Secrets of 'South Park'

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Its creators have stayed true to the spirit of "Spirit," taking on Tom Cruise (implying that the twice-married father is gay), as well as Cruise's religion (Stan declares that "Scientology is just a big fat global scam"). But when the episode "Trapped in the Closet" (Cruise hides in the closet and refuses to come out) was scheduled to be rebroadcast, Comedy Central pulled the plug.

"We were told that the people involved with 'Mission: Impossible: III' demanded that show be pulled off the air," Stone says. "And it was."

Media behemoth Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, also owns Paramount Studios. At the time Paramount wanted Cruise to promote M:I:III. After weeks of negative publicity, Comedy Central agreed to broadcast the show.

'I Thought This Might Be It'

In addition to the Cruise and Mohammed shows, Comedy Central hesitated before agreeing to rebroadcast an episode featuring some unseemly bleeding by a statue of the Virgin Mary that upset many Catholics.

"Going into the last run was the most sort of scared I've ever been," Parker says. "I went into the run just going, 'Wow, how many times are they going to tell us we can't do something before we bail?' Because we're ready to bail. We're ready. … We wanted to say some things, shake things up a bit. And I think we've done that, and I think we've done it in a bigger way than we ever will in the future. So it'd be nice to make some more shows and some more movies, but it'd also be really nice to go to a farm and raise some goats and have some kids. You know what I mean? I mean, that would be really nice, too.

"As soon as we can't make the show we want to make, we're not going to make it anymore. At the beginning of the last run I thought we were really close. I thought it was like this might be it. But then, you know, we were able to still do a Mohammed show and do it the way we wanted, which was to do it and then say, 'All right, Comedy Central, you're a network, you have a right to do with this what you want, so we're making it this way. And then if you want to take out the image of Mohammed, that's fine, you can do that, but we're also going to make the show about you taking out the image of Mohammed.'"

But the normally über-candid Stone and Parker hold their tongues a tad when explaining what happened behind the scenes that convinced Comedy Central to re-broadcast the episode.

"We've done exactly what we need to do to get out what we wanted to get out and not get sued," Parker says. "And unfortunately, that makes us have to stop short at explaining exactly what happened. The forces of the deal made it so that depending on what we say, they can turn it around and finally turn it all into a lawsuit."

"Now we sound like crazy Scientologists," Stone says.

As for Cruise, Parker acknowledges that "he's got total reason to be offended."

That isn't the issue, Stone says. "The thing is, he's sued people for implying that he's gay before. Which is funny. You know, I mean, people have implied we're gay, and we haven't sued anybody. I don't give a s--- if somebody says I'm gay. That's the difference. That's superfunny."

"We don't wish Tom Cruise any ill will," Parker says. "He's just kind of a freak, you know? He's like Michael Jackson."

"How can you not make fun of him?" Stone asks.

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