It’s been 20 years since Matt Stone and Trey Parker first brought their quirky paper cutouts to life. In that time, as South Park has evolved, the show has taken progressively larger bites out of the worlds of pop culture and celebrity — and to glorious effect. It helps that South Park is created more quickly than your average series, and especially your average animated series, and that's why its celebrity takedown episodes are consistently timely and cut so close to the bone. Stone and Parker's willingness to call out celebrities is emblematic of their ability to satire the insanity of contemporary society. The results are undeniably hilarious and warrant multiple viewings just to take it all in.
Celebrity takedowns have helped to define the show as an entity that’s relevant in the pop culture sphere beyond its core audience. In a world of big heads and talking heads, South Park often gets the final say. To celebrate Comic-Con and South Park’s 20th anniversary, here are some of my favorites (in no particular order).
1. R. Kelly Tries To Sing Tom Cruise And John Travolta Out Of The Closet
This episode caused a whole lot of controversy when it first aired, simultaneously satirizing Scientology, two of its more well-known proponents in Cruise and Travolta, and of course R. Kelly. It was later nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.
2. The Biggest Douche In The Universe
As a famous psychic, John Edward was one of Stone and Parker's easier targets, but that doesn’t make the takedown any less hilarious. This episode — the last in a mini arc about a deceased Kenny possessing Cartman — could have been beloved simply for the fake Rob Schneider movie trailers for The Stapler, A Carrot and Da Derp Dee Derp Da Teetley Derpee Derpee Dumb.
If ever a celebrity was in need of being taken down a peg or two, look no further than Kanye West. Apparently that’s also what the showrunners thought when conceiving the episode, with help from SNL alum Bill Hader — and it still took them months to write because it "just seemed too dumb," according to Stone. Kanye has since referenced the episode in two songs.
4. Al Gore Raises Awareness About ManBearPig
Despite agreeing with Al Gore’s views on climate change, Parker and Stone did not hold back when critiquing the former vice president’s Nobel Peace Prize and his work on the award-winning An Inconvenient Truth, which they equated to a PowerPoint presentation rather than a documentary. It’s a lesson in separating the man from the message (and repeated in Season 11 when Gore again appears with ManBearPig).
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