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 – to glorious effect.
It helps that South Park is created more quickly than your average series, and especially your average animated series, and because of that these “celebrity takedown” episodes are consistently timely and ring often uncomfortably true. Matt and Trey’s willingness to call out celebrities is emblematic of their ability to reflect the insanity of contemporary society back on itself. 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 upcoming 20th Anniversary, here are some of my favorites.
This episode caused a whole lot of controversy when it was released (big surprise), 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.
The Biggest Douche in the Universe
As a famous psychic, John Edward was one of Matt and Trey’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 known simply for the fake Rob Schneider movie trailer for The Stapler, A Carrot, and Da Derp Dee Derp Da Teetley Derpee Derpee Dumb.
If you ever need a celebrity to take down a peg, look no further than Kanye West. Apparently that’s what Matt and Tray thought too when conceiving the episode, with help from SNL alum Bill Hader – and it still took them months to write the script because it seemed to dumb. Kanye has since referenced the episode in two songs.
Al Gore Raises Awareness About Manbearpig
Despite agreeing with Al Gore’s views on climate change, Matt and Trey did not hold back when critiquing the former vice president’s Nobel Prize win for 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).
Check out even more hilarious celebrity takedowns here.