Defying the Odds
South Park is currently not only one of the most popular television shows on cable, but also one of the most popular television shows period. South Park is the creation of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and the show has succeeded even beyond their wildest expectations. South Park began as a small sketch about how the baby Jesus saves some kids from a murderous frosty the snow man. The crudely animated sketch was made in 1992, but caught a lot of attention. An executive at FOX paid them to make an animated Christmas card, which resulted in “Jesus vs. Santa” in a martial arts type fight. The end result eventually came that Comedy Central outbid FOX, and could also offer less censorship since they were cable, and the South Park series premiered in 1997.
Since then South Park has gathered a huge following well beyond the initial cult following of college students, and their rise to their current big time status was very much like that of the predecessor to all adult cartoons, The Simpsons, though the two shows are still very different. South Park’s very mature humor and use of swearing prompted a lot of protests, and many schools banned South Park clothes from being worn in school. This was not a new thing, as The Simpsons went through the exact same thing ten years earlier. Part of the reason for South Park’s success is that they are not afraid to go in any direction.
The simplistic animation used by the show allows them to put out an episode in a matter of weeks, while in contrast a full episode of most cartoons can take months to make. This allows the show to respond to current events very quickly as they happen, keeping the humor fresh. Over time the show has also evolved, going from mostly toilet humor to also including some strong satire and a lot of the “higher” or hidden humor that has allowed The Simpsons to keep running for 17 years. At the same time, don’t be fooled: Trey Parker and Matt Stone are more than willing to go back to the old bag of tricks and go well below good taste for laughs. In fact, their movie: South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut is in the Guiness Book of World Records for most obscenities in a movie, with a count of over three hundred. South Park also broke a swearing record in the episdoe “It Hits the Fan,” when the word “shit” was used unedited for a total of 162 times, or an average of once every eight seconds.
South Park is not a cartoon meant for kids, but for adults and college students, and as the creators continue to adjust and grow with the show, they ensure that it will be around for a long time to come.