Creating A Monster with Mike Judge (Silicon Valley) | Disrupt SF (Day 3)
7:02PM Sep 7, 2018
Raise your hand if you've watched Silicon Valley on HBO.
Cool. Me too. And our next guest has definitely seen it. In fact, he created it. Please welcome to the stage. Mike Judge.
They love you.
It's weird because we sit backstage and we talk. And then you come out and we shake hands.
Mike, I can't tell. You have to answer this for me. Because I can't tell if you love or hate the real Silicon Valley.
It's a love hate relationship. Maybe 70% love.
Wow, might be more than me
Well, I did. I did work in Silicon Valley. And I think back then it was easier to hate for me as an engineer. But I
Easier to hate back then?
You think it was easier to hate back then just because you were an engineer?
Yeah, I wasn't as upwardly mobile in that world.
It was very, it was very, I'd say the personalities were similar to now, but probably not as much excitement in it, not as much. I mean, it was it wasn't like every single person in the world had a cell phone and a laptop. So it was sort of a more of a niche thing. But it was it was blowing up a lot slower.
Yeah, I mean, like, in a way, you're doing something new all the time. You have these new challenges, but being in the valley and for the last few years and watching how all this works, do you ever feel compelled to start a business of your own you get like entrepreneur fever?
Yes. I mean, there's so many times where we're, you know, we're sitting there in the writers room and we're trying to come up with fake apps and fake technology and then sometimes we'll see the fake thing we were doing actually happened and and then sometimes we go like, What? Why are we here? Let's just go make the apps like that. But or the
Share one of those ideas.
Well, I mean, I mean, that's the thing. We're cheating a little bit. We, you know, we had our character create this compression algorithm that beats everything else. Well, we're not smart enough to do that. So we made up a fictional character who does it.
But now I think I mean, well, actually, like in this last season. I mean, it's, you know, we immerse ourselves in tech and try to talk to as many people as we can, and and then, you know, we have the advantage that we can make things up with this great compression algorithm he has, but we try to keep it grounded.
And I mean, we just keep seeing there'll be something that were like we're kind of feel like we're running neck and neck with the real tech world like we'll like last season, we had them starting this, you know, peer to peer Data Storage thing and doing an ICO for it. And then I you know, I just went to the decentralized web summit, you know, like a month after the last episode aired,
There's companies that are doing that there's a company that raised over 100 million just with an ICO to do exactly what Pied Piper is doing. And so, yeah, maybe we should just quit TV and just move up here.
Um, I noticed like in watching the seasons that so much of the plot centers around kind of like the rise and fall of Pied Piper itself, like the growth of the company or the tribulations of the company, and the characters don't necessarily grow that much.
And I'm curious, like, is that like a TV series trope? Where like, people want their characters to stay the same or is that what you think of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs? That they like focus so much on their company that they forget to grow in people?
I mean off the top of my head it's probably the the latter. I mean when we started we thought okay you know Richard Hendricks, is we set out to you know say like he's gonna he's got this compression algorithm. It's this lightning in the bottle and he's gonna is he going to get corrupted by the success is he going to stay the same?
And we kind of didn't know but we sort of thought we're going to see him maybe in a Breaking Bad kind of way turn into this evil mega mega lo mega Michael
Maniacal person and then but then we you know as it goes along I think you know, TV shows, you kind of want kind of want to see your characters be their characters and not you know. It's it's kind of like we call it eating your seed corn if you start you know. I mean classic shows that have jumped the shark like the Fonz in Happy Days, you know. Like he was this badass guy. And then people go, Oh, I like when he's not bad ass. And he shows his kind side. And then pretty much there's just only the kind side after a while.
And you know, I think I think we we just discovered we wanted to keep the characters we like the way they are. But it's it's fun to throw new challenges at them and you know, and we finally had them become very successful and just watch what problems that brings to them.
Well, and like one of the things I've been wondering about too, is that in Silicon Valley, when you think of like an exit either like really bad bankruptcy or it's like an IPO or a merger, an acquisition. In either case that's not really the end of the story like
Coming to the to the close of Silicon Valley like I don't how do you what is the end look like I'm not trying to get you to spoil I realized that but like, just take me through your thinking. I guess.
Well, I mean, we do we do have a we've had a series finale in mind and, but we've also had season finales in mind each season that we end up not doing. But you know, I mean, I think at some point, you know, we're going to want to see this company become, you know, as big as maybe as big as the Big Four. I mean, it seems like that's what you would want to where you'd want to see it head and how that finally ends. We have sort of an idea of, I shouldn't say, but we don't know.
I mean, I think it could go another couple seasons. You know, HBO doesn't like it when I say stuff like that. Yeah. And like, I mean, well, I mean, I, you know, they say like, we want to be ended at six. And then they said, Don't say that, what if, what if it goes longer? So, I mean, we enjoy doing it. So maybe we can if we can keep dragging it out until he's a gazillionaire.
What can you share one of the season finales that you didn't use?
Oh boy, that's well the thing is like every season we just put everything we have into that season as if it's the last and just worry about the rest later. I mean we did that the first season we're just like every joke every character we can come up with it just like let's just make this one as good as possible and worry about the rest later.
So I'll have to come back to that
We'll circle back.
There was one but I mean there's stuff that we were gonna do not necessarily a finale but like we're gonna have a big one point there's this thing Ephemerisle. That's like Burning Man on the water.
Heard of that.
And we had a read through we had a script we were pre production and then we just realized this episode sucks.
We started over again. There's been a few like that.
Who is Gavin Belson based on?
There's there's not there's not a one to one, he's exactly this person. But I mean I think with starting out I kind of I kind of looked at it like I've noticed there's sort of two categories of billionaires You know, there's the sort of super almost asperger introverted programmer type of came to it that way.
And then there's the ones that sort of came to it as more of a kind of aggro aggressive, like VC type, and to me that the guy playing Peter Gregory, who unfortunately passed away after the first season was the perfect of the asperger type. Gavin Belson was the other type so I wanted to be like represent those two types.
I mean you could put a lot of people in that first category Peter teal. Maybe Marc Benioff and the other ones Steve Ellison, like these kind of
Marc Benioff is so much more likable than Gavin Belson.
Marc Benioff is so much more likeable than Gavin Belson.
Actually we didn't. Some of these. Like, I didn't really know much about Benioff before the show. And then I kept seeing all these people saying always like Marc Benioff. And I guess because we gave them the beads or something. Yeah, but I guess he's not, you know, not so much. It was sort of just a combination of a lot of people.
That is the diplomatic thing to say, like, okay, so I, I'm sure that you're paying attention to this, perhaps more than the rest of us. But, you know, Silicon Valley seems to have come to grips a little bit in the past few years with its influence.
Like everybody looked around and was like, do we actually want these things to exist in the real world? Like, was this a good call and I'm curious if you think that that is like true self awareness or if you think this is like a reactionary phase?
Oh, well, I think it's it's reactionary that lead to self awareness. I think there is some real self awareness. I mean, I think, you know, the, the tech world, especially when I was in it, like the general public didn't know who any of these people are. And for the first time, in the last few years, these people are becoming celebrities.
I mean, there were, you know, I mean, people knew Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for a while, but now there's, it's just kind of more in in the public eye and I think I mean, I've noticed since we started doing the show it was the tech world was just extremely proud of itself and very brash and like disrupt we're disrupting this and that and then
Please don't use our brand
Yeah oh sorry. I mean you know it's a different kind of disrupt
The shitty kind
Yeah the this disruptive but but then I think, you know, there's definitely I think they felt a little bit of backlash from the public, it seems, especially maybe in just in the last couple years and kind of like changing their tone a little bit, you know, not putting their mission statements out so much. And I've noticed that.
Yeah, and I mean, I've even heard, I think, I'm not going to get the quotes, right, or the people but you know, I know people like Roger McNamee kind of saying, hey, maybe we maybe all this stuff hasn't necessarily always been good for mankind. And maybe we ought to think about it a little more.
I mean, this decentralized web summit, there's definitely I mean, this people saying, Hey, you know, the people who created the original internet, those protocols, kind of saying, This isn't what I wanted it to be, and we have an opportunity to start over let's try to get it right this time. So I think there's some good self awareness happening.
Do you think that do you think that Silicon Valley this show the fact that you kind of brought all this and it was it was coming out on its own anyway we have like this new wave of tech celeb right? But really honed in on that and you you you kind of cast a mirror on us and a lot of ways I even hate to say us but them
We did this
Um but do you think that that added to the self awareness that that movement in any way or do you think it was just like the public yelling and screaming?
Well I mean I've been told it added to the self awareness I mean probably shouldn't name names but some very big you know COOs and CEOs have said you know watching your show we said you know we've got our we you know stop putting our mission statement out there let's just you know I don't just I have seen I think we might have had a little bit to do. Yeah.
I mean, not maybe because of, I think, partly just because the media, commenting, commenting on our show the tech world itself, watching it and kind of going, Oh, is that how people see us a little bit of that. But, I mean, we try to, you know, I mean, of course, we make fun of it.
I also, you know, like, our, our main characters, I mean, I like them and what they're doing. So we're not, I mean, you know, we make fun of them. But kind of, I think the way you would make fun of your friends.
And so, but yeah. I mean, to answer your question, I think, I think I mean, I've been told as much that it did have something to do with that.
Do you think like the stakes are a little bit higher, because like for for the vast majority of people outside of here in this room, like Silicon Valley is their main window into what the hell Google and Facebook and Amazon and apple and all these engineers are doing and what they're like, do you feel like any responsibility to represent or is it just like shit on Silicon Valley?
Well I mean I think I feel responsibility to kind of respect the characters and not yeah i mean i don't yeah I don't feel like it's let's just sit on Silicon Valley when there's when there's somebody who you know when you have these kind of crazy things like where you know like Tom Perkins compared the plight of tech billionaires to that of Jews and Nazi Germany it's like it's okay to go after that a little bit.
I think there's you know some things that are good to make fun of but I don't think it's like a you know like a big F U to the entire right world I have huge respect for it and so yeah.
So I noticed in the last season like the kind of the tactic for addressing hashtag me too was the the robot Episode of AI robot the and I think that was handled really well actually. Like, I'm curious about why that?
Well the the me too happened what in October and we were already
I mean will the tech world that has had its me too the last year again ahead of the curve we've been going through it for a while and then Hollywood was like oh yeah us too
The us too movement yeah that was yeah that was sort of a you know i mean because some of that stuff is sort of ugly and dark and we're a comedy i think you know we had to approach it in a way to just try to make it as funny as possible and I love that robot stuff I mean
It was a
name Fiona right
It was what's that
The name is Fiona
Fiona yes Fiona the robot and yeah the I mean Zach Woods who plays Jared just him in that robot was maybe my favorite part of the season. And, and yeah, I don't know. I mean, we had seen some videos of some, some some robots where it looks like this looks like maybe this is a I mean every it seems like historically every new technology tends to descend straight into some version of porn.
That is what what seems to happen I like I have to ask TJ left the show TJ Miller left the show that was before there are any allegations against him but then those did come out like did you feel in the years that you worked with him that he was a liability? Was that something you were worried about?
I never thought about it in that way. I'd never heard anything about that stuff. Yeah, to me the liability was more like just you know, he's he's a bit of a loose cannon.
And I mean, there was one time where we were shooting that robot bam bot from Boston Dynamics and this very, you know, rules like don't kick it in this direction don't kick and I mean he just he didn't follow it I'm thinking like he's not gonna follow anything you tell him and he almost knocked over he kicked it into a lighting rig that almost like the it's it stuff like that was always a little little little bit scary so.
but yeah I never heard about any of that stuff and
are you worried that AI is going to take your job one day?
I don't know I've seen some of the scripts AI's written in there not worried anytime soon.
Boy, it's like it's very bad right now. I don't know. I mean, I think I think that's I think on one hand that's a lot further away than people think. I mean, when when I started out in animation, there was a guy it was a company called US animation. And the person who was CEO there were very new then. And he's saying things like, oh, and in two years like you'll draw, butt head once and you'll never have to draw them again. you'll draw his hand and you that'll be done and everything.
And it was I could tell it was just so far away and they're saying separate everything on different levels. And just I remember this Russian animators really great worked on the show. And he just said, Can't we just draw it please like, and the technology became way more complicated than just animating and it never worked. And it was just, it was just years away now, maybe 25 years later, that's getting close.
So I think I think AI though it's possible that it could just, you know, it's one of those things that could become exponential but I feel like it's a long ways away from that exponential rise.
Given like how long you've been in, in the world of television sure keenly aware of kind of the fragmentation that's happening a little bit and just the evolution of the landscape as a whole in your opinion what is TV look like in 10 years are we buying Silicon Valley a la cart?
The the show Silicon Valley?
The show not Yeah, honestly, I'm kind of mad at you. Because that is annoying. Like every time you know, I'm like, I don't
I know the same thing happened to me with office space where someone's going like I'm trying to Google define office space and your movie comes up.
But I, and by the way, like, I didn't I remember saying, you know, and Alec Berg a show runner myself. Like we were just desperately trying to come up with the title. And I kept saying, Well, whatever it is, we can't call it Silicon Valley. I mean, if you called entourage. Hollywood. That's just the worst name ever. And after going through 100 different names, HBO is just like, Can we call it Silicon Valley? But um
An app for that
To answer your question, though. Yeah, I it's, yeah, it's changing so much. It's all sorting itself out. And I think, yeah, I mean, I hope it turns into some version of what we met with Bill Gates actually, for the show. And he was describing this thing, which I'm sure people here know way more than I do about but where you have sort of an AI agent online that has all your information, your credit card, whatever your payment, your preferences, and that thing just goes and shops.
You say I want to buy a jacket and it skips Amazon go straight to the people who make it. You decide if you want to give up your information to get a lower price. I think some version of that might happen with TV where you just it's like there'll be the people who produce the show.
I mean, those I think they'll still be brands. But yeah, right now it's a bit of a mess. But it's good for us. I mean, there's a lot of platforms, you have a lot of opportunities to make money, too. Yeah. And there's a lot of lot of Netflix and these together there were, I think I heard there were 450 scripted series shot in North America last year, which is like, I mean, it used to be 40 maybe. And, and so this is a Yeah, and a lot of them you don't see but you know, but yeah, there's a lot of money in it right now.
Okay, we're out of time and I'm going to get a bunch of trouble but we're going to do a lightning round real quick um, you can skip one of these.
Beavis or butthead?
Google or Facebook
like we all face lesser evil. Oh shit
Supposed to be a lightning round I'll go faster.
Recode or TechCrunch
Thank you. I agree.
Westworld or Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones.
Hulu or Netflix?
Uber or Lyft
Which parties are better. Hollywood? Or Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley. Of course.
More material for me
Who? Or who's more annoying Hollywood moguls or Silicon Valley executives
and finally King of the Hill, or the Cleveland Show,
King of the Hill.
Yeah, I agree. All right. Big round of applause for Mike.