It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.
In the early ‘90s, Mike Judge was an unknown quantity, a polymath who’d spent time working for a graphics card manufacturer and as a bassist in a variety of touring bands before getting a 16mm camera to begin making animated shorts. One of these, following a couple teen ne’er-do-wells murdering frogs for fun, turned into Beavis And Butthead. Another featured a beer-swilling everyman getting yelled at by the hectoring progressives on television. The one above featured an office drone named Milton quietly enduring the humiliation of having his precious stapler stolen by his coffee-sipping boss.
The last of these, obviously, would turn out to be one of the more memorable passages of Judge’s live-action debut Office Space, from 1999. Judge voices both Milton and his boss Bill in the short, and it’s still astonishing how much was packed into its brief 90 seconds: the burbling, long-suppressed fury of its protagonist, the faux-jocularity of the boss (“What’s happening?”), the certainty that Milton will eventually follow through on his threat to set the building on fire. The short was picked up by Comedy Central and eventually aired on Liquid Television, Night After Night With Allan Havey, and Saturday Night Live.
The producers of Office Space wanted the film to focus much more around Milton, but Judge pushed for more of an ensemble piece. The short got cut, pretty much verbatim but with one very good line about squirrels added in, into two scenes, first here:
And eventually, of course, he’d set the building on fire. A man can only quietly suffer so much.