Love it or hate it, (almost) everyone has encountered South Park at some point. Whether you’ve laughed at inappropriate jokes or found them offensive, there’s no denying the show’s cultural relevance and cutting wit over the years. Even the show’s own creators have some sharp words aimed towards it, especially for those formative series. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Parker has been honest about his embarrassment in regard to early South Park episodes.
When discussing how he now views the first few seasons of South Park, Parker told The Hollywood Reporter: “If I had to permanently erase anything from the library, it would basically be anything before season 4. It’s just embarrassing to watch. OK, we were, like, 26, 27. But it’s like, ‘Really? We thought that was funny? We thought that was well-written? Oh my God, this is terrible.’”
Considering South Park launched in 1998 and is now on season 26, it is easy to understand how Parker and Stone’s tastes might have changed. Society and what’s deemed acceptable nowadays certainly have. Just look at the current furore surrounding Roald Dahl and the rewrites happening to his beloved children’s books.
Continuing the poop jokes
South Park’s cutting satire has been a hallmark of its comedic animation, even with all the lewd humour most know it for. Even so, jokes that worked in the 90s don’t necessarily translate today, and those early seasons highlight how the duo were finding their comedy groove. When asked about whether he has doubts before an episode is released, Parker laments: “Oh, every single week. Every single show. You can ask anybody,” he says. “Every show, I’m always saying, ‘Oh God, can we call the studio? Can we call Comedy Central and tell them there’s no show this week?’ And I always have to get talked down by Matt, and he goes, ‘Oh, come on, it’s funny!‘ and I’m like, ‘But there’s nothing!’”
Like any artist, Parker is South Park’s harshest critic. He is honest about this neverending torment, but realises that at the end of the day, it is the audience that matters most. “And it’s this curse, and when we are doing it, I hate it,” he concludes. “I’m pissed off, and I’m tired, and every single Tuesday, I say, ‘This is the worst show we’ve ever done!’ It’s brutal. But it’s something I am a part of that’s bigger than I am. That’s what is most important.”
South Park season 26 premiered on 9th February 2023. What’s your favourite season or episode? Let us know in the comments below.