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Expert Witness

Expert Witness
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Expert Witness. Presented by Lexus to celebrate the introduction of the first-ever HS Hybrid. To learn more about the HS, visit lexus.com/hs. In Expert Witness, you'll find a series of video interviews with fascinating people in the world of arts, politics and literature conducted by Open Salon's Kerry Lauerman and Thomas Rogers. Sign up for the Expert Witness Twitter Feed (www.twitter.com/salon_expert) and we'll alert you to who we're interviewing so you can submit questions.

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SEPTEMBER 9, 2009 5:15PM

Expert Witness: Mike Judge

Rate: 16 Flag

We’re excited to launch a new video interview series on Open Salon called Expert Witness. Over the next few weeks we’ll be having video-chats with people who are known for being the best at what they do -- and in coming installments we’ll be soliciting your questions for them.

Today we’re kicking it off with Mike Judge, master satirist of the American workplace. Salon critic Stephanie Zacharek called his latest film “Extract,” the "kind of smart, openhearted comedy that doesn't come along every day," going on to say that "considering that so much movie entertainment these days comes to us pre-chewed, the appearance of 'Extract' in these last days of summer feels like a gift." This Sunday his long-running, Emmy-winning animated TV series “King of the Hill” will be airing its final episode after 13 seasons.

Judge spoke to Thomas Rogers via Skype (transcript follows).



I feel that Hollywood is sometimes out of touch with the way ordinary Americans think and feel. I remember when I saw “Do the Right Thing,” I thought there’s all this great stuff, like the old guys talking about the Korean grocery store across the street, and I was thinking someone should make a movie like this about my suburban street.

If you look at “Idiocracy," and this movie as well, it also seems like you’re not terribly optimistic about the human condition. Are you a misanthrope?

Sure, I have frustrations with people and characters but to me it’s like a release – cathartic, almost. But I don’t think that means I hate lots of people. I hope not.

Coming up in the next few days, “King of the Hill” will be going off the air after 13 seasons. What do you think has allowed it to survive for so many years?

I remember the moment when “Happy Days” went wrong. The Fonz was always a badass, a  tough guy, a man of few words,  and then they showed a little bit of his soft side and everyone liked that. So then they showed more soft side, and then here was no Fonzy left. It was just the soft side of Fonzy. There’s a tendency with writers to take an easy route and they’d something a little out of character for Hank. That would get a laugh because it’s out of character, so you try to do that again -- and then he’s not the character he was. We kept it the same, which is important.

There was a lot of pressure from the network -- at one point an executive saying we needed life-changing episodes -- and I just didn’t want to do that. Some of the most successful shows, that were on forever, that I’m a fan of were shows that didn’t change. I think that’s a good thing

What do you see coming after this? Is “Extract” a stepping-stone to larger-scale filmmaking?

The next big thing might be something called Brigadier Gerard, that John Altschuler and  David Krinsky wrote. They’re the guys who ran ”King of the Hill” for a long time, and they’re my producing partners. It’s based on these sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories that were written like 100 years ago and they’re set in the Napoleonic Wars. That might happen in the next year or so.

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This is an interesting new feature on OS. I look forward to future interviews.
Thanks, D.

We hope to make it as interactive as possible -- we'll be Twittering before we start a new interview, soliciting questions. (www.twitter.com/salon_expert)
oh, I like Mr. Mike Judge so much!

And Sir ACD very much!

In Napoleonic times?

Is Robert Downey Jr. available?
Thank you for this. I too appreciate and look forward to future interviews. Mike Judge... a great interview! rAted!
This is very refreshing. When will you let us know when and to whom we will be able to pose questions?
idiocracy, theres some brilliant satire.
how about, just put up a list of ppl you're planning to interview, and then people suggest questions in the comments
This is wonderful...I don't think of Mike Judge as a master satirist of the American workplace...I think of him as a brilliant social commentator on the nuclear family (King of the Hill) and all but abandoned teenagers (Beavis and Butthead). Both shows are some of the funniest stuff on television. In fact, I would say Mike Judge has shaped the way in which the American family is willing to see itself and laugh.
Good. Interesting and you catch what I might miss in my own busy-ness.........thanks.
For anyone who has NOT seen "Extract" yet, and wants to see an intelligent comedy, go see it.
Constructively, wouldn't it have been a good idea to focus more on Judge's new (brilliant) film "Extract"? I understand "King of the Hill" is leaving TV, but aren't writers and pretty much anyone about their most current project? Just an observation.
Rated by the way. GREAT idea.
Great new wrinkle to Open Salon.
I've always appreciated Judge's resistance to the status quo in his work. While mainstream comedy may have deliberately strayed from some of his typical subjects, etc, I still think he's got to be one of the greatest influences on the everyday-senses-of-humor that so many sub-par sitcoms seem unable to touch.

Admittedly, I sometimes watch old episodes of Beavis and Butthead and then go around for a few days either annoying those in the know or confusing the hell out of those who don't with my poorly-executed impressions.

Ah, high school. Those were the days.
Thanks. I love Judge's work and appreciate this interview.
Did ya get the memo?
I love Mike Judge..and as for the movie Idiocracy I am convinced he is some kind of Nostradamus and got the idea for this movie after having spent a day here in my town .. the govenator ...reality tv court shows, corporate control of our lives..lol it's all coming true.
King of the Hill is dead; long live King of the HIll.

Beavis and Butthead was creepily brilliant; I *lived* Office Space. But King of the Hill captured my heart. I've met those people. Louanne lived across the street. (She had brown hair back then.)

I'll miss them all, and I look forward to the cast reunion on a future season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Thanks, Mike Judge, for making us feel less adrift in the surreality of it all.