It’s difficult to believe that South Park is 20 years old. It seems like only yesterday we had our first serving of salty chocolate balls, and now two decades have flown by.
When a show has been around for 20 years, it does more than spoof popular culture. It becomes a part of the culture itself. I realized recently that South Park hasn’t just changed my view of comedy. It’s literally changed the way that I talk. I quote South Park like smart people quote Shakespeare.
But not in the way that you’re probably thinking.
Of course, nearly everyone who’s come of age during South Park’s reign has likely adopted a Cartman voice at least once or twice and uttered, “Sweeeeeet,” or, “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” But in my house, it’s the slightly more obscure quotes that have burrowed their way into my daily vocabulary.
As I reflected on two decades of SP this morning over a cup of Tweek Bros. Coffee and a bag of Cheesy Poofs, it occurred to me just how often I use South Park-isms as a part of my daily language and how profoundly bizarre my interactions with my husband must sound to the average person. It’s got to be like trying to listen to a ManBearPig with an orange hoodie zipped up way too tight.
In part as tribute to one of the greatest comedies in TV history celebrating its 20th birthday, and in part to provide a primer for anyone who has the great misfortune of trying to carry on an actual conversation with me, here’s a list of five South Park-isms I use every single day.
1. 'As Is Tradition'
One of my absolute favorite episodes of South Park is “Royal Pudding” — the episode featuring the Royal Canadian wedding, throughout which the announcers provide a play-by-play of the absurd ceremony, repeatedly stating, “As is tradition.”
“People now gently tossing Captain Crunch as the prince passes by — as of course is tradition.”
“The Canadian prince now dipping his arms into the pudding — as is tradition.”
And then when things go horribly wrong…
“A bright beam of light shooting through the ceiling — the princess now in some sort of isometric cube. This is certainly breaking with tradition now.”
In my home, I use “as is tradition” to narrate almost every action I take, telling my husband: “I’m about to drink the last LaCroix — as is tradition.” Or, “I’ve only got a blue and a black sock left so I’m just going to wear boots over them even though it’s 90 degrees, as is tradition.”
He uses it, too. When he’s changing our five-month-old son’s diaper, I’ll often hear him narrate from the other room as he examines a particularly explosive poop delivery, saying, “Well, this is certainly breaking with tradition now.”
2. 'How Spicy Would You Like Your Chang Sauce?'
Towelie the pot-smoking towel is one of the greatest characters in South Park history — if only because the pure randomness of his existence is indisputable evidence that he was created by the South Park writers when they themselves were heavily influenced by ganja. We’ve always enjoyed a trip to P.F. Chang's in my house, but ever since the episode “A Million Little Fibers,” in which Towelie gets, and quickly loses, his job as a P.F. Chang's waiter, our trips to the Chinese restaurant chain have become a comic delight instead of just a culinary one. Sometimes we’ll choose to dine at P.F. Chang’s for no other reason than to crack ourselves up when our waiter asks us how spicy we’d like our Chang Sauce.
At home, we take it one step further. Every morning after taking a shower and drying off, I’ll hand the towel to my husband and tell him with a furrowed brow, “Excuse me sir, this towel has been mixing Chang sauce for 15 minutes,” to which he’ll respond, “Oh, man — I have NO IDEA what’s goin’ on!”
3. 'I'm Super Cereal'
While other comedy shows parodying Al Gore portrayed him as merely a dorky environmentalist, the South Park creators turned him into a madman hunter of the mythical creature ManBearPig. They also portrayed Gore as a self-righteous goober who would haughtily announce, “I’m super cereal,” when his audience didn’t take him super seriously.
In my home, “I’m super cereal” is a frequent response to any exclamation of disbelief. A typical exchange might go something like this:
Husband: “You can’t have eaten all the miniature peanut butter cups. That was a huge bag.”
Me: “They’re gone. I’m super cereal.”
4. 'It's Delicious, Chef. I Hadn't Planned On That'
You can’t have a list of South Park quotable quotes without at least one shout-out to evil genius Eric Cartman. But in my home, we like to forgo Cartman’s most famous phrases and reference his most evil episode of all time: “Scott Tenorman Must Die.” The episode culminate with Cartman not only humiliating the bully in front of Radiohead, but also making him unknowingly eat his own parents as part of Chef’s chili cook-off. As Cartman recounts the details of his twisted plot at the end of the episode, he comments on how he switched out the serving of hair-filled chili Tenorman had intended for him and swiped a bowl prepared by Chef instead.
“It was delicious, Chef,” he says diabolically. “I hadn’t planned on that.”
The phrase can be used in my home to reference any and all foods we enjoy — whether we’d actually planned on enjoying them or not.
Husband: “Are those gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies actually any good?”
Me: “They were delicious, Chef. I hadn’t planned on that.”
5. 'Did You Dance Back?'
When Stan and his friends get served by a team of child dancers, his father Randy has only one question for them: “Did you dance back?” Randy is just that kind of dad — the kind of dad who knows how important it is to bring your A-game when it’s on for a dance-off.
“Did you dance back?” is most frequently used in my home when my husband and I are recounting our daily trials, tribulations and interactions with co-workers, neighbors and fellow grocery store patrons.
Me: “This woman at the grocery store snatched the last package of portobello mushrooms right as I was reaching for it!”
Husband: “Did you dance back?”