Trey Parker and Matt Stone are two of the greatest creative minds on the planet. They redefined the adult cartoon genre with their now 20-year-old (and still going strong) creation South Park, have an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, won a slew of Tony awards for Book of Mormon, and have done it pretty much all their own way. So a chance to go behind the scenes with them is not something you want to miss. (And if it’s been a while since you’ve watched, this is why the show is essential viewing).
Marc Fennell, of SBS’s The Feed got this opportunity recently, being flown to South Park Studios in California to interview the pair, and find out how they churn out an entire South Park episode in just six days, what the Mormon Church thought of their hilariously inflammatory musical, and whether they ever suffer writer’s block (spoiler alert: it’s not that they don’t, it’s that they can’t).
For avid fans, and people who have seen the 2011 Comedy Central documentary ‘Six days to air’, Fennell’s 13-minute segment is mostly well-trod ground.
Matt and Trey got their start with a ‘The Spirit of Christmas’, a video that went viral before viral videos were a thing. They are upbeat on the Thursday they begin the process of creating a new South Park episode, but frantic and stressed by the time Tuesday rolls around. They dressed in drag and dropped acid when they attended the Oscars in 2000.
But even for serious South Park fans (like people who wrote an article called ‘If you’re reading tech, why aren’t you watching South Park?’), there are a handful of revelations.
Trey reveals that his favourite voice to do these days is Stan Marsh’s dad, Randy:
“When I first started doing the show I was doing an impersonation of my Dad, now that I’m way older I’m just doing my voice,” Trey says.
“I’m still kind of channelling my Dad, but I’m just becoming my Dad too, so it’s just easier for me to write for him.”
Then there’s that the Mormon Church advertised in The Book of Mormon playbook when it opened in LA, which shocked just about everyone except Matt and Trey.
“Their MO is kill with kindness,” Trey explains. “Their thing is just like, ‘that’s great that you’re doing that and that’s awesome and let me tell you about heavenly father!'”
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But perhaps the most startling revelation is that while each week Trey fears the episode they’ve created isn’t any good, there was one instance where he genuinely believed the episode was so bad it would destroy the show’s legacy.
“I’m like, ‘I’ve lost it’, like, ‘I don’t know how to do this anymore’.
“And I was like ‘please’, I was begging Anne [Garefino, South Park’s long-time producer], ‘do not let this go on the air, because I don’t want the South Park legacy to be ruined, and this show is going to ruin it because it’s so bad, and I’m just going to feel terrible.’
“And [she] just ended up going, ‘it’s just gotta go on the air Trey, just let it go on the air.’
“And I just went home and I was depressed and couldn’t sleep. And I got up the next day and they were like, ‘Dude, people really liked that show’.”
The offending episode? Season 10’s ‘Make Love, Not Warcraft’ – which fans remember as a classic.
“It is still, to this day, one of our most famous episodes that people will cite as one of the best of all time,” Trey goes on. “And I literally wanted to kill myself over that episode.”