In 1996, the series was spun off into an animated feature film, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.
The show centers on a pair of teenagers, Beavis and Butt-head, who live in the fictional town of Highland, Texas. They while away their time in sarcastic conversation, fantasizing about sex and masculinity, although they have no real-world experience with either thing. They attend Highland High (based on a real high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Judge grew up) and occasionally work at part-time jobs, putting as little effort as possible into everything they do. They survive their misadventures without serious consequences, and with a generally contented, though critical (not apathetic) worldview. During each episode, Beavis and Butt-head watch and make fun of two or three music videos.
| ||Has an underbite and a fixated stare on his face, which is almost always shown in profile. Beavis grunts when he laughs, has a grainy, guttural voice and has a penchant for picking his nose. The more excitable of the two, he is oblivious to the obvious and slightly nicer overall than Butt-head. He is often abused physically, either by Butt-head or various other characters whom he infuriates. He usually takes every beating and screams in pain before quickly reverting back to his trademark laugh. Before controversy erupted (see below) he exhibited an obsession with fire, as well as other psychotic tendencies (one episode showed that he has voices in his head telling him to engage in destructive activities); however, generally he has a passive demeanor in contrast to Butt-head's dominant personality. Beavis also has an alter ego named The Great Cornholio, who usually surfaces after he consumes large quantities of caffeine and/or sugar. Beavis was named after Bobby Beavis, a boy who lived in the same neighborhood as Mike Judge during Judge's time in college. Judge states, however, that it was only the name that he gave to Beavis, and that Bobby was nothing like Beavis at all.|
| ||Wears dental braces and has squinty eyes and a drooping nose with prominent nostrils. His top gums are often exposed due to a small upper lip, and he speaks nasally with a deep voice and a slight lisp. He begins almost every statement with "Uhhhhhh..." and ends with a short laugh. Calmer, and cockier. Butt-head is oblivious to subtleties, but is usually 100% confident in everything he says and does, no matter how ridiculous or frivolous it is. The designated "leader" of the duo, he derives pleasure from being regularly abusive to Beavis. Mike Judge got the idea for the name Butt-head from two people he knew during his childhood called "Iron Butt" (who would encourage people to kick him in the butt to demonstrate his strength) and "Butt-head".|
| ||The nearsighted, elderly neighbor of Beavis and Butt-head. He often hires them to do chores, which results in them destroying his yard, home, or personal belongings. Due to his poor eyesight and mild senility, he never seems to recognize the two and he never remembers their names. He served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War. His character is a big influence on the look and voice of the character Hank Hill from Judge's following series, King of the Hill as both were based on the same person from Judge's youth.|
| ||A teacher at Highland High School, and arguably the only person who cares about Beavis and Butt-head. Van Driessen is a devoted hippie with a forgiving nature and gentle demeanor. His repeated attempts to teach the duo useful life lessons typically end in disaster, as they almost always deduce the wrong message. He often plays songs on his acoustic guitar, which typically end in him being severely hurt, and in some cases almost killed. He has been shown teaching classes on biology, art, animation, economics, health, history, and literature, among others.|
| ||Another of the duo's high school teachers, and the antithesis of Van Driessen. Angry, impatient and short-tempered, Buzzcut is a veteran Marine and, with the possible exception of Principal McVicker, hates the duo more than any other character. He is shown substitute teaching regular classes, but usually teaches physical education. It has been implied that he has on occasion committed assault and battery against the duo, but he once defended them from an angry guest lecturer by saying "This is my class. I do the ass kicking around here!"|
| ||Principal of Highland High and, arguably, Beavis and Butt-head's arch-nemesis. The two have unintentionally ruined his life, and have driven him to the edge of insanity. Many episodes begin with Beavis and Butt-head in his office. They refer to him as "McDicker." He is known for constantly trembling out of anxiety over Beavis and Butt-head, their antics, and his inevitably futile attempts to punish them. In the series finale, Beavis and Butt-head Are Dead, upon hearing the news of Beavis's and Butt-head's "deaths", he stops trembling for the first time. When they show up to their own memorial services very much alive, he apparently suffers a heart attack and presumably dies.|
| ||Daria is a sarcastic, vaguely alt-rockerish, nerdy girl who attends Highland High with Beavis and Butt-head, and she is one of the few people who sees the two for what they truly are. While not above taking jabs at them for their lack of intelligence, she also offers help and advice from time to time, and probably respects them a little more than most do. The duo nicknamed her "Diarrhea" but once said she was cool after she asked President Clinton a pointed question during a school assembly. She eventually went on to star in her own spin-off series, Daria.|
| ||Todd is a twenty-something hoodlum who is rude, arrogant, and violent. Beavis and Butt-head look up to him and aspire to join his "gang". Todd despises the two, but will take advantage of them when he needs something, such as money, or a place to hide from other gangs or the police.|
| ||A nerdy, short kid who looks up to Beavis and Butt-head and believes they are his best friends. He typically wears a Winger shirt. Beavis and Butt-head actually think little of Stewart; they relate to him like Todd relates to them.|
At times, the criticism reflected their young age and ignorance of music history. Upon seeing a video by Black Sabbath, they decided that the band's vocalist couldn't be Ozzy Osbourne, because "Ozzy's an old fart!" Butt-head mistook their raw sound for grunge and inquired if they were from Seattle; Beavis replied "No, they're American," even though Seattle is located in Washington, one of the United States, and Black Sabbath's members were from England. During one episode, Butt-head remarked, "You know those asswipes The Beatles? Those guys ruined music." Similarly, the pair described Paul Simon as "that old dude from Africa who used to be in the Beatles." However, at other times they seemed almost respectful and willing to learn about music.
They showed a particular disdain for many generic 1980's hair bands (with the exception of Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, Van Halen and to a lesser extent, Aerosmith). Their epitome of "wuss bands" was Winger, of which Stewart was a big fan. They had no tolerance for new wave or electronic music (except for industrial music, and Devo's "Whip It"). Nu metal bands such as Korn were criticized for lacking originality (although this was only by Beavis when he was in a state of dizziness, he did claim however that they sound "kinda cool"). The duo were also very critical of death metal, particularly the vocal style of the genre, mocking it, and claiming that "it sounds like it would come out of Godzilla's butt".
Beavis and Butt-head had especially severe reactions when confronted with videos they found particularly awful. As soon as Butt-head realized he was watching a Michael Bolton video, he announced that he had soiled his pants. The famous pianist Yanni also earned a very harsh critique from the boys. Sometimes, while giving a harsh review for a video, the duo gives a review to another band or musician despite the video not belonging to them in the first place; this was the fate for Ace of Base while the boys were watching "Here We Go" by Stakka Bo. When confronted with Milli Vanilli's "Baby Don't Forget my Number," and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" the pair looked at one another in horror and without speaking a word changed the channel. This was perhaps the harshest commentary they ever gave a music video. The Europeans's video for "We Are Animals" was the most critically trashed by the duo, as Butt-head claimed, "This sucks more than anything I have ever seen." Another video that could make this claim was King Diamond's "The Family Ghost," in which Butt-head claimed, "This could be the worst crap I've ever seen in my life."
Even bands they liked were not spared. They were disappointed by an AC/DC video despite being fans of the group. Also, during a Metallica video, Butt-head comments, telling Lars Ulrich, "Sit down, Lars, and drum like you're supposed to!" Judas Priest's video for "Breaking The Law" also drew a negative reaction ("I like Priest and everything, but this sucks!"), despite the fact that Beavis and Butt-head sang the song itself numerous times throughout the series. Soundgarden's Spoonman also got a negative review, despite the pair being fans of the band. Beavis was annoyed that Soundgarden did not appear in the video, and Butt-head interpreted the lyric "all my friends are brown and red" as stating that the singer hated his friends, referring to them as "turds".
Beavis and Butt-head also shared a disdainful dislike of many bands from England, even dismissing legendary rock bands just upon their birthplace; While watching a Pink Floyd video, he claimed that they were "Just another bunch of wussies from England." Other bands, such as The Shamen and Blur, were mocked for their British accents. The duo also made fun of performers who were effeminate or androgynous, and often evinced disgust or fear towards notions of male homosexuality.
Beavis and Butt-Head seemed to be fans of most of the Seattle Grunge bands of the era; including Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam (but notably, they never viewed any Pearl Jam videos). Four videos by Alice in Chains and Soundgarden were featured on the show with notable praise from the duo, two Nirvana videos were also featured. Members of the Alice in Chains (most notably Sean Kinney) were fans of the show, and were flattered that the band received such a direct thumbs up from the show. Despite not understanding the lyrics to the Melvins "Hooch", they enjoyed it nonetheless. They even gave comical interpretations of what they thought the lyrics were such as "Done right like a belgy!", "Exit is my raging member, banging on a TV!", and "Like a steaming photographing on a wire relay in a state of!".
Both Beavis and Butt-head seemed excited in the Smashing Pumpkins's video Today when they saw the people "making out," when the band painted the ice cream truck, and when the band started throwing things at Billy Corgan, the lead singer. They even praised Radiohead, a band that is usually not regarded as the duo's type of music; Creep got a positive review because of its heavy guitar riffs, while they claimed they liked to mellow out to Fake Plastic Trees (they usually hated soft songs). Beavis was also excited over the Replacements video Bastards of Young, which ends with a stereo being destroyed. The duo showed favor towards the video for Milla Jovovich's The Gentleman Who Fell, from her album The Divine Comedy, though it may have been due to the fact that Jovovich appeared in various stages of undress throughout the video. One of the strangest and most unexpected positive reviews they ever gave was for Jive Talkin' by the Bee Gees, which they mistook for the Black Crowes (in the end, they realized they weren't the Black Crowes, but danced to the song anyway). Motörhead is also a band that they seemed to love, but they only seemed to compliment Lemmy. In fact, on a Ramones video where Lemmy makes an appearance, Beavis asked what Lemmy was doing there and Butt-head responded by saying, "He's Lemmy, dumbass. He can go into any damn video he wants."
Despite heavy metal and hard rock being their favorite forms of music, Beavis and Butt-head have a fondness for hip-hop, especially gangsta rap. Rap groups and performers such as Snoop Dogg, The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Sir Mix-A-Lot and Dr. Dre received positive responses from the boys. This can be noted with Beavis's occasional mimicking of "gangsta" jargon ("We jus' kickin' it...in tha hang-outs," "I'm a G, a straight "G" (Butt-head responded, "Yeah, you're a "G" for "Gonad")," "Droppin' plates on yo ass, beotch"). Beavis even went as far as to say, "You know when Coolio says, 'I can see myself in the pistol smoke?' He stole that from Snoop Dogg!"
Funk music was likely another genre they liked. They were seen dancing to various funk songs, and especially liked some bands that incorporated elements of funk into their music.
One of their oddest reviews was that of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Dang" video, where they endlessly praised it, simply because it was a music video.
Although Beavis and Butt-head share the same musical tastes, there were some rare occasions where opinions largely conflicted. An obvious example can be seen during the video review for Something for the Pain by Bon Jovi (a musician whom the duo refer to as a "wuss band") in which Beavis claimed to enjoy the song causing Butt-head to smack him repeatedly, claiming to do it for "Beavis' own good." However, Beavis insisted on enjoying the song and singing along to the main lyrics, and eventually retaliated against Butt-head by kicking him in the testicles--twice--and praising Bon Jovi by spitting, "Damn it, Butt-head, Bon Jovi rules! I like this song, so blow your ass, damn it!" A less dramatic example can be seen during R.E.M.'s video for Shiny Happy People, where Beavis sings along to the lyrics provoking another repeated smacking by Butt-head. Also, during the video for Rush's Stick it Out, Beavis seemed to like them, even going so far as sing a bit of The Spirit of Radio, but Butt-head dismissed guitarist Alex Lifeson as a wuss. In another episode, during the review for Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls, Butt-head repeatedly claims that Metallica sucks, much to Beavis's annoyance. However, in an earlier review, Butt-head shares Beavis's love of Metallica. This can imply that by the time they were watching the former, Butt-head had either grown to dislike the band, or was just criticizing them to annoy Beavis.
The duo also had a liking of vocalist Mike Patton and his band Faith No More. It can be assumed that the pair may have attempted to give some videos the ultimate compliment. The ultimate compliment would likely have been parallel to the ultimate put-down (see previous) and would have consisted of them simply being silent for the video's duration. An example of this is where they were watching California by Wax, which featured a man running around on fire. Butt-head praised the video, but Beavis, being a pyromaniac (and having been instructed by the MTV higher-ups to not say the word "fire"), chose to stare at the video and say nothing. Butt-head got annoyed by this, and tried to snap Beavis out of his seemingly catatonic state. Another example was the Ramones's I Wanna Be Sedated, where they did not praise the band verbally other than Beavis saying "YES!" when the video starts, but headbanged for the video's duration (along with occasionally humming the main riff). In other reviews, during particularly good videos, Butt-head has told Beavis to shut up because he wanted to see the video. Beavis once told Butt-head to shut up when Butt-head wouldn't stop talking during a Rancid video. After Butt-head menacingly told Beavis to never ever tell him to shut up again, Beavis kicked Butt-head in the testicles, told him to shut up again, and left the room to get some food.
As well as dancing, they also sang during some music video reviews. This ranged from imitating the instrumentation, singing along with the lyrics, or even mocking the singing style of some singers (Butt-head particularly liked to imitate death metal vocalists). If they weren't familiar with a song, but knew the band, they would sing one of the band's more famous songs (on one occasion Beavis noticed that they were watching a Primus video and sang a part of "My Name Is Mud"). If they weren't familiar with the song or band at all, they would sing something that sounded similar to the song. One instance occurred when a video for "F-Sharp" by Nudeswirl came on, and Beavis started singing "Paradise City" by Guns N' Roses. Butt-head also sang along with Biz Markie during the song "Just A Friend."
They showed some signs of intelligence when it came to some bands and artists, despite the fact that they didn't know much about even their favourite bands. On one occasion, they claimed that "Pantera" had an abusive upbringing, but they meant lead singer Phil Anselmo, not the whole band. They knew practically nothing about the band Hole, and thought that Hole was the name of the lead singer. However, they could recognize James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich from Metallica, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bono and The Edge from U2 (although they referred to Bono as "Boner") and Axl Rose from Guns N' Roses. During a Foo Fighters video review, Butt-head recognizes the lead singer as Dave Grohl, referring to him as "that dude from Nirvana." Beavis thought Butt-head was referring to deceased Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and said "Butt-head, I don't think that dude's with us anymore, you shouldn't say that." Butt-head patiently explained to Beavis that Grohl was the drummer with Nirvana and was playing guitar for the Foo Fighters.
Sometimes they mistook some bands for others. They believed they were watching a Red Hot Chili Peppers video when they were really watching a Faith No More video (though this is probably a jab at Chili Peppers' frontman Anthony Kiedis accusing Mike Patton of ripping his style off). In another review, they were watching a video by a band called Sausage (a side project of Primus' Les Claypool). Beavis thought this band was actually Primus (ironically, he was close to correct, since Sausage was comprised of the original members of Primus), while Butt-head believed they were a fictional band called the Seminiferous Tubloidial Buttnoids.
It is implied that the duo did drugs during music video reviews, as evidenced by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's video for "Dang", where Beavis asks Butt-head if he has any nutmeg. Nutmeg can cause hallucinations in high doses, but there is no other evidence to suggest that they did drugs.
There were times where critiques of the videos were minimal or even nonexistent. Some videos were praised or disparaged only once, usually at the start, after which they began discussing a subject in the video (such as with Green Day's "Basket Case" video, where they began talking about the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Some videos received no critiques at all, positive or negative. It can be assumed that they deliberately ignored some videos, citing Butt-head's comment during a Ween video ("Quit talking about this video and do something funny!") and some episodes in which they played a card game, slept, or even left the room rather than watch the video.
On several occasions, the two mistook bandmates for other celebrities, such as The Clash guitarist Mick Jones as Jerry Seinfeld, a member of Japanese pop band Pizzicato Five as Ernie from "My Three Sons" and Yanni as Geraldo Rivera. They also sometimes made crude puns on the names of celebrities (believing the names they said were really the celebrities' names) who came to mind during a video they were watching; some of these included Connie Chung as Connie Schlong, Bette Midler as Butt Midler and Monica Seles as Monica Phallus. They even mistook Rosie O'Donnell, in the video "The Bedrock Twist" from the B-52s, for Roseanne and called her Buttseanne.
Bands and videos were not the only subjects of which they were critical. They also engaged in conversation about films, television shows, certain people and other pop culture references. Sometimes they praised the subject, but were more often derisive.
Over its run, Beavis and Butt-head drew a notable amount of both positive and negative reactions from the public with its combination of lewd humor and implied criticism of society. It became the focus of criticism from social conservatives, such as Michael Medved, while others, such as David Letterman, and the conservative magazine National Review, defended it as a cleverly subversive vehicle for social criticism and a particularly creative and intelligent comedy. Either way, the show captured the imaginations of many young television viewers in the United States and abroad and is often considered a classic piece of 1990s youth culture and the MTV generation.
In 1997 Dan Tobin of The Boston Phoenix praised the series for its humor, stating that the series "stupidity into a crusade, forcing us to acknowledge how little it really takes to make us laugh.
In 1997 Ted Drozdowski of The Boston Phoenix described the 1997 Beavis and Butt-head state as "reduced to self-parody of their self-parody.
In December 2006, TV Guide ranked the duo's distinct laughing at #66 on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases.
One could interpret some future jokes within the show as jabs about the controversy, despite the fact that their pyromania had already been an established character trait.
In February 1994, watchdog group "Morality in Media" blamed the death of an 8-month-old girl struck by a bowling ball thrown from an overpass onto a Jersey City, New Jersey highway near the Holland Tunnel on the episode "Ball Breakers", in which Beavis and Butt-head loaded a bowling ball with explosives and dropped it from a rooftop. The 18-year-old man arrested for the crime did not have access to cable, however, and the show was eventually cleared of blame.
The original disclaimer in the first and second seasons shown before each episode was:
MTV also responded by broadcasting the program after 11:00 P.M., and changing the original disclaimer to a new one, reminding viewers that:
They were famously lambasted by Democratic senator Fritz Hollings as "Buffcoat and Beaver," which would subsequently become a running gag on the show of adults mispronouncing their names, as well as in the movie, where an old lady consistently calls them "Travis" and "Bob-head".
Beavis and Butt-head have been compared to idiot savants, because of their creative and subversively intelligent observations of music videos. This part of the show was mostly improvised by Mike Judge and is considered by many to be the show's highlight. With regard to criticisms of the two as "idiots," Judge responded that a show about straight-A students would not be funny.
Also, in recent interviews, Judge claims that he is interested in doing a live action spin-off movie. He said that previously he despised the idea, but now he thinks "maybe there's something there.
Beavis and Butt-head have appeared on several shows besides their own.
The Contents of the Work Sucks! and There Goes The Neighborhood VHS compilations were combined into a single LaserDisc compilation entitled Beavis and Butt-head: The Essential Collection, which was also released by Sony Music Video in 1994. This was the sole release of Beavis and Butt-head in the LaserDisc format.
All VHS collections of episodes are out of print. They were compiled into two sets of three multi-episode Time-Life DVD releases called The Best of Beavis and Butt-head, which are also no longer available. A set of three DVDs from Time-Life containing the same content as 6 of the VHS editions was released in December 2002. The remaining 5 VHS programs were also released on DVD soon afterwards but were not equally advertised (if at all) and are subsequently rarer.
Several more VHS compilations were also released exclusively in the United Kingdom, between 1997 and 2002, in addition to PAL versions of the eleven American tapes. Some UK-only compilations include a three-part series entitled History of Beavis which contained the all of the Season 1 episodes, as well as a "Too Dumb For TV" compilation dedicated to some of the banned episodes such as "Stewart's House" and "Way Down Mexico Way". A fourth volume of History of Beavis was scheduled, but pulled from release at the last minute. Unlike the American tapes, some of the UK-only tapes contained music videos.
A two-disc DVD set titled The History of Beavis and Butt-head was scheduled for release in September 2002 containing the program content of four of the UK-exclusive VHS tapes. However, its release was cancelled at the last moment at the demand of Judge, who owns approval rights for video releases of the series. Many copies were mistakenly put on store shelves on the scheduled release date, only to be immediately recalled. The set started selling on eBay at very high prices, sometimes over $300 USD. According to Judge, the History set was made up of episodes that he had previously rejected for home video release and was prepared without his knowledge or consent.
On November 8, 2005, MTV and Paramount Home Entertainment released a three-disc DVD compilation titled Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection, Volume 1. The DVD set includes 40 episodes and 11 music video segments from the original shows. All prior VHS and DVD releases have lacked these segments except for the VHS release of Beavis and Butt-head Do Christmas, and the last disc of the second Time-Life set.
23 of the 40 episodes included on the Mike Judge Collection were advertised to have been director's cuts containing "previously censored material". However, the majority of the "Director's Cut" episodes are actually missing footage from their original broadcast versions, although two episodes ("Home Improvement" and "Lawn and Garden") did indeed have excised footage reinstated. The reason for these edits is unknown, although Mike Judge stated in a Houston Chronicle article on the release that he corrected certain animation mistakes on the DVD that he found to be troublesome. The following (known to date) edits were all made in Vol. 1 in order to correct "animation mistakes" according to Mike Judge:
The Mike Judge Collection, Volume 2 was released on June 13, 2006. This compilation features 40 additional episodes, 13 music videos, and a Brokeback Mountain parody featuring Beavis and Butt-head, which uses a similar score and format as Brokeback's movie trailer. The parody functions as a commercial for the DVD release of Mike Judge Collection, Volume 3. Also included are segments from the Beavis and Butt-head "Butt Bowl" specials, traditionally aired during halftime of the Super Bowl; parodies of Calvin Klein advertisements are also featured. In Volume 2, edits on previous VHS/DVD releases of the episode "Bungholio - Lord of the Harvest" (then called "Butt-o-Ween") have not been reinstated. The edit deleted a scene where the boys are trying out Halloween costumes in their bathroom and Beavis appears dressed up like Stewart, i.e. wearing a Winger T-shirt saying "Look...I'm a Wuss".
The Mike Judge Collection, Volume 3 was released on August 1, 2006. 42 episodes are featured, as well as 15 music video segments. Bonus features include the original, uncut "Frog Baseball" episode, and many (if not all) of the Christmas-related clips. Despite the criticism received over severe episode censorship in Vol. 1, edits were again made on at least two episodes - a scene where Beavis & Butt-head cut their teacher's chair in half was removed in "Woodshop", and a short line from Beavis in "Impotence".