Among adult cartoons, there are few that achieve a status as legendary as South Park. Originally conceived as a brief, animated short by series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, their small bit of work gained the attention of Comedy Central. It earned accolades and awards year after year and eventually transformed into the seventeen-season series that it is today. Those that enjoy adult humor that is smart, creative and crude at the same time should watch South Park online and see if it is for them.
South Park is Born
The first birth pangs of South Park came in 1992 in the form of Jesus vs. Frosty, an animated short that lasted less than four minutes. This “cartoon” was put together using nothing more than pieces of construction paper and a stop-motion camera. This would eventually lead to another short film entitled Jesus vs. Santa. The second entry into the franchise was produced in 1995 and lasted just over five minutes. Thanks to the magic of the internet and various bootleg videos, this second production would become an underground phenomenon. This led to Comedy Central approaching Parker and Stone and offering them the chance to make their own full-length cartoon series. These two shorts also set the tone of the show, a mixture of philosophical thought and a complete irreverence for everything that people hold sacred.
Welcome to South Park
When audiences are first introduced to the small Colorado town of South Park they may be understandably shocked. The main characters are four school children – Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman. Although they are still in elementary school, these children are far from being sweet and innocent. They curse, talk about things that are far from being child-friendly and frequently engage in morally questionable acts. The cartoon is for adults, after all, and the children are simply there to make the points that Parker and Stone wish to illustrate. Each episode is a bite-sized installment that stands on its own so it is easy to jump in at any point and not feel lost, although later seasons begin to show more continuity in the narrative.
In order to facilitate Parker and Stone’s message, each of the kids represents a particular point of view. Stan is considered the average person with average views and needs. Kyle is Jewish (as is Matt Stone) and is used as a catalyst for approaching subjects such as religion and racism. Cartman is the kid that everyone hates and is generally antagonistic toward the rest of the group. Kenny is the poverty-stricken member of the group. He also happens to die in nearly episode, returning in the next episode with no explanation whatsoever.
Along with the four main characters and their parents, the town is filled with a cast of quirky and sometimes insane characters. Some of the more memorable residents include Chef (voiced by Isaac Hayes), Token (Adrien Beard), Mr. Garrison (Trey Parker), a talking “smart towel” named Towlie (Vernon Chatman) and a Christmas-themed piece of poo called Mr. Hankey (Trey Parker), though these are just a handful of the hundreds of characters you’ll meet in this sleepy Colorado town.
Another great thing about the show is that there are seemingly endless amounts of special guests. Celebrity voice actors range from Les Claypool to Ozzy Osbourne to Cheech and Chong, Elton John, Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, Jay Leno and countless others. Human guest stars are not the only folks to make their way through the town, however. Characters from both The Simpsons and Family Guy have made appearances on the show during its run. If it is one thing that South Park is known for, it is ensuring that anyone that wants to be a part of it can be a part of it and many celebrities are fans of the show.
How It Became a Legend
The success of the series was so astronomical that many claim it is the main reason that the Comedy Central television network still exists today. From the very first episode the show was attracting the attention of both critics and audiences. By the time the show reached its eighth episode, the series’ audience had grown three-fold. People began to make the show the centerpiece of parties. Voices both for and against the show began to discuss whether it was truly insightful or just vulgar. When the series finally arrived at its second season, it ranked in at the highest-rated show (aside from sports programs) in the history of basic cable. As a result of the show’s success, Comedy Central more than quadrupled their number of subscribers in less than a year. It became apparent that South Park was here to stay for a long time.
Despite its lengthy tenure on television, the show still manages to stay fresh every week. Even seventeen seasons later, Parker and Stone are bringing new ideas to the table and maintaining the legend. Most of this is simply because they love to talk about modern topics, so one can always expect to see commentary regarding the latest in politics, celebrity scandals and virtually anything, no matter how stupid, that permeates normal media channels. Better yet, you can always expect that commentary to be right out of the irreverent mouths of Parker and Stone. Nearly every episode of South Park guarantees that you will laugh, you will learn something and you will be shocked all at the same time.
Catching Up with South Park
With seventeen seasons and nearly two-hundred-and-fifty episodes, it may be a bit intimidating to start watching the series, no matter how amazing it may be. Luckily, the vast majority of the show is available via the internet. It is easy to watch South Park online and discover what has everyone talking. It is the kind of show that will draw you in and keep you watching, episode after episode. Each episode is under thirty minutes, so they are easily consumed at any time of the day or night. Before long, you will find yourself all caught up and ready to start at the beginning once more.