While some of the best shows on television generally peak then slowly decline in quality, it can be argued that South Park continues to get better. Originally noticed for its bad language, violence, and sexual references, South Park evolved to the point where it is constantly touching on politics, religion, and current events - and pretty much making the jokes no other show dares go near.
It makes you wonder what kind of minds come up with this stuff. So, how is South Park made? Whereas a single episode once took creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone more than two months to finish, they can now be turned around in a single week. Read on to understand what goes on behind the scenes of South Park, and just how much effort goes into one of the most infamous animated series on TV.
Parker Threatened To Go To South Africa When Comedy Central Pulled The Prophet Muhammed EpisodePhoto: Comedy Central
South Park episodes 200 and 201 broached a hot button topic by choosing to depict the Prophet Muhammad. Unlike many historical figures featured in the show, Muhammad wasn't shown doing anything rude, crude, or questionable - but the very fact that he was being shown onscreen was considered an incendiary act by certain factions of the Muslim faith. This prompted Comedy Central to heavily censor (for the first time in South Park history) the episode by blacking out the character and bleeping his name.
Trey Parker took exception to this, in part because the network had no problem with a previous South Park episode that heavily featured Muhammad working with a religious Justice League-type team (Season 5's "Super Best Friends"). To show Comedy Central he meant business, Parker bought a ticket to South Africa and showed it to the head of the network, threatening to essentially repeat the media controversy that was spurred by Dave Chappelle leaving his own popular Comedy Central series.
Comedy Central's response was that they had to think about the safety of everyone working there, and the decision stood. Parker never ended up going to South Africa, and those episodes remain unavailable to stream to this day.
Parker told The Hollywood Reporter, "We were so exhausted by it all, we were like, 'F— it, just get on to the next episode.' That was the hardest we've ever pushed back."
Isaac Hayes's Son Says His Dad Didn't Actually Quit The ShowPhoto: Comedy Central
It is widely believed that Isaac Hayes (the voice of Chef) left South Park due to his connection with Scientology. It was said that after South Park aired their Scientology episode, Isaac Hayes gave his resignation in the form of a statement. However, according to his son, Isaac Hayes III, there’s a little more to it than that.
Isaac Hayes III told The Hollywood Reporter that his father "was not that big of a hypocrite to be part of a show that would constantly poke fun at African-American people, Jewish people, gay people - and only quit when it comes to Scientology. He wouldn't be that hypocritical." Instead, his departure had more to do with the debilitated state he was in following a stroke he suffered in January 2006.
In addition to losing the ability to speak, Hayes "really didn't have that much comprehension," his son explained. "He was in no position to resign under his own knowledge. At the time, everybody around my father was involved in Scientology - his assistants, the core group of people. So someone quit South Park on Isaac Hayes' behalf. We don't know who."
In the same interview, Matt Stone confirmed that this is indeed what happened, but he and Trey Parker did not learn this until later.
Parker And Stone Think The 'South Park' Movie Helped 'Wild Wild West' Make MoneyPhoto: Warner Bros.
Following the 1999 Columbine massacre in Stone's hometown of Littleton, Colorado, theaters began checking IDs more frequently. Although South Park gained popularity with old and young audiences alike, due to the movie’s R rating, it meant that no one under the age of 17 was able to see it.
However, security rarely went beyond the ticket stand, meaning patrons were able to buy Wild Wild West tickets (which came out the same year) and slip into South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut undetected. According to Matt Stone, South Park "sold a lot of Wild Wild West tickets."
Natasha Henstridge Was The First Celebrity Guest, Allegedly Because Parker And Stone Had A Crush On HerPhoto: Species / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Initially, Parker and Stone were hesitant when it came to celebrity voices for the show, due to a fear of being compared to The Simpsons. However this isn’t to say they didn’t have celebrity voices from the beginning. For instance, George Clooney did the barking for Stan’s Dog, and Jay Leno meowed for Cartman's cat.
The two creators made an exception when it came to Natasha Henstridge, and rumor has it, it was due to them having a crush on her. Henstridge told The Hollywood Reporter:
I heard a rumor that they had a crush on me from Species and asked me to come in and do a voice [for episode 11] just because they wanted to say hi, which is pretty funny. But, you know, 20 years later people are still in awe of the fact that I did a voice on South Park. That comes up all the time with fans.