Mike Judge is one of this country’s comic greats.
As well as Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, he made the classic movie Idiocracy.
Now he’s back with a terrific new show on HBO, a sardonic look at Silicon Valley called “Silicon Valley”. It has been called “Entourage with Asperger’s”. It debuted last night, I just watched it with a friend who also has a lot of experience in the Valley, and we both found it hilarious. They’ve totally nailed it, and I can’t wait for the show to develop.
Here’s the whole first episode:
Being San Francisco, of course, not everyone is happy about it: including Burner and Tesla founder Elon Musk, who has judged Judge for not radically including himself in our shenanigans. He should be a Burner more like Elon, who flies in by private plane to his plug-n-play Segway model RV compound. Does that put you in a position to be saying “Silicon Valley is Burning Man”? Hey, when your plane takes off from your office which has 5 Spaceships and you bring the Lucent Dossier Experience to the party, that’s fine by us! You clearly know how to do it better than the fresh-from-Crimea virgins who (shock! horror!) wore a t-shirt with some sort of logo on it, or had to hitch a ride because they couldn’t score a vehicle pass.
Recode brings us the full story, of Elon’s comments over bacon and waffles:
If the crowd reactions at the Silicon Valley premiere of HBO’s comedy series “Silicon Valley” are any indication, the show will hit a nerve with tech’s power players.
Young programmers said they saw themselves in the show. Lawyers and venture capitalists were happy that people would finally see how much power engineers have these days. And Tesla founder Elon Musk, whose name was dropped in the first few minutes of the first episode, hated it.
Created by Mike Judge, Dave Krinsky and John Altschuler, and filmed on location in Palo Alto, the show, which debuts on April 6, follows six roommates, all programmers, as they try to strike it rich in Silicon Valley. During the first two 30-minute episodes at Redwood City’s Fox Theatre, the audience of around 400 locals responded with laughs and sighs as the characters enacted the constant pitching, striving and inanity that felt familiar to those in the recent tech boom.
Afterward, the audience and cast filed uneasily together down Broadway to an after-party at the Fox Forum banquet hall, where a group of Silicon Valley lawyers and venture capitalists formed a tight circle.
“It was no more unreal than real life here,” said Selwyn B. Goldberg, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. “Since the last bubble, it’s been complete insanity.”
Simon Roy, president of Jemstep, agreed, and said the show captures the enormous power that engineers have today.
“In the ’90s, in the 2000s, it wasn’t like this.”
If the VCs and law firm partners were fans, serial entrepreneur Musk was less so. He sees the Valley through Playa-dust encrusted glasses:
Elon Musk, whose high-profile companies SpaceX and Tesla have made him a very big star of tech, recognized a friend in the VC scrum, and joined in.
“The truth? It’s stranger than the fiction,” Musk declared, as the large group debated the verisimilitude of the show and also tech versus Hollywood in general. “Most startups are a soap opera, but not that kind of soap opera.”
Musk did not much like the show and continued talking about the issue of truth versus fiction, in what was an instant television review of “Silicon Valley.”
The verdict of the digital Roger Ebert? Thumbs very much down.
“None of those characters were software engineers. Software engineers are more helpful, thoughtful, and smarter. They’re weird, but not in the same way,” he insisted. “I was just having a meeting with my information security team, and they’re great but they’re pretty fucking weird — one used to be a dude, one’s super small, one’s hyper-smart — that’s actually what it is.”
Musk continued his lively assessment, as waiters passed trays of sweetbread, truffled potatoes, Brussels sprouts and bacon and waffles around them, making larger points about the tech landscape and offering a kind of on-the-fly script notes session for those gathered.
“I really feel like Mike Judge has never been to Burning Man, which is Silicon Valley,” opined Musk. “If you haven’t been, you just don’t get it. You could take the craziest L.A. party and multiply it by a thousand, and it doesn’t even get fucking close to what’s in Silicon Valley. The show didn’t have any of that.”
Musk looked around the circle and asked who had been to colorful annual desert festival that is a favorite of tech’s elite. Not a one answered in the affirmative.
Then, Musk made the observation that the geeks are without the same social aspirations as those in the entertainment industry, an aspect which he thought the show completely missed.
“The parties in Silicon Valley are amazing because people don’t care about how they’re perceived socially, which I don’t think Mike [Judge] got. Hollywood is a place where people always care about what the public will think of them … and the show felt more like that,” he said. “I’ve lived in Hollywood 12 years, and I’ve never been to a fucking good party.”
Musk reached for a bacon waffle and proclaimed that he would take Judge to Burning Man this year.
We look forward to seeing a Beavis and Butthead art car (at least). Huh huh huh huh. These people are naked. Huh huh. Or at least, a Silicon Valley episode set at Burning Man. Starring Elon, natch.
If Elon thinks that there aren’t just as many celebrities at Burning Man as at your typical Hollywood party, then clearly he hasn’t been reading our coverage of the event.
Despite some misgivings about the show, it was clear that Musk was definitely more of a star than anyone present at the premiere. A coterie of millennial women, waiting for him to break away from the group, circled him.
Outside on the street, actor T.J. Miller was having a cigarette. Was he having a good time at the party?
“Yeah, but, and I’m not gonna name names, but if the billionaire power players don’t get the joke, it’s because they’re not comfortable being satirized,” said Miller, who plays a buffoonish character named Erlich, who owns the hacker house. “And they don’t remember that to be a target of humor is an honor — you have to be venerated to be satirized. Like, I’m sorry, but you could tell everything was true. You guys do have bike meetings, motherfucker.”
Also outside smoking was one of the show’s writers, Clay Tarver, who said he had been anxious about having the premiere in the heart of the Valley.
“We knew this would be either a lovely evening or the worst night of our lives,” Tarver said. “I’m still not sure which it is.”
Tarver said he felt that Silicon Valley was a perfect topic for satire — and that the increasing public resentment toward tech means that the show didn’t even feel that mean anymore (after all, earlier that morning, protesters had vomited on a Yahoo shuttle in Oakland).
“When I first read the pilot, I thought maybe it was too harsh,” he said. “But even just in the last four months, the resentment toward the Valley has come through the roof, so I think it works.”
The HBO jet was docked at an airstrip nearby, and the media execs started filing out to head back to Los Angeles. By the photo booth in the back of the banquet hall, the stars of the show were dancing with their girlfriends.
“The Valley is a place that takes itself too seriously, and it has yet to be properly lampooned,” said lead character Thomas Middleditch. “So it’s time for … it’s time for a wedgie.”
It sure is. And I can think of another San Francisco subculture of self-important hipsters who could use a wedgie or three also. Let’s hope Elon gives Mike Judge a LOT of inspiration at Caravansery.
Elon’s comments got some feedback from the show’s creators in the Hollywood Reporter:
producer Alec Berg was still trying to make sense of Musk’s criticisms. “I’m not quite sure what going to Burning Man has to do with anything that was in the show,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I feel like [Musk] may have a slightly skewed opinion of people because he’s a billionaire and everyone wants to be helpful to him. It’s like he’s the most beautiful woman in the world and he’s saying, ‘Gosh, men are so helpful. They carry your bag and they get the door for you.’ If no one ever says ‘no’ to you and everyone is following around trying to help you, you probably lose perspective pretty f—ing fast.”
He added: “I also feel like the people that disliked it the most are the ones we were most going after, so it seemed like we probably hit the target if they got irked.”
Judge appeared less bothered by Musk’s remarks. “I would not claim to know Silicon Valley better than he does. I’m just going off of what I’ve observed,” he told THR, joking: “Maybe I’ll go to Burning Man with him and smooth it over.”
The show — which has been dubbed “Entourage with Asperger’s” by those involved — follows Richard (Middleditch), a young, socially awkward programmer who creates a search engine that allows musicians to see if their songs are too similar to existing ones. When a bidding war erupts between two tech billionaires over the algorithm behind the app, Richard has to decide between $10 million or taking a risk and possibly making billions. Judge relied on his past experiences working as a test engineer for a Silicon Valley start-up and a few tours of modern tech companies, including Google, to create the series.
While Musk may not have found the satire entirely accurate, he still was able to appreciate the humor. “Some of these billionaires, we have to poke fun at them. That’s the idea,” noted actor T.J. Miller. “They may not love that we’re pocking fun at them, but I said to [Musk], ‘Did you think it was funny?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, it was funny. I was laughing.’ ”
The biggest laugh at the Silicon Valley screening came with one of Kumail Nanjiani‘s (Dinesh) lines, in which he joked that Google co-founder Sergey Brin‘s partner, Larry Page, actually does nothing. (The line didn’t play quite as well with Thursday’s Hollywood audience.)
“What was neat is all the inside-baseball tech stuff – all stuff we were thinking, ‘Is this right? Are people going to get this?’ – they got all that stuff,” added star Thomas Middleditchof a reception he found rewarding, acknowledging: “We were kind of nervous premiering Silicon Valley to the Silicon Valley.”