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The History of South Park

VO: Rebecca Brayton
It was originally created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone in the early 1990s as two simple stop motion shorts. These animations quickly became some of the Internet’s earliest viral videos, and as a result the pair was given their own series on Comedy Central in 1997. Soon after, South Park became the channel's top-rated mature program, and became famous for its reliance on dark comedy, bizarre satire, crude language and simple animations. It has also functioned as a lightning rod for controversy, taboo subject matter and toilet humor. Join WatchMojo.com as we take a look back at the history of South Park.
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The History of South Park

It has been hailed as one of the 100 best television shows of all time. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be taking a look at the history of “South Park.”

“South Park” was originally created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone in the early 1990s as two simple stop motion shorts. These animations quickly became some of the Internet’s earliest viral videos, and as a result the pair was given their own series on Comedy Central in 1997.

“South Park” single-handedly put that channel on the map as early as its debut episode, which was infamously titled “Cartman gets an Anal Probe.” Since then, the mature-rated program has become famous for its reliance on dark comedy, bizarre satire, crude language and simple animations.

Making the shift to a regular series required its creators to ditch their slow paper cutout technique in favor of quick-and-dirty computer software. It also forced Stone and Parker to adopt a set location for the series and a core cast of characters.

As a result, the show focused on the exploits of four young boys who lived in the fictional town of South Park, Colorado. Stan Marsh was an average kid and the show’s anchor character. He was joined by his group of pals that included his Jewish friend Kyle Broflovski, the obese and obnoxious Eric Cartman and the poverty-stricken Kenny McCormick who wore his snowsuit so tight both his face and voice were hidden.

One of the show’s longest-running gags actually involved this character: during the first five seasons of “South Park,” Kenny would die in almost every episode, and then re-appear the next week. This joke was finally explained to fans in later seasons.

Aside from this core group of elementary school students, “South Park” also incorporated a large cast of supporting characters, and many of these were voiced by the show’s creators. These included a variety of personalities that ranged from classmates, teachers and family members, to Saddam Hussein and the Devil. In fact, both those characters appeared in 1999’s R-rated theatrical film, “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.”

The show’s cast did undergo many changes. For example, Kenny was absent during the show’s sixth season, and this resulted in his replacement by Tweek. Mister Garrison, on the other hand, went through several eyebrow-raising alterations to his sexual identity.

What proved most shocking to the show’s longtime fans was the departure of Isaac Hayes in his iconic role as Chef in 2006. Hayes left the show after a dispute with the creators over their insensitivity towards his religion of Scientology.

Leading up to this, “South Park” had begun to shift from absurd shock value towards social commentary in many of its storylines. This gave the series a sense of maturity, even if that wasn’t always reflected in the show’s dialogue.

While the show consistently mocked different faiths and the American way of life in general, the kids on the show usually learned from their experiences. However, the adult world often missed the point, like many critics of the show.

Each “South Park” episode was written and produced within the span of a week. The creators capitalized on this tight deadline by rapidly responding to breaking news and social events.

Despite the controversy that has surrounded the show almost since day-one, “South Park” has lined up many celebrity guest stars, including Jennifer Aniston and the comedy duo Cheech and Chong.

The series also gained recognition for its use of music, whether it was sung by the show’s characters or by parodies of celebrities. Of course, many stars have lent their voices to the series, as well.

South Park has been a lightning rod for controversy since its debut in 1997, but the show continued to embrace taboo subject matter and toilet humor. Either despite or because of this, South Park remained Comedy Central’s highest-rated comedy series for well over ten seasons, and continued pushing the boundaries in a way no other show could even attempt to duplicate.
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