A satirist must often suffer the same slings and arrows in return. Max Headroom has been parodied, satirized and paid homage in a surprisingly broad variety of ways.
- 1 David Letterman: "Larry Bud Headroom" (September & October 1986)
- 2 "Maxine Legroom" (January 1987)
- 3 MAD Magazine (March 1987-1990)
- 4 Doonesbury & "Ron Headrest" (April 1987-1993)
- 5 Sesame Street (1987-8)
- 6 Maxine (1988)
- 7 Back to the Future II (1989)
- 8 Minor Parodies & Homages
David Letterman: "Larry Bud Headroom" (September & October 1986)
A few months after David Letterman had Max as a guest on his show, he jumped into signature parody mode and brought out "Larry Bud Headroom" - his regular "court jester" Larry Bud Melman (played by Calvert DeForest) transformed into a computer-generated talking head. More than just a brief joke, Letterman gave over a significant segment of his show to parody Max's talk show, with his "Headroom" answering audience questions and giving away absurd gifts (a package of fluorescent light tubes).
"Larry Bud Headroom" on Letterman,
15 Sep 1986
"Larry Bud Headroom" on Letterman,
6 Oct 1986 (begins at 13:26)
Letterman ran the skit twice, once on September 15, 1986, and then again on October 8. The first appearance had a very approximate version of Max's background (mostly neon-green stripes), while the second one used a bouncing lines background that may well have been borrowed from the ABC series video archive.
The joke does not appear to have been repeated a third time, and even Letterman is aware of the waning popularity of Max jokes in the introduction to the second.
"Maxine Legroom" (January 1987)
When Max was interviewed for Playboy magazine, the editors accompanied the interview with a layout for a rather hot blonde (female, of course) equivalent named Maxine Legroom. It's an absurd self-parody of their usual Playmate pictorials, complete with a "biography" listing Maxine's interests. It ran under the subtitle, "Max, have we got a girl for you!"
The model was Playboy regular Sondra (Sandy) Greenberg, who also appeared in Playboy Video Magazine #12, doing four Max-like segments. I haven't seen those yet...
(There is also a series of workout videos under the "Maxine Legroom" name, but if there's a connection - to either Max or this Maxine - it's escaped me.)
MAD Magazine (March 1987-1990)
Max famously appeared on the cover of the March 1987 issue of MAD, albeit wearing his Alfred E. Neuman mask. An inside sidebar was the only related content, showing that the decision to go with Max was probably a late decision by The Usual Gang of Idiots.
MAD ran a few Max items over the next few years, probably stuff that was in hand, in prep or in press as Max started to fade from the scene. Most are fairly sharp, even unkind observations... but still funny.
(Ah, MAD, I miss you...)
This issue of MAD is in the MaxRchives; inquiries about the content are welcome.
Doonesbury & "Ron Headrest" (April 1987-1993)
Gary Trudeau was one of many comics artists to latch onto the Max meme, turning then-President Ronald Reagan into a digitized parody of himself, Ron Headrest. The gag outlived Max's run, as well as Reagan's. "Ron Headrest" makes 77 appearances through about 1993, which (subscribers only, sorry) can find in the GoComics.com online archives.
Garry Trudeau is quoted as saying that this was one of his least popular characters... but damn if it isn't the most spot-on parody of them all. Trudeau clearly "got" what made Max interesting and a little scary, and found the ideal candidate to carry the joke...
Sesame Street (1987-8)
Along with his brief appearance reciting the al-al-alphabet, Max made two appearances in the Muppet universe.
- "Muppet Babies: 'This Little Piggy Went to Hollywood'" (1987)
- Max was
- Sesame Street Magazine (1988)
- Max was portrayed as by 'Link Hogthrob' in the Spring 1988 issue of Sesame Street magazine.
It'sbefore anyone conceived of a Rule 34, much less an internet. Yes, it's Max-themed porn starring Porsche Lynn as both Allison Carter and Maxine Bedroom.
No, I'm not making this up.
Gawd help me, here's a synopsis:
- "Porsche Lynn stars as Maxine, an intrepid reporter for a busy metropolitan TV news show. She's hit upon the story of a lifetime when she meets a couple of couch potatoes who claim that by watching network television that were turned into a pair of feverishly frolicking sexual animals. Rather than just enjoy the situation, though, the couple feels the need to expose the networks nefarious scheme — to entice viewers into sex through subliminal manipulation. How causing sex among your viewers is supposed to boost ratings is a mystery, but Maxine lays bare the whole sordid story on her nightly broadcast. But now she's run afoul of the powerful network execs who created the whole plan! They plot to assassinate Maxine, but little do they suspect that her personality will be transplanted into the network's own central computer. She becomes more powerful than ever, beaming her sexy shenanigans into homes from coast to coast. A take-off on the one-time hit series 'Max Headroom,' this video uses flashly effects, gorgeous women and plenty of white-hot action to keep you intrigued from start to fiery finish. It's a cyber-sexual trip to the far side of sexual bliss — a trip you'll be happy to take again and again."
Back to the Future II (1989)
The second installment of the time-traveling movie franchise took Marty McFly to, uh... 2015, where among our flying cars, rehydrated food and other wonders he encountered several Max-like characters on the service screens of the old diner.
(I have to say that I am beyond embarrassed not to have realized, until it was pointed out to me, that in an additional layer of satire these t-talking heads were pitching The P-Word (Pepsi).
Excuse me, I'm going to go ride my hoverboard around to look for flying cars and self-lacing shoes...)
Minor Parodies & Homages
- "Sledge Hammer: 'A Clockwork Hammer'"
- This sitcom, a running parody of tough-guy cop shows, ran on ABC in the same years as Max's show. It used a punning title and parodic theme for each episode of its two-season run. One, almost inevitably, was based on the title character becoming Max-Max-Maxified.
- "Carmen Sandiego"
- The animated series featured Carmen's boss, seen only as a talking-head on TV.
- T-Mobile Germany's "Robert T-Online" (2001)
- One of the more bizarre manifestations of Max-influence was this strange talking-head spokesbeing for T-Mobile Germany (a division of Deutsche Telekom), a very Max-like "Robert T-Online."
- Eminem: "Rap God" (2013)
- Eminem's 2013 single "Rap God" features an extended parody of Max with the singer in full costume and on a signature moving-lines background.
- The 2007 commercials for Channel Four could also be called parodies... or at least self-satire.
Most of these popular culture references, taken from the Wikipedia entry, have not been verified.
- On his 1986 album Landing on Water, Neil Young refers to Max Headroom in the lyrics for the song entitled "Pressure".
- The season 4 episode of Farscape, "John Quixote" featured the actor Ben Browder appearing as a Headroom-type version of his character, John Crichton.
- The Canadian rock band Sum 41 wrote a song called "Second Chance for Max Headroom" for their album Half Hour of Power.
- In the 1987 film Spaceballs, a parody of Max Headroom appears as the character Vinnie, henchman of mobster Pizza the Hutt.
- In the music video for Italian DJ Gigi D'Agostino's song "Another Way", the main character bears Max Headroom's appearance, stuttering and robotic motion.
- During the final season of the educational television series Square One Television, another parody of Max Headroom named FAX HEADFUL had his own segment. FAX's monologues typically involved statistics and estimation, such as his musing on population density, or average yearly doughnut consumption.
- Channel 8 of Sirius Radio, which features songs from the 1980s, will sometimes have a character called "Less Headroom" between songs. He is billed as Max's "younger, more sophisticated brother".
- Usher's video for OMG pays homage to him in the beginning scene.
- In the music video of Selena Gomez's song, "Love You like a Love Song" she appears in Max Headroom-like scenes.
- In the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, the main character uses Max Headroom as the avatar and personality representation of his personal assistant.
- In the YouTube video series titled "Baby Cakes" by Neely Comics, Max Headroom is mentioned in Diary #4
- In the late 1980s, activists in the Social Democratic Party re-cut a video interview with the Right Hon David Owen MP (now Lord Owen) in Max Headroom style, presumably in the hope of attracting the interest of young voters.
- 50 Cent appeared as a Max Headroom character in Tony Yayo's video for Pass the Patron.
- A CinemaSins YouTube video based on the film Batman and Robin included a reference to Max Headroom, replacing Alfred's appearance as a computer generated AI triggered by Barbara Wilson's discovery of the bat cave.
- In a Season 2 episode of Family Matters entitled "The Science Project," Laura Winslow has a dream about doing a science project with Steve Urkel. In her dream, Urkel builds an atom bomb for their project. After they start the detonation sequence, a Max Headroom version of Urkel, complete with characteristic stutter, appears on a computer monitor and interacts with the characters before the bomb goes off, causing Urkel to exclaim his catchphrase, "Did I do that?"