Secrets of 'South Park'


Libertarian New York Times columnist John Tierney recently wrote that he had "bad news for the GOP regarding that promising new bloc of voters, the "South Park Republicans." It turns out they're not Republicans, at least not anymore."

"We would love to think that we could control a group of people and take over the country in a new political party," Stone says. But they have their doubts. And in truth, they say they're not necessarily all that conservative, it's just that they enjoying poking fun at liberal orthodoxies and celebrities, and it's far more rebellious to lean right in Hollywood than to lean left.

"We're probably more conservative than most Hollywood liberals, but that doesn't mean a whole lot," Stone says.

"At the end of the day, we know our job is to entertain and make people laugh," says Parker. "We never get to a writers' meeting and sit down and go, 'What statement can we make about this?' That never happens. We always start with the show. What is Stan feeling? What's his emotion? What can he go through with the kid? And a lot of times, it will come to me Tuesday, the day before the show airs, and we're getting done with the show. And we're like, 'Oh, we've kind of said that.'"

So who did they vote for? John Kerry or George W. Bush?

Parker says anyone interested can look at their show that ran just before the 2004 election called "Douche and Turd." In it the South Park Elementary School students are forced to choose between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich as a new school mascot. The character Stan protests, saying he doesn't find either option attractive, and is decried by the school, his parents and P. Diddy for not voting.

"When people ask how did you vote, it's like: 'Watch that episode. You'll know exactly who we voted for,'" Parker says.

One of the reasons "South Park" can stay more topical than other satiric animated shows like "The Simpsons" or "Family Guy" is because Parker, Stone and their team turn the show around in a week. Thursday morning they begin sketching out the show, and it airs the following Wednesday night.

"Thursday morning, we show up with a big cup of coffee and go, what should next week's show be about?" Parker says. "And then it's basically a race. It's six days and we're working about 90-95 hours. And we're talking about a 90-hour production process."

It's grueling -- and not at all like the pizza-and-bong-fueled image of the creative process fans envision, they say -- but it allows the creative team to respond to what is going on in the news that moment, as in their Emmy Award-winning episode "Best Friends Forever." In that episode, the character Kenny goes into a persistent vegetative state, arousing all sorts of right-to-die issues, like those that were being debated at that moment in the United States because of the Terri Schiavo controversy.

Despite the attention for the hot-button episodes about Cruise, Mohammed or Terri Schiavo, Stone and Parker say their favorite episodes deal with the kids of South Park acting like kids.

"When the show first came out, there were a lot of people calling it 'Peanuts on Acid,'" Parker says. "I was a big Charlie Brown fan as a kid."

"And I was a big acid fan," says Stone.

The beginnings of the show focused mainly on "this is how kids talk," Parker says. "This is what four little boys do when left alone. These are the things they say. Here's how kids really are."

"They're selfish," Stone says. "They're little bastards. And society makes them better. It's not 'Society corrupts them.'"

"See," Parker says, "that's probably the most conservative viewpoint we have."

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