Sure, Matt Groening’s yellow family from Springfield was the first to break through the glass ceiling of adult animation, but it wasn’t until nearly a decade later, in 1997, that two guys from Colorado completely changed the game with their incisive, acidic, smart cartoon, South Park. Though it might appear that the R-rated shenanigans of four nine-year-olds from a mountain town in Colorado is focused solely on fart jokes, but the show has consistently demonstrated a razor-sharp social commentary time and again. There are also, admittedly, a lot of fart jokes. If you’ve been following the maniacal adventures of Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny since their first run-in with a UFO, there’s still plenty you may not know about this landmark series.
1. Chef Is Real
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have leant South Park a few real world details throughout the run, and that extends to one of the show’s most beloved characters, Chef. The boys’ original go-to advice guy was actually based on a real dining hall worker at the University of Colorado who worked there while Parker and Stone were students.
2. The Many Deaths of Kenny McCormick
In the late 90s, one Canadian mother filed a complaint with Canada’s equivalent of the FCC. She was concerned over the trauma that was being inflicted on her son — who’s name was Kenny — as a result of the weekly mutilations of South Park’s own unfortunate scamp. The request was quickly thrown out.
3. Cartman’s Mom Is Named After Trey Parker’s Former Fiancé
Long before he became one of the most famous maverick performers on TV, Trey Parker once caught a former flame with another man. He got his revenge by naming South Park’s most wanton character — Liane Cartman — after his cheating fiancé.
4. Keeping it in the Family
Stan’s family — his parents Randy and Sharon and his sister Shelley — are named after Trey Parker’s real-life parents and older sister. Kyle’s parents, Gerald and Sheila, are also named after Stone’s parents.
5. Kenny Used to Curse in the Opening
For two glorious seasons, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were able to have their hoodie-wearing miscreant, Kenny, utter some pretty crude statements during the show’s theme thanks to his muffled voice. Then, the censors got wise and the show had to change it.
6. Terrence and Phillip Are a Giant F-You
In the show’s early run, there were some misguided people who thought they could change Parker and Stone’s show with complaints. South Park received innumerable complaints that the show was nothing but bad animation and fart jokes. In order to show how much those concerns meant to them, Parker and Stone created Terrence and Phillip, a show that’s even more poorly animated and is actually just a series of fart jokes.
7. Most of Cartman’s Lines Are Improvised
Trey Parker is the voice of Cartman, and he supposedly improvises a lot of Cartman’s dialogue. The creator has repeatedly said that Cartman is his favorite character on the show.
8. They Stuck Their First Emmy in Poo
In order to celebrate their 2005 Emmy win for Outstanding Animated Program, Trey Parker and Matt Stone included a special plug at the end of one episode in which their Emmy had been covered in cartoon poop. Because that’s how much they care about awards.
9. Butters’ Birthday is September 11
If there’s one person on South Park who never manages to come out on top, it’s Leopold “Butters” Stotch, the kid everyone hates. Even his weirdly totalitarian parents seem to have it out for poor Butters. He was even cursed with the worst possible birth date ever.
10. South Park Has a Guinness World Record
For the “Most Swearing in an Animated Series” in TV history. It’s a dubious distinction that still fits the show like a glove.
11. Towelie Was Invented to Annoy Comedy Central’s Marketing Department
When South Park became famous, the addition of every new character was greeted with a big marketing and merchandising push from Comedy Central. In order to combat that trend, Parker and Stone tried to think of the dumbest character possible, something that couldn’t possibly sell. The result was a stoned-out talking towel.
12. The Show Isn’t as Uncaring as You Might Think
In 2009, Eric Cartman was set to have an adventure in which he went off to Somalia to become a pirate (the whole thing ends with an assault by Seal Team 6). The same week the episode was set to air, a similar situation occurred in which a boat captain was taken hostage by Somali pirates. Parker and Stone chose to delay the show’s air date in order to avoid the appearance of mocking the harrowing situation.
13. Kenny Has Real Dialogue
You just can’t hear it because Matt Stone records the dialogue while talking into his hand or using a sleeve.
14. They Wanted to Kill Kenny Off in Season Five
Perhaps because they got tired of thinking up gruesome new ways to kill Kenny off each week, or perhaps because they thought the gag had run its course, Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to kill Kenny off in Season 5 … then they decided to bring him back when they realized that he was a giant part of the show. Since his “resurrection” he’s been killed off from time to time, but it’s hardly the definite happening that it once was.
15. The Pilot Was Made in Stop-Motion Using Paper Cut-Outs
Every other episode has used computer graphics to render the animation, which allows South Park to respond with lighting speed to current events. In 2001, the show was able to lampoon the Electoral College crisis during the Bush-Gore election while the controversy was still going on. South Park’s animated contemporaries take several months to get a hand drawn show in the can.
More in TV
Christian Group Attempts to Ban a Show They Haven’t Seen
20,000 people have signed Return to Order’s (a Christian Group) petition asking Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime Video’s new limited series...June 20, 2019
10 TV Characters Who Almost Ruined A Hit TV Show
It’s no secret that most TV shows have to keep bringing in fresh blood if they want to keep fans interested....May 4, 2018
All 14 American Idol Judges, RANKED
Now that American Idol is back on the small screen, Season 16 of the singing competition has us reminiscing about the...April 13, 2018
15 Biggest Mistakes In Popular TV Shows
Some of our favorite TV shows from the past and present have the ability to keep us on the edge of...January 30, 2018
11 Reasons You Should Start Watching ‘Ray Donovan’
With five seasons in the books and a sixth season slated for production in 2018, Showtime’s Ray Donovan has quickly become...November 27, 2017
10 TV Characters We Never Got to Fully Know
These characters were an important part of their respective shows, but a huge part of them still remains a mystery. In...November 22, 2017