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Top 10 South Park Running Gags

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating
While this long-running comedy has always kept its humor current and topical, there are some old classics that it loves to serve up again and again. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 South Park Running Gags. For this list, we’ll be looking at jokes that have appeared frequently and across multiple episodes in this popular, crass comedy.
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While this long-running comedy has always kept its humor current and topical, there are some old classics that it loves to serve up again and again. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 South Park Running Gags.



For this list, we’ll be looking at jokes that have appeared frequently and across multiple episodes in this popular, crass comedy.





#10: Kick the Baby




While this gag has seemingly been retired, or is at least in a long period of hibernation, earlier on in the series Kyle had an unusual hobby. When in the presence of his little brother, Ike, he liked to “kick the baby,” to which Ike would usually respond, “don’t kick the baby.” The gag usually ended up with Ike destroying property in some capacity. While it has not been featured of the show much in recent years, it was included as one of Kyle’s special attacks in the 2014 game “South Park: The Stick of Truth.”





#9: Randy's Alcoholism


Rather than an explicit gag with a snappy one-liner, Randy Marsh’s alcoholism was a gradual build. In seasons two and three, we start to see that Stan’s dad might have a problem with alcohol, with Cartman even commenting on it by season seven. By season nine he’s getting into drunken brawls, losing his driving license, and starting to attend AA meetings … only to relapse in a big way. While alcohol abuse is no joke, it does put into perspective some of the wilder antics and beliefs of Mr. Marsh. Ethanol is a hell of a drug.





#8: Canada and Canadians


While all of the characters in the South Park universe are arguably strange and have their own little idiosyncrasies, there is arguably no group quite as odd as their version of Canadians. Many American television shows portray Canadians and Canada within a narrow spectrum of stereotypes both flattering (nice, skilled at hockey, welcoming) and not so flattering (unintelligent, drunk, mediocre). But with flapping heads and jerky, hectic movements, the South Park Canadians are like another species altogether. It’s so over-the-top that it’s hard to imagine anyone taking offense, but it sure is good for a laugh.





#7: “Butters, You’re Grounded!”


Oh, hamburgers. After being upgraded to a more central role during Kenny’s “permanent” death in season 6, Leopold "Butters" Stotch has become more-or-less a regular member of the group. While Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny are either genuinely up to no-good or just cooking up some half-baked idea to have fun, Butters is a naïve go-along-to-get-along sort of kid. Despite the hijinks of the other four, and even if the results of a failed plan are not his fault, it is generally the innocent Butters who must face the wrath of his strict parents and other adults. Gee, fellers, that doesn’t seem very fair now, does it?





#6: Cartman's Mom’s Promiscuity


Liane Cartman is certainly the most soft-spoken of all of the South Park parents, and, in keeping with her demure nature, generally seems incapable of controlling her son. However, despite her outwardly conservative personality, she is in fact sexually voracious and apparently gets it whenever from whoever she can. Since the beginning of the show, her sexual appetite has been a running joke, with her exploits including banging it out with most of the town, celebrities, politicians, and the entire Denver Broncos team, as well as stints in internet porn and prostitution.





#5: Chef Singing


Before the character of Chef was brutally killed off, he was a main character and seemingly the only reasonable adult in South Park. When the boys had a problem or questions about life, he usually bid them a friendly hello before proceeding to teach them a lesson, try to help them, or offer to sing an educational little song. Of course, these songs usually had to do with love, playing it cool, and other topics a little too mature for boys in the fourth grade. For us home viewers however, they were always pure comedic gold.





#4: “Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home”


Of the four main characters, Cartman is the most likely to not only get himself into trouble, but the others too. And if there’s one thing that can be counted on, it’s that when the going gets tough … he’s bailing. Whether a task is too difficult, he’s too bored, or he feels like others are having too much fun, he’s out. While it’s true that he would like us all to respect his “authoritah”, it’s this phrase that really sums up Cartman’s personality. He doesn’t care what happens to anyone else, as long as he can get home to his junk food and video games.





#3: Kyle’s Monologues




Once upon a time, TV shows – especially family sitcoms – couldn’t just be entertaining; they typically wrapped up with a moralistic theme. When done right, it worked, but more often than not these summaries came across as hammy and more than a little preachy. Apparently riffing off that cheesy sentimentality,early South Park episodes would get a similar little wrap-up, generally with Kyle announcing to his friends that he learned something and then sharing it. These lessons could be basic pontifications on friendship, or a means of dealing with an existential crisis. The gag is so prominent that by later seasons, his friends had started to grow a little sick of them.





#2: “THEY TOOK OUR JOBS!”


When all else fails, blame someone else, right? First cropping up in the season eight episode Goobacks, when time-traveling immigrants show up in South Park, it became the rallying cry of anguish for the local redneck population. Roared repeatedly throughout the episode (and devolving into almost nonsensical crowing) the gag satirizes complaints about immigration, and how one-note those protestations tend to become. The gag has itself become a meme of its own, with They Took Our Jobs (Dey Terk Er Jerbs!) becoming a catch-all jab at xenophobic remarks.





Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions.



“Leslie Shut Your F***ing Mouth”





“I am Lorde ya ya ya”





Stan Puking When He Sees Wendy





#1: Kenny’s Recurring Deaths


From the very beginning, the most iconic running joke of the show has been the death of the boys’ mumbling little buddy Kenny, and their anguished cries of “you bastard!” The gag has taken on a couple different iterations, with Kenny’s soul getting accidentally sucked up by Cartman, and of course the most recent reveal that Kenny is actually immortal, and that to die painfully only to respawn but with none of his friends remembering his past deaths is a cursed superpower of his. Not only is the death of Kenny a running joke, but a joke that runs with itself, growing bigger and more dramatic over time.

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