When South Park first came out, I was but a wee lad of 12. I had been a Simpsons fan, seen a very small smattering of Beavis and Butthead, and watched Ren and Stimpy (which is a truly messed up show) so another cartoon made sense to fall into my viewing habits. While I didn’t get to watch a lot of it live (didn’t have cable, parents, being 12 and all) I did get to watch it sometimes. From that time until today, I became a huge fan.
In case you don’t know what South Park is, here’s a quick answer: 4 foul mouthed 3rd (now 4th) graders make poignant, but offensive social commentary. The brainchild of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, South Park debuted on Comedy Central, where it still resides. What I, and others, have loved about South Park is the simple art style and minimalist aesthetic. In early seasons, the characters were in fact cut-outs of construction paper, and it was stop motion animation. This has gotten better in newer seasons, but they still have the same feel as before.
South Park is extremely offensive, and that voice is Eric Cartman on the show. Cartman is a caricature of racism, sexism, and just about any other -ism you can think up. But what is sometimes hidden in that crude and offensive language is a bigger picture of just how awful people can be. Matt and Trey will not shy away from anything it seems, and in order to do so, Cartman takes on that mantle.
But why has South Park thrived for so long, other than just being plain good and funny? The biggest thing they have going for them is the fact that everything is topical to almost the exact hour of airing. And there’s a good reason for this: most of the run of South Park is animated, voiced, and edited in the span of a week. That’s right, you read that right. South Park episodes are done on a weekly basis, but are not done in advance like most shows. While recently it’s been a little more than a week, what with the storylines actually connecting, they have gone back to the basics and the season 20 premiere wasn’t done until a day or so before airing.
This process is undoubtedly tiring, and you can see it unfold on a documentary called “7 Days to Air” It was on Netflix for awhile, and definitely worth a watch. It showed the process that goes into making an episode of South Park, and they literally finish it like a day before the show aired.
South Park has covered pretty much everything under the sun, and like I said earlier, they don’t shy away from any topic. Last season covered being “PC” and ads on the internet, but instead of doing it Simpsons style, it was raunchy and offensive and great all in one season. They have covered and absolutely skewered Mormonism, Scientology, the Jersey Shore, even Family Guy and the Simpsons. So do yourself a favor and start watching. South Park may not be the type of humor you normally like, but the message that they convey is much more poignant and eye-opening than you would expect from a show who has a recurring character who’s a talking piece of poop.