Deep in the Heart of Hank Hill
Sure, everyone talks about The Simpsons and Family Guy. But in the annals of animated sitcoms, has there ever been a show as gently funny and consistently on point as King of the Hill, which is returning for its 10th (and supposedly final) season on Sunday, September 18? (The time slot is 7:30 p.m. this yearone of countless Sunday times that Fox has given the show.) Creator Mike Judge, who voices the courtly leading Everyman, Texan Hank Hill, and who also was the brains behind Beavis and Butthead, spoke with U.S. News about humor, Texas-style.
Do you ever get mail from the Texas antidefamation league about King of the Hill stereotypes? I mean, squirrel quesadillas!?
If there isn't a Texas antidefamation league, I may start one. [Compared with] the way Texans are usually portrayed on TV and the news, I think we portray 'em nicer. We've hardly ever gotten any complaints.
How do the media typically depict Texansgunslinging, shoot-'em-up folks?
Yeah, either that, or when the shuttle went down in Texas, it seemed like they were looking for the most country-bumpkin people they could find to interview. But Texas is where the integrated circuit was invented. And there was [pioneering] heart surgery at Baylor.
So what are you trying to show about Texas?
Before I pitched the show to Fox, I was thinking about what it would be. I was in Radio Shack in the mall, trying to buy a phonograph adapter. I asked the guy for one, and the guy says, "What is it you're trying to do?" I said, "I'm trying to buy a phono adapter." The guy was just so difficult. I was thinking, this is what it's really like all over the country. I thought it'd be funny to make Hank like a real Texan but put him in places like the mall, the Wal-Mart, whatever, against all these things that are really everywhere.
In the early years, the animation was pretty crude.
It takes a while to work all that stuff out. I've been really happy in the last years. But I think animators hate me because the way I originally drew the charactersand the style that I likeisn't anything that's going to get you a job on another show. All these kinds of cartoon conventionsexaggerated hands and mouths, very effeminate, too. Look at Scooby-Doothe way the guys' wrists are always cocked. Those things drive me crazy with my characters. The first time they animated Beavis and Butthead laughing, they had them close their eyes, their shoulders going upthings you never do in real life. When people laugh in real life, the corners of their mouth don't go way up above their nose. To me, it's more interesting to make it realistic.
You're probably the only show in television history to have Laotian characters. Why Laotian?
I wanted some immigrant family from somewhere over there. I don't remember why I picked Laotian. When you're doing Asian, the go-to thing is Chinese or Japanese or Vietnamese. I think I heard there was a Laotian community in Wisconsin, or I was watching Court TV and there was some trial with Laotians in it.