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South Park's Brilliant Comedy

South Park's brilliant comedy reexamines the world through the eyes of endearingly crude animated ten-year-olds.

By Jake AronskindPublished 8 years ago 9 min read

Matt Stone and Trey Parker are the brilliant minds behind the creation of Comedy Central’s smash hit South Park and its four young protagonists: Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny. Unlike Futurama, Family Guy, and most other satirical animated shows for adult audiences, South Park’s creators chose children as the main characters. The kids seem like any other group of rebellious fourth graders as they torment teachers, rag on each others' appearances and religions, and spend hours playing games to pass the time in their supposedly quiet town. But the town of South Park is far from peaceful, as the ten-year-olds take on the world’s problems while imparting timely messages upon their international audience.

More Than Just a Small Town

While they capture the attention of all ages and backgrounds, South Park’s dynamic characters and hilarious plots are meant for adults. Parker and Stone uniquely convey their own childish perception of global issues through their young protagonists and their fictional small town. The show's most impressive comedy often walks a difficult line between fun and offensive, while focusing almost exclusively on current, popularized subject matter. From tackling the nationwide craze of World of Warcraft to illustrating the potential destruction stemming from a country run by Donald Trump, the potentially inappropriate show has a lot more to say than you might imagine.

Image via Daily Dot

All About Mormons, Season 7 Episode 12

If Parker and Stone’s Broadway hit musical Book of Mormon is the climax of everyone’s comedic fantasy, then this episode is the foreplay. Airing nearly eight years before the Tony award-winning Best Musical debuted, "All About Mormons" attempts to explain the Mormon religion through a new classmate in South Park's elementary school. The episode pokes fun at the religion’s questionable beginnings as well as its polite believers. However, as we’ve all come to expect from any South Park episode, it ends with a more big-picture, hopeful prognosis for religion as a whole. The stereotypically kind-mannered Mormon child approaches Stan and explains why he believes in his religion. Although he understands that Joseph Smith and the rest of the Mormon pillars might be untrue, the religion still pushes for family values and extra care for the poorboth of which are positive for society.

Rather than question the beliefs of others, Parker and Stone attempt to convince their viewers to accept everyone’s backgrounds. Society will never know which religion truly tells the most accurate story of how our world came to be. Therefore, who are we to question the beliefs of others? Parker and Stone expertly intertwine bathroom humor and the intolerance of religions with an optimistic message regarding equality. South Park’s intelligent comedy skillfully argues for greater acceptance around the world through crude jokes and sarcasm tinged with reverse psychology.

Stunning and Brave, Season 19 Episode 1

As our society continues to censor words and restrict the judgmental ways of our ancestors, it was only a matter of time before one of the most politically-incorrect shows on TV tackled the issue. "Stunning and Brave" aired just a few weeks after the Caitlyn Jenner transformation occurred. As is the case with any episode, viewers expected South Park to integrate the issue into its latest season. After kicking out the current principal, a frat bro-turned-politically-correct activist, PC Principal, takes over South Park Elementary. Along with regulating the vocabulary of students to prevent them from saying anything controversial regarding religion, ethnicity, or even preference of underwear, PC principal values anything relating to the almighty Caitlyn Jenner. The goddess sent from the heavens of political correctness is the face of the new-and-improved South Park, as her “stunning” and “brave” transformation is the epitome of the frat brother’s non-judgmental ways. While supporting Jenner during her tumultuous sex-change is nothing but honorable, PC Principal takes it to the next level. Anyone who denounces her decision to become a woman (basically if anyone calls her something other than brave), PC Principal is there along with his tribe of politically-correct frat brothers to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Punishments range from verbal abuse to physical assault. Is it more politically correct to support a controversial decision, or to restrict the public’s conversations about it?

Although racism and discrimination have no place in today’s world, the creators of the show demonstrate that censoring language and restricting opinions can be just as harmful. While they are in no way supporting the idea of insulting Jenner, nor any person in similar circumstances, Parker and Stone are simply pushing for additional equality in our world. If Jenner truly wants to be accepted in our country just like anyone else, why should she receive special treatment when it comes to the media? Just because Jenner is one of the first major celebrities to undergo a sex change in a more supportive society does not mean she should receive any unusual perks and leniencies.

Image via Techno Buffalo

Nothing Is Safe

From Tom Cruise to the prophet Muhammad and everything in between, everyone is fair game to the masterminds behind the show. Parker and Stone classify themselves as Atheists, but Stone comes from a Jewish background. Kyle, one of the main characters in the show, is constantly insulted by his friend Cartman for being a Jew. This simple relationship between two of the main characters is the epitome of the creators’ perception of religion. Their constant jokes regarding religion, sexuality, and racism aren’t meant to denounce the respective groups behind the general terms. Conversely, they are methods through which to prove that one group is no more important than another. Therefore, everyone is open to risky, joking criticism.

The idea that everyone is fair game was obvious when the actor behind one of the most beloved characters in South Park, Chef, left the show after an episode aired poking fun at his religion: Scientology. Stone responded to the conflict by saying, “he has no problemand he’s cashed plenty of checkswith our show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons, or Jews. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.”

Before the episode "200"aired, in which the prophet Muhammad is depicted as any other ordinary, construction-paper-looking character in South Park, Muslim extremists threatened the bright minds behind the show. The terrorists promised death to Parker and Stone as they felt the illustrations were insulting to their religion. The duo didn’t flinch—they aired the episode as planned without hesitation. However, Comedy Central censored the image of Muhammad with a black box and removed his voice-overs. Parker and Stone, as they’ve preached since the first year they created the world-renowned quiet town of South Park, felt that the Muslim extremists didn’t deserve special treatment. Analyzing global issues while satirizing them simultaneously is just the beginning of South Park’s comedy.

Cartman Gets an Animated Short

Long before Cartman’s racial slurs and Kyle’s drawn-out speeches echoed through millions of households worldwide, the tight-knit group of fourth graders debuted in a Christmas short from the young minds of two aspiring directors: Matt Stone and Trey Parker. In 1992, the duo gave the world its first glimpse into the small town of South Park, Colorado with a four-minute video titled The Spirit of Christmas. The short animated film tells the story of an evil, murderous snowman who runs rampant around town after the boys bring him to life with a magical top hat. The stop-motion video produced solely with construction paper went viral immediately as Parker and Stone rose to comedic stardom. Along with the infamous battle between Jesus and the murderous snowman Frosty, the bright directors demonstrated their first hint of intelligent comedy at the end of this short film. Kyle’s very first lengthy speech explains the true meaning behind the holidays, where he preaches that religion and holiday characters are distant seconds to the idea of giving to others. Hunger for the characters grew worldwide as Parker and Stone worked tirelessly to follow up their first masterpiece. Little did the country know how far this first amateur video and its young protagonists would go.

In 1995, the duo created the second short film of the series, although it was also titled "The Spirit of Christmas." Often referred to as "Jesus vs. Santa" rather than the original "Jesus vs. Frosty," the second short film follows a winner-takes-all battle between the two figureheads of Christmas. While the stop-motion short film still used construction paper to illustrate the characters, it more closely resembled the characters of the future TV show. As expected, the short film ends with another one of Kyle’s infamous speeches as he pushes for sharing the holiday spirit and spending time with others.

The Process

Not only does South Park differentiate itself from other animated series of similar humor through its witty but offensive protagonists, but the process by which episodes are created in the studio varies greatly as well. The adult-oriented series bases their episodes on up-to-date news. Therefore, they have a different approach than other shows that simply air episodes on arbitrary rather than timely topics (such as Family Guy, King of the Hill, and most other animated shows regardless of intended audience). Rather than work on scripts for upcoming seasons months in advance, Parker and Stone start the outline of each episode the week before it airs. New episodes of South Park typically debut on Wednesday nights, so the duo usually sends the completed copy to Comedy Central the morning ofalthough sometimes they finish it only hours before it airs.

Parker and Stone conduct their production week-by-week in an effort to intertwine their episodes with up-to-date world issues. Once the episode debuts on Wednesday night, the South Park creators have several hours to rest before starting the whole process over again Thursday morning. Typically, the entire team of animators, sound directors, writers, and everyone else involved in the show will work more than 100 hours per week building each episode from scratch.

Image via South Park Studios

Bigger, Longer, and Still Uncut

Parker and Stone have a lot to say about our society and its daily controversies, and they’re not going to censor any of it. This perspective is just one of the many things that make Comedy Central’s South Park one of the most popular shows on TV, as well as one of the most unique. By staying up-to-date with the news and constantly building episodes around it, South Park strays from the boring, predictable plot lines of most animated shows. Viewers want to be able to relate to the episodes they’re watchingthey want to find parallels between their own experiences and the various pop culture references that decorate the show each week.

South Park attacks daily controversies and worldwide issues such as religion, gender, sexuality, and any other point of contention that ostracizes countless groups of the world. The creators’ ultimate goal: poke fun at everybody until nobody feels more entitled than the person next to them—and that just might be a good thing.


About the Creator

Jake Aronskind

Born from the blood of Ash Ketchum and Lyanna Stark. Walks past unfinished jigsaw puzzles and can't help but solve them. Just might be the most interesting man in Essex County.

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