This week, South Park co-creator Trey Parker sat down with the LA Times to have a timely chat about his role in animated film Despicable Me 3, and also to reveal some long-awaited details about his own animated show’s forthcoming 21st season.
The frequently controversial show built a name for itself offering almost immediate, almost always anti-PC takes on current events, from Elian Gonzalez to the 2016 election cycle. Thanks to computer-aided animation (as outlined in fascinating behind-the-scenes doc The Making of South Park: 6 Days to Air), the show’s incredibly fast turnaround time and informed (if twisted) takes on the day’s most talked-about stories have, over the past two decades, made it an iconic series, and one that’s still hugely relevant after all these years.
And it is still on the air, returning on August 23rd for the 21st time — old enough to officially party, but on air long enough to want to settle down, apparently. According to Parker, controversy isn’t what’s driving South Park these days; when asked if it’s difficult to come up with quick and witty takes, he said:
Yeah, and it’s also just gotten boring. We weren’t ever really that show. We would do an entire season and there would be one moment that played off something that had just happened and people would go, “ ‘South Park’ is the show that does that.” And that’s just not true. We’re not.
We did start to become that, though, especially the last season. We fell into the same trap that “Saturday Night Live” fell into, where it was like, “Dude, we’re just becoming CNN now. We’re becoming: ‘Tune in to see what we’re going to say about Trump.’ ” Matt and I hated it but we got stuck in it somehow.
This season I want to get back to Cartman dressing up like a robot and [screwing] with Butters, because to me that’s the bread and butter of “South Park”: kids being kids and being ridiculous and outrageous but not “did you see what Trump did last night?” Because I don’t give a … anymore.
We probably could put up billboards — “Look what we’re going to do to Trump next week!” — and get crazy ratings. But I just don’t care.
Beyond that, the world is much different than it was when the show debuted, and political comedy has become even more charged, as the world relies on humor to diffuse the news:
[Trump’s] not intentionally funny but he is intentionally using comedic art to propel himself. The things that we do — being outrageous and taking things to the extreme to get a reaction out of people — he’s using those tools. At his rallies he gets people laughing and whooping.
I don’t think he’s good at it. But it obviously sells — it made him president.
And, Parker’s got some upsettingly vague news for die-hard fans regarding the show’s future:
Every year in the middle of the season, we say, “OK, this is it.” And we really thought that two seasons ago when we were doing all the PC Principal stuff. We were like, “This is it — we’re going to get run out of town with our middle finger up.” Because we felt the culture changing, and I think it still is on that track.
The witch hunt is coming. Our day is coming. One of these days, out of nowhere, we’ll do something and they’ll go, “How dare you!” — and we’ll be done.
But what people don’t realize is, we’ve thought this for 20 years. We’ve been ready for it. Our bags are packed in the car and we’re ready to go back to Colorado. And it’s cool, man.
Though South Park has been off the air since December of 2016, the team behind the show has been hard at work on a new video game featuring the whole gang (which, incidentally, was supposed to come out around the time season 20 wrapped, but it got pushed back); South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be out on several platforms this October.