Interview with South Park Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker

November 19, 2011, Judd

This interview was conducted during South Park’s first season on Comedy Central, pre Y2K and originally appeared in UR Baltimore….

Four-assed monkeys, homosexual dogs, bovine-fluent aliens, wicker-basketmaking giants, and, um, farts. And more farts. Welcome to the twisted minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, co-creators of the hit animated series, South Park, which airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.

South Park chronicles the adventures of Stan, Cartman, Kyle and Kenny: four not-so-normal tykes in a not-so-normal town. Their paranoia stems from paranormal activities (alien anal probes) and neurotic, conspiracy theory-driven grown-ups (Mr. Garrision, the lousy ventriloquist-teacher with a hand puppet as an alterego). The character’s salty language is the result of less-restrictive cable television. Hey, ABC got away with showing Dennis Franz’s bare ass on NYPD Blue, but for real shock value, tune into South Park.

A few years ago, Parker, 27, and Stone, 26, packed up their video resumes and landed in Los Angeles. The Colorado natives were commissioned by then Fox executive Brian Graden to create a video holiday greeting to send to his friends. The result: “The Spirit of Christmas,” a five minute production about four third graders watching a Kung-Fu clash between Santa Claus and Jesus Christ, displaying language that would make Bart Simpson and Beavis and Butthead blush. Like a scorching case of herpes, the “Spirit of Christmas” spread like wildfire in Hollywood, and Comedy Central made an offer the show’s creators couldn’t refuse.

By the way, South Park is an actual county in central Colorado which witnesses the highest number of UFO sighting per capita; the perfect setting for Parker and Stone.

Judd: What was your budget for “Spirit of Christmas?”

Matt: We had S2,000, and it cost us S 1,500, so we each took home a couple hundred bucks. It took us about a month.

Judd: I heard that Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins played it before a concert. Did you get any royalties?
Trey: Yeah (laughing). I should call Billy. I know Tool did the same thing at a show of theirs in LA.

Judd: How many shows are you doing for Comedy Central?
Matt: Thirteen, but there are only a few new ones left. There’s a Thanksgiving episode, a Christmas episode and then four that’ll be aired after Christmas. We just got the go ahead for 13 more for a second season.

Judd: MTV continuously replays Beavis and Butthead episodes. Is that one of your fears, that people will get burned out with all of the reruns?
Trey: Yeah, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We have 22 to 26 episodes a year, so there’ll be a new episode on every other week or every other third week. So there will be plenty of new stuff and if you haven’t seen it, you can see it one more time.

Judd: Do you have any say in the schedule? Trey: Ultimately, it’s their decision. This first batch of reruns has some people bummed, but there are a lot of people who are just discovering the show. Word of mouth is getting around, so people are having a chance to catch up to speed with the early ones.

Judd: Getting back to the premiere on August 13th, describe some of the feedback you got from critics.
Matt: We got a lot of feedback, and most was positive. We did get a couple of bad reviews in the beginning which were kind of tough, like in Time magazine, but most of them like the show.

Judd: What’s the real South Park like?
Trey: It’s quite an interesting little mix of people, a great diversity really. A lot of the characters are fragments of different people that we know, not necessarily just from South Park County but from college and stuff like that.

Judd: How about all of South Park’s UFO sightings?
Trey: That’s actually true. South Park County has a high rate of sightings. It’s pretty eerie up there in the mountains at night alone. There’s a high plateau right in the middle of the mountains, and there’s this perfectly circular area. Kind of like a little UFO landing pad.

Judd: Just like in the show, there isn’t much to the area of South Park?
Matt: Yeah, it’s pretty sparse. There’s one post office, one grocery store, a couple gas stations….

Judd: Let’s talk about some of the other mature animated series like the Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Beavis and Butthead. Do you guys try to emulate or borrow anything from these shows?
Matt: I love all of these shows. They definitely paved the way for us, but we don’t try to emulate them at all. We wouldn’t be able to compete on the same ground as the Simpsons. It’s one of the best written shows that has ever existed in television and they have a writing staff, twenty strong, and their budget is about six times what ours is. It’s just an awesome show, but I don’t want to be the Simpsons.

Judd: Have you guys talked to Mike Judge or Matt Groening?
Trey: Yeah, we went out to dinner last week with Mike judge. It was pretty sweet because he actually sounds like Butthead. It was pretty funny when he was ordering his steak. He’s a totally cool guy, really down to earth.

Judd: What did he say about your work? What kind of advice did he give you?
Trey: He didn’t really give us any big advice, but it was just cool to meet with him and see that he had a life beyond Beavis and Butthead. He lives in Austin and has a wife and two kids, so he has a total normal life, and he’s Mike Judge, you know what I mean? He couldn’t give a damn about the all the Hollywood bullshit. It was so great.

Judd: Who does what voices?
Matt: Trey does Cartman and Stan, Mr. Garrison, and Brady, and I do Kyle and Kenny. And Isaac Hayes does Chef.

Judd: Alright, why Isaac Hayes and not Barry White?
Matt: Isaac was our first choice and Barry was definitely our second choice, but Barry is a Christian family man, and Isaac is a freak. He was perfect.

Judd: So you guys have this preconceived idea that you’re going to have an African-American chef who sings sexual healing songs to 3rd graders?
Trey: Oh, definitely. That’s Isaac Hayes.

Judd: Who are these characters based on? How about Trey first.
Trey: Roughly, I’m sort of Stan and Matt’s sort of Kyle, and we’re both sort of Cartman in a lot of ways. I’m really fat, and Matt’s racist, so together we’re Cartman. Everybody else is a fragment of a person that we know in some way or whatever.

Judd: Matt, you said you’re like Kyle. Are you of the of Jewish persuasion?
Matt: Yeah.

Judd: When you were young did you get teased for being Jewish?
Matt: No, not really. I’m sure people think with the Christmas episode we were trying to picture what being Jewish on Christmas is like. The truth is that, where I grew up was so WASP-y and bland.

Judd: Some critics have claimed that there’s no subtext in the episodes, when actually there’s genetic engineering, homosexuality, censorship, gun control, and alien fascination. What would you say to those critics?
Trey: My response is that they can kiss my ass.

Judd: Are you concerned about some kind of a congressional backlash like what happened with Beavis and Butthead?
Trey: We’re not expecting everyone to like the show. You’re going to like it or you’re not, but Comedy Central’s done a really good job by always saying clearly that this is an adult TV show. We haven’t had any problems yet, and we don’t expect any because we’ve said from the very beginning this is a show for adults. I’m sure there are kids out there who love it; probably half our audience, I don’t know.

Judd: Does it concern you at all that maybe an eight-year-old will come across the show and pick up some bad words?
Matt: No, an eight year old should be in bed, or his parents should be watching the child more closely. Who cares if they learn bad words? That’s not going to kill anybody. They have Cops on prime time on Fox, and you see these totally dysfunctional families beat each other up and stab each other. That’s disturbing because it’s real life, but South Park is just little pieces of construction paper running around saying ‘FU.’ What’s the harm in that?

Judd: Do you think South Park could exist on another network like Fox or MTV?
Matt: No. When we were at dinner with Mike Judge, out of the blue he goes, ‘Man, you guys are so lucky you’re not on MTV.’ MTV just goes for a totally different thing.

Judd: So how would South Park do if there was no farting and the word ‘ass’ couldn’t be used?
Trey: Why do that? It’s not like we’re making it extra farty. We think this stuff is funny every single day. We don’t plan it, like, ‘Three more farts and it will be funny.’ We just do what we think is funny and what makes us laugh.

Judd: How many years do you guys envision doing the show?
Matt: Definitely as long as it’s fun.

Judd: Do you fear getting burned out?
Matt: No, not really. We know ourselves well enough to know when to say, ‘Enough.’ We’ll just quit when we want to, and then go on to something else that makes us laugh.

Judd: Elaborate on the premise of your upcoming movie, Orgasmo.
Trey: It ‘s the story of a really naive and wholesome guy who moves to L.A. to pursue his acting career and ends up in the adult film industry. October Films bought it, and they are talking about a spring or summer of 1998 release.

Judd: What are some of the issues you are going to tackle in upcoming months? Do you have any ideas yet?
Matt: Religion, definitely Christianity more, starving kids in Ethiopia, single parent families, illiterate adults, illiteracy in general, transvestites. Diarrhea is definitely a favorite.

Judd: You guys did dildos already, right?
Matt: Yeah, we are just getting started with the dildos. You know, you just have to have more than one episode about dildos.

[end]"South Park"

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and wellness/lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He surfs uncrowded, fun reef breaks; plays instrumental alternate-tuning guitar; goes hiking in the backcountry; and is amazed on a daily basis by just being alive.