While it's true that everybody likes some form or another of comedy, I do consider myself an avid fan of the art. I buy comedy albums, I go out to see stand-up comedians, and course I've been doing a weekly comedy radio show for over 6 years now. I am picky when it comes to a lot of comedy too, and I could write you entire essays on the comics I hate and why I think they're objectively horrible.
Having said all that...I am a shameless fan of Beavis & Butt-head. Call it low-brow. Call it bad animation. Call it repetitive. It still makes me laugh. Recently I found a ten-disc Beavis & Butt-head DVD set for around $30. It included The Mike Judge Collection volumes 1, 2, and 3, along with the movie Beavis & Butt-head Do America. I've been going through my old transferred VHS-to-DVD discs of past B&B marathons too, compiling episodes that haven't been released on DVD yet.
Somebody recently told me she was surprised that I like B&B. "Aren't you an engineer?" That meant "Aren't you too smart for this?" The irony is that when I was going to engineering college back in the early to mid 90s, B&B was HUGE. This was especially true during my first two years (1993-1995), where we were seriously considering changing our fraternity's mascot to Beavis.
So what is the appeal of this show? What is the appeal in watching these two brain-dead teenagers? There are several factors, I think.
In college, I think the stupidity was such a welcome contrast to the stresses of academic work. You'd spend the day going to thermodynamic engineering classes and doing differential equations homework, then come back to watch two boys who couldn't even recite the alphabet. Similarly, there's that appeal in getting to see somebody do the terrible things you've always wanted to do, but you don't because you know the consequences.
In one of the B&B documentaries, somebody pointed out the strange phenomenon that all people, no matter what age and what culture, seem to know somebody like Beavis & Butt-head. My brother said that the show reminded him of ME at the age of 14, when it would just be me and my headbanger friends doing nothing but watching TV. I think that was my own appeal too: seeing so many of my middle school friends reflected in these two characters. I grew up a suburban metalhead, and I certainly wore AC/DC and Metallica t-shirts. Like Wayne's World or Bill & Ted, you do have to have a good knowledge of hard rock music to get some of the jokes. There was certainly a part of me in that duo, I'm embarrassed to say. Even more embarrassing, there were certain situations where I was more like the "Stewart" of the group (the boy in the Winger shirt). Of course, keep in mind that Beavis & Butt-head were the "Stewarts" in the eyes of their older, bullying, mullet-headed hero: Todd.
Some of the real genius of the show, I feel, was found in the other characters. B&B weren't the only stupid ones. With the exception perhaps of smart little Dariah, NOBODY was portrayed favorably in that show. Mr. Vandriesen, the hippie teacher, lived in the delusion that "reaching out" and "understanding" is always the solution for delinquents. His complete opposite, the angry and militant Mr. Buzzcut, showed that hard discipline wasn't really all that effective either. The other adults had their delusions too: the Burger World manager, war veteran Tom Anderson, the Stevenson family, born-again Christian hardware store owner Clark Cobb, and so on.
And while I didn't put this blog post in the "clutter" category, I suppose it's worth asking whether there's any philosophical connection between B&B and clutter combat. Well, I guess if I had to offer a meaning here, maybe it would be the Zen-like simplicity of the duo's lifestyle. As I've said before, I'm a shameless hedonist and I'm all for self-gratification. But clutter can be the problem and not the solution. So perhaps instead of going out to hit that new flea market, or buying tons of books you still won't get around to cracking open a year from now, or pushing for reservations at a 4-star restaurant ... you can still have a great time with some $2 nachos, a friend, and the TV. Oh yeah, and chicks too.And also...