Best Episode Ever # 20: ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’
I wish I had kept track of which music videos were paired with which animated segments when “Beavis and Butt-Head” first aired. I would love to pick the episode that was the absolute best combination of animated comedy and musical commentary, but that information is lost to eternity in the wake of DVD collections and music rights. So I will have to limit my pick to the best animated episode of “Beavis and Butt-Head.”
I have an easy pick that I think illustrates what made “Beavis and Butt-Head” so special. It was often dismissed as a stupid comedy about stupid people, but there was a lot more going on there. Yes, Beavis and Butt-Head were stupid kids, and the influence of ‘90s pop culture was poignant satire. You don’t make that big an impact with just stupid jokes though.
Everyone expects me to pick “The Great Cornholio.” That was a landmark episode, especially since it became a recurring character. I think perhaps Cornholio’s slam poetry was even better than his origin story, but “The Great Cornholio” was a prime example of taking something ridiculous and following it through until it becomes an actual character. I think there’s even more to “Beavis and Butt-Head” than that though.
The Best Episode Ever of “Beavis and Butt-Head” is called “Pregnant Pause.” This is the one where Beavis thinks he’s pregnant. Almost as a dare to critics who might say, “How dumb can this get?” Mike Judge did an episode where Beavis had a pregnancy scare.
“Pregnant Pause” illustrates what I think makes “Beavis and Butt-Head” intelligent comedy. Beavis and Butt-Head have just enough deductive power to get into trouble, but lack the basic common sense to know why they’re wrong. They can't comprehend things like, say, a man can’t get pregnant. Other than that, Beavis’s thought process here is sound.
After staying up all night eating nachos, Beavis gets a stomach ache. He sees on TV a show about a woman getting morning sickness and weird cravings (“Get me some nachos!”) Why, those are Beavis’s symptoms too! The scare cue of the “dun dun duuuuuuun” that plays every time a pregnancy symptom matches Beavis' symptoms is an irresistible touch. Beavis is really, truly having a pregnancy crisis, and Mike Judge is willing to give him all the pathos attributed to a person who might actually have a risk of pregnancy. You know, a woman in all other cases.
Beavis may not know that a man can’t get pregnant, but he does know that you have to have sex to get pregnant (“do it,” as they would say). At least Beavis knows he’s never scored, so he must be safe from pregnancy. Until he misinterprets a pregnant woman in the store talk about getting herself pregnant. Give Beavis credit. He is thorough and he’s exhausting all possibilities. His pratfalling in the supermarket is classic Beavis too. “Vegetables? Aghhhhhh!”
So Beavis takes a pregnancy test, and watching him fumble around with that is great slapstick too. He’s reading the instructions in Spanish, not that it would matter. They can’t read English either. Beavis figures out that he’s supposed to pee on the stick, and if it changes color, he’s pregnant. That’s good thinking there. He paid attention to those pregnant women in the supermarket. However, he didn’t know the colors were red or blue. His turns yellow from the pee and Beavis freaks out, in a rare frontal view of his panicked expression.
This is a classic example of an aspect of “Beavis and Butt-Head” humor that goes unrecognized. Yes, they are idiots and they are horny troublemakers, but they follow a certain logic. The comedy escalates as they follow their logic while the world around them goes about with its normal physics. This happened when they tried to get penis enlargement and ended up with nose jobs, or when they came up with the idea to counterfeit money as if no one had ever thought of it before (Beavis tried to Xerox nickels and quarters).
By the time Beavis goes into “labor,” coinciding with a labor scene on TV, you feel genuine relief for this ridiculous escapade. It turns out, Beavis just had to take a really big dump. Poop is a frequent crude obsessions of Beavis and Butt-Head, so it is appropriate, yet in the structure of the episode they actually make it a sympathetic resolution. Poor Beavis, so constipated all day he thought he was pregnant.
There were plenty of other modes of “Beavis and Butt-Head” storytelling. There were episodes where the real world tried to force some responsibility on Beavis and Butt-Head, but there was no match for their stupidity. There were episodes where they maximized the comedy out of literally doing nothing. (“Hey Beavis, let’s stand up!”) And yes, there were the plain old ridiculous episodes culminating with Cornholio. Sometimes they were just trying to score, or laugh at things that sound sexual. It’s pretty amazing that they could get an entire episode out of Beavis scratching his balls, or another entirely based on Beavis denying he was crying.
I prefer to champion the most elaborate mode of “Beavis and Butt-Head.” Yes, a man cannot get pregnant. How do you make an entire episode about a male pregnancy scare? True, it’s only five minutes in total, but the running time is less relevant. How do you keep it going past the first joke? It still has a beginning, middle and end that makes total sense.
Beavis discovers weird symptoms, he explores his options, then he genuinely panics and you feel for him, even though you’re most definitely laughing at him. Perhaps it was this venture into absurdity that took “Beavis and Butt-Head” up a notch for me. Or maybe I just like that scare cue. “Pregnant Pause” is the Best Episode Ever. Dun dun duuuuuunnnnnn!