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Why 'Silicon Valley' Creator Mike Judge Is Entering the 'Absurd' NFT Market

The “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Office Space” creator’s first NFT drops today, with more content—both new and old—to come.

5 min read
An illustration of Mike Judge surrounded by some of his creations. Image: Mike Judge

In brief

  • Animator and film director Mike Judge will release his first Ethereum NFT today via SuperRare.
  • “Dancing Dan” is a single-edition animated short that he began creating early in his career, but he also plans to create new content to release as NFTs.

When Mike Judge tweeted an image last month that looked like “King of the Hill” characters reimagined as pixelated CryptoPunks, some wondered whether the animator and filmmaker planned to release his own NFTs. Others assumed he was simply mocking the wild recent fervor around tokenized digital collectibles.

“This NFT will be available soon for six trillion dollars. Each,” Judge tweeted on November 7. “Or you can buy all four for twenty trillion. They’re worth every penny.”

Turns out, it was a bit of both. He really was ridiculing the NFT craze, which he described to Decrypt as “absurd” and “disturbing”—but the “Beavis and Butt-Head” creator and “Silicon Valley” and “King of the Hill” co-creator is making NFTs too. Just not that one. (It’s fan art).

Intrigued by the possibilities posed by the NFT format, which lets him release provably scarce, blockchain-verified digital artwork (the NFT itself is effectively a receipt for the artwork), Judge told Decrypt that he plans to both dig back into his personal archive as well as compose new work. His first NFT falls into the former category.

Launching today on SuperRare, “Dancing Dan” is a single-edition animated short that he began developing early in his career. Judge said that it was initially inspired by watching older people dance on “The Lawrence Welk Show”—which his grandfather often watched—and in VFW halls as a child.

He was also inspired by “Walking,” Ryan Larkin’s Oscar-nominated animated short depicting an array of walking cycles, which turned the mundane into something mesmerizing. Judge planned to make numerous such hand-drawn dancing shorts, but ultimately left the one piece unfinished at the time.

Judge returned to “Dancing Dan” after the success of “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “King of the Hill,” and the finished version that will debut on SuperRare (which hasn’t been shared ahead of minting) even features music that he performed on guitar, upright bass, and drums. Along with the Ethereum NFT, the winning bidder will also receive three signed physical sketches.

For Judge, NFTs provide a medium for shorter-form, experimental work. It’s a stark contrast from the larger productions that have marked his career, whether it’s the aforementioned animated TV series or cult classic live-action films like “Office Space” and “Idiocracy.”

“I love animating, but rather than have to do a whole story, and the whole show or movie… you can't have 10 seconds of animation and have it be a painting on a wall, or a show on TV,” he told Decrypt. “I just thought: Wow, this is kind of a perfect way to do that. And it's just fun to do.”

“Dancing Dan” could be the first of many such NFT collectibles from Judge, who said that he’d “like to do a lot of them.” He’s working on new compositions, drawing digitally on a tablet in Procreate, with an aim to bring more animated, voiced work to the NFT scene in particular. Judge said that he’s always preferred animating rather than laboring over a static image.

“A lot of times, people say animation seems like it must be tedious or monotonous,” he said. “To me, illustrating is tedious. The idea that it's going to move is more interesting.”

Asked which NFT creators and projects he enjoys, Judge mentioned the oft-surreal digital art of Beeple—who sold a single NFT for $69 million at Christie’s auction in March—and also name-checked the rising Bored Ape Yacht Club profile picture collection.

He’s also enticed by Nouns, an Ethereum-based project that auctions off a single new NFT character per day. Each buyer then gains access to a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) of holders, who are collectively building an open-source intellectual property—and have access to tens of millions of dollars’ worth of ETH from the NFT sales.

Judge has been chatting in the project’s Discord server, and Nouns co-creator 4156—who himself sold a $10 million CryptoPunk last week—tweeted Monday that Judge is “a real one.” For his part, Judge said he’s intrigued by Nouns’ public domain thesis, which bets that derivatives—be it other NFTs, merchandise, etc.—accrue value back to the original NFTs.

“I’m just kind of watching it now with interest. The idea that anybody can make a t-shirt out of any Nouns and sell any of them—I like that about it. It’s like open-source software,” he said. “I’d be open to [doing] something with them. It’s a very new kind of model for doing this stuff that I’ve never seen.”

Both Nouns and the wider NFT movement feed into Judge’s wider interest in decentralization. He explored the theme on his HBO series “Silicon Valley,” with the tech startup working to develop a peer-to-peer internet free of government oversight. Judge likes the idea of a Web3-like internet that anyone can participate in with fewer gatekeepers in the mix.

Even so, while he’s excited to release his own personal projects in the space, Judge couldn’t help but poke fun at the immense piles of cryptocurrency being tossed around for NFTs of late.

“The whole thing is pretty disturbing,” he said of surging NFT valuations. “I mean, I make fun of lots of things. It is kind of crazy, and it'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. But right now, it is in sort of an absurd streak.”

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