Mike Judge’s early short films are prime examples of the merger of capitalism and comedy in ‘Silicon Valley’

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Mike Judge’s early short films are prime examples of the merger of capitalism and comedy in ‘Silicon Valley’

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Scott Moore/for American-Statesman
Mike Judge walks the red carpet at the HBO Comedy Series Silicon Valley Forth Season Austin Premiere at Alamo Draft House in Austin, Texas on April 18, 2017 - Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman

“Silicon Valley,” the scathingly funny look at the failing-upwards adventures of a group of tech entrepreneurs in California, comes back for its fourth season this Sunday on HBO. Mike Judge, the sometimes-Austinite and visionary comedy director responsible for the show, has also created “Beavis and Butt-Head,” “King of the Hill,” “Office Space,” “Idiocracy” and “Extract,” among others.

A common through line in much of his work is making light of the droning banality of much of American white-collar jobs and how people try to subvert that experience. But that satirical streak was present long before “Silicon Valley.” 

A post over at Birth.Movies.Death. examining Judge’s early short films shows that his sense of humor about office politics and politics in general was well established before Judge even started working on bigger things like “Office Space” or “King of the Hill.”

Early shorts include “Inbred Jed,” about a honky-tonker who is “just so happy to be here,” until he isn’t; “Huh?” about a man befuddled by what one assumes is a Whole Foods TV commercial; and early iterations of Beavis and Butt-Head and Milton and Lumbergh from “Office Space.”

Of those shorts, the early “Office Space” shorts are most indicative of “Silicon Valley” (and obviously, the “Office Space” film).

I mean, watch this early take of “Milton’s stapler” and compare it to this scene from “Silicon Valley,” where Richard and Co. are being shown around a server farm that will house the wrong version of their product. The same desperation and exasperation are there, just in different forms.

Or watch the infamous “tabs versus spaces” scene from “Silicon Valley,” which also recalls that early Milton sketch in its heavy-handedness on something seemingly innocuous.

And this (maybe NSFW) “Silicon Valley” scene, which recalls “Beavis and Butt-head”’s “Frog Baseball” in its juvenile humor and cultural commentary. Judge has said he got the idea for that short film at work:

“First, he thought: ‘That stuff happens.’ Then he thought: ‘Who would do this?’ Beavis and Butt-Head offered an answer to that question.”

 

Also, peep this early trailer for “King of the Hill” which also showcased Judge’s penchant for merging capitalism and comedy right from the beginning.

No wonder “Silicon Valley” is both revered and abhorred by tech insiders for being a little too true to life.

Judge and other “Silicon Valley” cast members attended Alamo South Lamar Tuesday night to screen two episodes of the show and participate in a Q&A. The show returns to HBO on Sunday, April 23.

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