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Mike Judge Talks 'Silicon Valley' and What's So Funny About The Tech World

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire March 28, 2014 at 12:25PM

Before he was an animator, before he created "Beavis and Butt-head" and "King of the Hill," before he directed cult comedy classics "Office Space" and "Idiocracy," Mike Judge was an engineer working in the Bay Area.
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'Office Space'
Twentieth Century Fox 'Office Space'

"Office Space" is one of the great films about office life, and that was set at a '90s software company. The tech world in "Silicon Valley" is very different -- do you see any carryover?

There's a little bit. Even though "Office Space" came out in '99, to me it's kind of set in '88 or '87 when I was working in that world. If those guys were around twentysomething years later, if they were around today, I could see them working on some kind of a startup. You can take two routes: be a well-paid programmer at Google or somewhere, and that's a decent life, or you can take a risk and try to start something, and there are more people doing that now than when I was in it.

There are people in the crew who are "Office Space" fans who are saying, especially in some of the later episodes, that it has a similar feel. I don't know what it is, maybe just a point of view about things that seems similar to "Office Space."

'King of the Hill'
'King of the Hill'

With this series, "Office Space," "Extract" and "King of the Hill," to a certain extent, you've done some very memorable portrayals of workplace environments. What's your interest in that as a setting?

Watching television, there'd be a lot of times I thought, "Wait, what do they do for money?" Because for so much of my life I was worried about how I was going to make a living. I was in denial in college, and then I was like, "Oh, shit, I'm going to be a homeless bum. I gotta figure out a job."

My sister used to read all these Nancy Drew books, and she would say, "Nancy Drew just says 'so I hopped on a plane.' How does she pay for the ticket?" And I just think sometimes that's lacking in the entertainment world. People seem to have endless cash no matter what they do.

That's where it started. But also, I think everyday life and work has a huge effect on people. I find that stuff interesting, and there's a lot of comedy there that other people don't look at. One thing about ["Silicon Valley"], when we first started writing it, at one point we were talking about, "Okay, they get funded, they get some office space somewhere," and we were going to do an episode about that. And I started to realize, since I made "Office Space," there have been a lot of really good office workplaces.

Christopher Evan Welch in "Silicon Valley" on HBO
HBO Christopher Evan Welch in "Silicon Valley" on HBO

So we decided to have this be about guys working in a house together,  which is actually the reality. We met with a lot of startups, and it's just five guys living in a two-bedroom apartment, and they got funded for $200,000, and they've got five months. That’s how a lot of this goes.

"Silicon Valley" playing at SXSW in the festival's first-ever TV section, and the idea of TV at film festivals is becoming a little more prevalent. Do you see the lines between TV and film getting blurry?

Those lines are blurry. Everything's in hi-def, TV screens are better now -- there's no difference between what’s in a theater and what's on a TV screen. And TV is getting better -- cable networks where you can say whatever you want, for the most part. TV is becoming a lot like movies. And with series arcs and shorter numbers of episodes per season, it makes sense that nowadays they'd be playing in festivals.

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, Mike Judge, Silicon Valley, HBO