Hill” — is a geek.
Really — he was an engineer in Silicon Valley in the late 1980s, which was the basis for his new, widely anticipated HBO show. And, of course, it’s called “Silicon Valley,” which Judge created with John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky.
Premiering on April 6 on the premium cable network, it’s described thusly: “In the high-tech gold rush of modern Silicon Valley, the people most qualified to succeed are the least capable of handling success.”
Indeed, and Judge talked about what that meant in an onstage interview with Peter Kafka at the Code/Media event in Santa Monica, Calif., tonight, where he said that he had been interested in portraying the tech scene for more than a decade.
“Look at these [tech] billionaires … they are introverted and socially awkward and no one is saying no to them,” he said. “It’s kind of perfect for comedy.”
Still, Judge said he and his team put a lot of research into making the show a realistic depiction of the digerati, especially since it had been done so badly by Hollywood in the past.
“[It was just] a bunch of underweight models spouting tech talk,” he said, noting that was hardly an accurate depiction. The movie “The Social Network,” about Facebook’s early history, was one of the few that got it right, Judge said.
Judge said that as he was shooting “Silicon Valley,” life actually imitated art. One episode of the show includes a fictional company called NipAlert, for example. Not long after shooting that episode, Judge stumbled across a similar joke app — called TitStare — onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
“You can’t call it satire when you are showing it like it is,” observed Judge.
As to the changing entertainment landscape, Judge said he no longer has any interest in working with big networks that tend to meddle in the creative process.
“I was over it a long time ago,” he said, referring to idiotic notes he got on “King of the Hill.” “I thought, Fox made $1 billion off this — are they still going to harass me? It was just a miserable experience.”
HBO, Judge noted, has been hands off, without doing endless focus groups and testing. “I don’t like being market-driven,” he said. “It always makes you do something that does not make sense.”
Discussing his own “nerd cred,” Judge said he has been surprisingly slow to use the Internet’s latest tools. No Snapchat, Whisper, Secret — all Los Angeles-based startups. But he has been using Twitter more.
“My daughter said I had to get on Twitter,” he said. “I think it’s cool.”
Someone in the audience asked Judge what he would do if he was just starting out.
“I would have been putting stuff on YouTube,” he said, but added that versions of that had happened before. “Things did go viral 25 years ago, just slower.”
Another questioner asked why he even bothered with the Hollywood machine, pointing out that Judge could launch something on his own and “make things happen.”
Pausing, he said, “I should probably think more that way.”
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