They Killed Kenny…And Revolutionized Comedy

Now that they’ve taken down everyone from the Scientologists to Paris Hilton, have South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker run out of targets? (Hey, Rob Reiner: Watch your back!) Interview by Mickey Rapkin

MS: It’s funny, I saw a review of Boondocks the other day, and it said something like, Boondocks touches the one thing that South Park is still afraid of: race. And I’m like, Really? I don’t think we’re obsessed with it. We have a different experience, growing up as two white guys in Colorado. But Chappelle’s Show is obsessed with race and is totally brilliant at it. But we do probably more stuff than your average show. We did “Here Comes the Neighborhood,” where all the rich black people move into town. Token, our only black kid in town, is rich.

Sean Penn was upset about his portrayal in Team America. Do you hear from celebrities you’ve mocked on South Park?

TP: We have this running joke: As soon as we put someone in, we know the next day we’ll hear from his publicist saying how great the show was. It didn’t happen with Tom Cruise, though, I’ll tell you that.

I thought the greatest thing about that episode was the subtitle you guys had, where you say, “This is what Scientologists actually believe.” Just completely straightforward: This is what they believe.

TP: It was just like, Here it is, animated. A lot of religious stories, if you animate what they say, look pretty ridiculous. You could animate the entire Book of Mormon and it would be hysterical.

What took you so long to take on Scientology? Was the network worried about it?

TP: To be honest, what kept us from doing it before was Isaac Hayes [who does the voice of Chef]. We knew he was a Scientologist. And he’s an awesome guy. We’re like, Let’s just avoid that for now. But we’re friends with Penn Jillette, and Showtime wouldn’t let him do an episode of Bullshit! on Scientology. We’re going, That’s fucked up. And hearing other people say, “You can’t do that,”—you can only say “You can’t do that” so many times to Matt and me before we’re gonna do it. Finally, we just had to tell Isaac, “Dude, we totally love working with you, and this is nothing personal, it’s just we’re South Park, and if we don’t do this, we’re belittling everything else we’ve ripped on.” So we realized we had to do it, and now that we’ve done it, now it’s like we’ve sort of opened the floodgates. People will be less scared.

Did the network have any notes on the episode?