- This article is about the animated television series. For other uses go to South Park (disambiguation).
The main characters of South Park (and the hundreds of secondary characters), as they appear in the title sequence.
South Park is a comedy animated series created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Distributed by Warner Bros. Television and airing on Comedy Central since 1997, it follows the surreal adventures of four young boys who live in the small town of South Park, Colorado. South Park satirizes many aspects of American culture and current events, challenges deepset convictions and taboos, and quite often tops everything off with a thick coat of black humor. As of December 2004, South Park was in its 8th season and signed through the 10th. (This is because, half of the episodes from the 8th season were put on hiatus for Team America: World Police, another Matt Stone & Trey Parker production, thus the second half of the episodes became the short 9th season.) The 10th season debuts on March 9, 2005.
The show is noted for handling current events while still current, and in a characteristically blunt fashion. For example, an episode involving the repatriation of Romanian quintuplets aired during the Elián González issue, and included the character Janet Reno, the US Attorney General at the time. Another episode aired after the September 11, 2001 attacks had the boys stow away on a military transport to Afghanistan and encounter Osama bin Laden. Another episode features a woman who accidently exposes her breast and squirts her breast milk across town which aired after the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction.
South Park got its start in 1991 when Trey Parker and Matt Stone, then film students at the University of Colorado, created an animated short called Jesus vs Frosty (also known as The Spirit of Christmas). The crudely-made film featured prototypical versions of the kids of South Park, including a character resembling Cartman but called "Kenny", bringing a murderous snowman to life with a magic hat. The baby Jesus then saves the day by decapitating the monster with a halo.
Executives at the Fox network came upon the film, and in 1995 executive Brian Graden commissioned Parker and Stone to create a second short film to send to friends as a video Christmas card. Entitled The Spirit of Christmas, it closely resembled the style of the later series, and featured a martial arts duel (and subsequent truce) between Jesus and Santa Claus over the true meaning of Christmas. The video was a hit and was quickly shared, both by underground duplication and over the then-burgeoning Internet. This led to talks to create a series, first with Fox, then with Comedy Central, where the series premiered on August 13, 1997.
One of the many deaths of Kenny
The show's provocative, frequently offensive, and unquestionably adult-oriented material quickly drew howls of protests from various conservative spokespersons, and South Park merchandise (especially T-shirts) was banned from a number of public schools, day care centers, and in other public places in a manner similar to the prohibition of Bart Simpson T-shirts in the late 1980s, after the series The Simpsons was accused of contributing to juvenile delinquency. Comedy Central defended South Park by noting that the show is given a "Mature Audiences" TV rating (TV-MA) and that it only airs the show during nighttime hours -- never during the day when children may be more likely to see the show...and also has a policy that it only airs once a day.
In February 1998, one episode of South Park posed the question of who Eric Cartman's father was. The episode ended with the announcement that it would be revealed in four weeks' time. Four weeks later, the airing of an episode about Terrance and Phillip (two Canadian comedians the main characters idolize) prompted outrage, and also prompted Comedy Central to push the true season premiere up earlier than expected. It was apparently a well-planted April Fools Day gag, meant to poke fun at season-ending cliffhangers.
The following year, the full-length animated feature film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was released to generally enthusiastic reviews. The film managed to satirize both itself and the anticipated reaction that it engendered from moral conservatives. It also presented a twisted but seemingly sincere tribute to the film musical with a number of songs, including "Uncle Fucka" and "Blame Canada." The latter was nominated for an Oscar and was performed by Robin Williams during the awards show. (It has been said that the "Blame Canada" was chosen from other Oscar-worthy songs in the movie on the basis that it was the only one that could be performed on live TV with its lyrics relatively intact). Unfortunatley it's Canadian audience (whom can see the Oscars via cable), complained and Comedy Central said that the song "Blame Canada" would no longer be heard in Canadian soil ever again by digtally removing it from the movie DVD's and Video's in Canada and replacing with O Canada Canada's national anthem.
On November 11, 1999 shortly after the U.S. theatrical release of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, actress Mary Kay Bergman, who had provided all of the female voices on the South Park television series and in the full length movie, committed suicide using a gun in her Suburban Los Angeles, California home. After her death it was revealed that she suffered from a severe form of clinical depression. Her husband, Dino Andrade, founded the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund at the Suicide Prevention Center of Greater Los Angeles in an effort to help and educate people with the same type of depression that his wife suffered from.
The characters and backgrounds of South Park are made to appear deliberately crude, as if they are simply made of cut out pieces of paper. Paper cutouts were indeed used in the original pilot Parker/Stone animation, but every episode aired on TV has been produced by computer animation. Some episodes have sections of regular film edited in (e.g. Tweek vs. Craig and Cat Orgy).
The main characters are:
The show's earliest well-known gimmick was that in every episode, Kenny would die in some horrible, unexpected way. After this Stan would say, "Oh my god, they killed Kenny!" and Kyle would add, "You bastards!" Kenny would be back in the next episode, the incident forgotten. For some time (after the events of the South Park movie), Kenny had actually died "permanently", although his ghost occasionally reappeared. Recently he has come back to life and is now the same regular kid he was before. Kenny was killed in the last episode of season seven, but he survived the first episode of season eight unscathed. He was killed once during the eighth season, unmasked, by "Mr. Jefferson" AKA Michael Jackson.
Frequently recurring characters, besides the boys and their families, include their teachers Mr. Herbert Garrison and Ms. Choksondik (pronounced "chokes-on-dick"), Mr. Mackey (school counsellor), Jerome "Chef" McElroy (voiced by Isaac Hayes), town police Officer Barbrady, and schoolmates Wendy Testaburger, the handicapped kids Timmy and Jimmy, and Token Williams, so named because he is the only black student in the 4th grade.
See Recurring South Park characters for more details.
Minor characters and 'celebrities'
The satirical disclaimer that begins every episode
Part of the show's surrealist nature derives from the minor characters who appear in the series. Notable appearances include God (who appears as a small creature resembling a hippo-rodent hybrid), Jesus (a recurring character, who owns a home and hosts a cable-access television show in South Park), Satan and his lover Saddam Hussein, Moses who appears exactly as the Master Control Program (MCP) does in Disney's film Tron and demands macaroni pictures, the alien Marklar race, the jakovasaur, Death, and Mr. Hankey "the Christmas poo", who adds to the holiday festivities in much the same spirit as the 1960s Rankin-Bass cartoons.
Celebrities often appear (usually impersonated), examples include:
- Barbra Streisand (who was after a mystical artifact Kyle found while digging artifacts and became a mechanized Godzilla-like creature)
- Robert Smith of the Cure (90's band) (who transformed into a moth-like creature parody of Mothra to battle the mechanized Streisand mentioned above)
- Kathie Lee Gifford (who Mr. Garrison tried to assassinate),
- Bill Clinton (who slept with Cartman's mom),
- O. J. Simpson (part of a support group for relatives of murder victims),
- the band Korn (who played themselves and solved a Scooby Doo-type mystery),
- the band Toto (an 80s band),
- Brian Boitano (who is a superhero),
- Madonna (who is ridiculed),
- David Blaine (founder of the fictional "Blainetology" religion),
- Sally Struthers saving "Starvin' Marvin" in Africa,
- Radiohead playing themselves, with the band telling lead singer Thom Yorke to stop reading fan mail and mocking Scott Tenorman for crying.
- Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks as a goat in the Afghanistan episode.
- Paris Hilton as spokesperson for the "Stupid Spoiled Whore" clothing store chain.
See list of celebrities on South Park for more persons who have appeared on the show in one way or another.
Although South Park is well known for its humor and controversial plots, viewers are also treated to an original musical score. The show's opening theme song is:
- Les Claypool: Goin' down to South Park, gonna have myself a time.
- Kyle and Stan: Friendly faces everywhere, humble folks without temptation.
- Les: Goin' down to South Park, leave all my woes behind.
- Cartman: Ample parking day or night, people shouting, "Howdy neighbor!"
- Les: Heading up to South Park, gonna see if I can't unwind.
- Kenny (except season 6):
- - I like girls with big vaginas. I like girls with big fat titties (Seasons 1&2)
- - I have got a ten inch penis, use your mouth to help me clean it (Seasons 3-5)
- Timmy: -Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! (Season 6)
- - Someday I'll be old enough to stick my dick in Britney's butt (Seasons 7-)
- Les: Come on down to South Park, 'n meet some friends of mine.
It should be noted that Kenny's lines in the song, as well as all of his lines in the TV show and all but one in the movie, are muffled, since Kenny always wears a coat with the hood over his head and most of his face. The fact that the lines are unintelligible helped them slip past network censors. Kenny also spoke during an episode in the eighth season.
Popular songs such as "Kyle's Mom is a Bitch" originated on the show, but the creators' musical abilities were not frequently utilized until the release of the musical film South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. The film's soundtrack featured songs like "Mountain Town", "Uncle Fucka", "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" (a song to which Brian Boitano has been known to figure skate), "I'm Super", and "Blame Canada" (nominated for an Oscar, see below).
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have, on occasion, performed these and other songs (some unrelated to the show, such as "Dead Dead Dead"), under the band name DVDA.
Additional musical contributions to the show come from themselves and from Isaac Hayes, who voices the character Chef, and from the band Primus, which performed the original opening and ending themes for the show. But another high point of the series is on the dramatic score, for it dramatizes common and deep parts with a very heart-warmed, melancholic or mysterious soundtrack.
South Park and politics
The political leaning of South Park has been open to some debate. The show has drawn widespread criticism from conservatives for its themes and its offensive language. However, unlike many other satirical shows, South Park's political humor is often seen as mocking liberal celebrities and pet causes. This has in turn prompted the use of the phrase South Park Republican to describe the attitudes of some of the show's viewers. Trey Parker stated in an interview that he was a "registered Libertarian". In other interviews Trey Parker and Matt Stone described themselves as being (small 'l') libertarian-Republicans, but they have also listed prominent liberals amongst their heroes. At any rate, the show has consistently made fun of all sides of the political spectrum. In fact, a recent ad on Comedy Central, after a list of many categories of people South Park has made fun of, including blacks, gays, politicians, the disabled, etc., stated "We apologize if South Park has forgotten you".
The film Bowling for Columbine includes a brief interview with Matt Stone that suggests South Park was largely inspired by Parker and Stone's childhood experiences in Littleton, Colorado. Stone presents a vision of Littleton as painfully normal, and highly intolerant of non-conformist behavior. This may explain some of the mockery in the series.
Stone's appearance in Bowling for Columbine was followed by an uncredited cartoon in a style strongly reminiscent of South Park; it was not the work of either Stone or Parker. It became a point of contention between them and Moore, as they believed Moore meant to imply they had contributed to his film. They have said the appearance of Moore as a suicide bomber in their 2004 film Team America: World Police is their sardonic response to this incident.
Les Miserables has had several cameo roles throughout the series, including Cosette's appearance, Cartman's prison number, 24601 (Jean Valjean's number), and an entire song in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut that is based on a song from the play named "One Day More".
A short tribute sketch was shown for the 30th anniversary of Monty Python which parodied the "Dead Parrot Sketch". The parody takes part in a friends store, where Eric Cartman walks in and complains that this friend (Kenny) that he bought is dead. Eventually an ending showing crude cut outs of Terry Gilliam, Venus de Milo, and the Monty Python foot appear.
Evolution of the series
South Park's early episodes tended to be shock value-oriented, but the more recent episodes are less crude and oriented more toward poking fun at current events. This was very evident in the first half of the newest season, season 8: events in its episodes include Michael Jackson visiting South Park, the boys seeing The Passion of the Christ, blue-collar workers in South Park losing their jobs to immigrants from the future, and an episode featuring a "Paris Hilton" toy video camera.
In the audio commentary on the season 4 DVD set, Parker and Stone remarked that beginning with episode 408, "Chef Goes Nanners," they began to consistently make episodes centering around a single issue, rather than having different sub-plots going on.
In 2002 the episode "Free Hat" was aired. In this episode, prompted by Kyle's comment on Ted Koppel's Nightline that changing E.T. would be like changing Raiders of the Lost Ark, the South Park depictions of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg decide to alter the first Indiana Jones film. Soon after "Free Hat" aired, the real Lucas and Spielberg announced that they would not be altering Raiders of the Lost Ark for DVD release (contrary to rumors surrounding it). Stone and Parker later claimed that their episode prevented any alterations from happening when they appeared on a VH1 special, Inside South Park.
While in college, Stone and Parker collaborated on the movie Cannibal! The Musical, a Western satire with humorous musical numbers. (The "Braniff" tune that plays at the end of many South Park episodes is an excerpt from the Cannibal! song, "Shpadoinkle".) Later they created Orgazmo, a comedy about a Mormon starring in a pornographic movie, which found distribution thanks to the success of South Park later that same year. The pair starred in the 1998 film BASEketball directed by David Zucker. Their latest collaboration is the marionette action/comedy, Team America: World Police.