Welcome to Animation For Adults, proving that cartoons ain’t just kids stuff. Tonight we bow at the alter of Matt Stone and Trey Parker for a third time, and pay tribute to the best South Park episodes.
Okay, I know I’ve raved on and on about how much I love South Park in the past, but in all honesty, it really is my favorite show. I love everything about it. I love the characters, I love the ridiculous animation, I love the nothing sacred attitude, I love how it’s constantly pushing boundaries, I love it, I love it, I love it! Not only that, but it has evolved significantly over the course of its life, and people who condemned if for its vulgarity ten years ago are now praising it as one of the most important satires of the 21st Century. Not bad for a show made of construction paper cutouts.
But which episodes were the best? Which ones were the funniest, the most controversial, the most memorable, and left the biggest impression? That’s what we’re here to find out. Whittling it down to just ten wasn’t enough, so tonight we’re expanding it to the Top 15. Yeah, it’s that big. Just remember that these are all personal opinion, but there has been some real subjectivity in the choosing process, judging on merits such as writing, controversy, shock value, cleverness, and of course, humor. With that said, strap in kids, cuz we’re going down to South Park to meet some friends of mine!
15. Cartman Gets an Anal Probe
What better place to begin than, of course, the beginning? Believe it or not, South Park was one of the first shows to become popular through the internet, thanks to two shorts made with the same construction paper cutouts that would become the blueprint for their animation style. It also emphasizes the deliberately crude humor that would become the show’s trademark, and introduced some of the running gags like Cartman screaming at his cat, Stan puking on Wendy, and the aliens that have been kind of an Easter egg for the first few seasons. Plus it has some very underrated moments, like when Cartman gets zapped by an alien control ray that makes him sing show tunes. It was crudely done and is the only episode made without the assistance of computers, but it’s a great way to kick off the series and this countdown.
14. The Imaginationland Trilogy
We now jump from something crude to something a little more professional. I knew when I made this list, I had to put one of the multi-episode arcs on here, and this one is my personal favorite. When Cartman proves to Kyle that leprechauns exist, he insists that he pay his end of the bet that he would suck his balls. Cartman is hell bent on making Kyle pay his dues, despite the fact that they must warn the government that terrorists have attacked our imaginations. The Emmy winning three episode arc is a brilliant metaphor of the ever growing paranoia of terrorism and the extreme measures the US government are willing to go, but let’s be honest, we just wanted to see every imaginary character ever partake in an epic battle! …And the triumphant return of the Woodland Critters (Believe me, you’ll learn all about them later.) …And to see Kyle suck Cartman’s balls.
13. Kenny Dies
In my opinion, season 5 of South Park will always be the show’s golden era. This was the season where Stone and Parker’s writing was at its peak. They were constantly on the ball, and as a result four episodes are on this countdown, including #1. A lot of big, important things happened in this season, but the one that everyone remembers the most is that they killed Kenny… for real this time. In memoriam of this shocking revelation, they decided to take the whole thing seriously and actually make it dramatic and somewhat sad. Cartman even gave a big heartfelt speech to the US Senate about the importance of stem cell research which led to him leading a sing-a-long of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment”. When you think about it, it seems like the first five seasons have all culminated toward this moment. After all, there are only so many ways you can kill someone. He’s been resurrected and only gets killed when Stone and Parker can think of a creative way to do it, but you have to remember when they killed Kenny, we thought he was gone for good.
12. Make Love, Not Warcraft
There have a few episodes like Good Times With Weapons and Major Boobage where the show experiments with different animation styles, and it’s really impressive if you know anything about the creating process of an episode, (they create the episode a week before airtime) but it’s during their collaboration with Blizzard Entertainment on the World of Warcraft episode where it really shines. I never played World of Warcraft before, but if I ever decided to, chances are I’d end up like the four boys did. But the game’s population has jumped significantly since the episode’s debut, and is a pretty decent satire of the gaming culture that made it so big today. Like Cartman said, “You can just go outside and toss a ball around, or you can sit at your computer and do something that matters.
11. Cripple Fight
Another gem from season 5, this one was a big showcase for three of the show’s most popular characters: the handicapped kids Timmy and Jimmy (the latter of which debuts in this episode), and Big Gay Al. While Big Gay Al is a character that doesn’t nearly get as enough screen time as he should, every time he does appear it’s a hoot. The dynamics between Jimmy and Timmy also make up for some of the show’s best moments. Plus, there’s this.
10. Major Boobage
Kenny gets high on cat piss and visits a magical land where everything is made of boobs. That’s all I have to say.
9. Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls
This one features two awesome things: the titular song (which Isaac Hayes has played during live shows) and the second appearance of everyone’s favorite holiday themed piece of fecal matter, Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo. When the Sundance Film Festival moves to South Park, the influx of health food stool in the sewer starts to make Mr. Hanky ill. When Kyle tries to tell everyone what’s going on, they all think he’s trying to pitch a movie. This episode has a lot of great things going for it: independent films, health food, chocolate salty balls (with a catchy jingle to boot), gay cowboys eating pudding (a possible allusion to Brokeback Mountain), and feces. Lots and lots of feces. What’s not to love?
8. The Passion of the Jew
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is one of the most controversial films ever made. For Cartman, it was just another excuse to rip on Kyle for being Jewish. For Kyle, it was something that actually made him question whether all the flak that Cartman has given him over the years was justified. For Stan and Kenny, it was reason to go to great measures to get their money back. For Mel Gibson, it was just another stepping stone in his disclosure as an anti-Semitic freakazoid. And The Passion starred Jim Caviezel, who was in Madison with Paul Dooley, who was in Telling Lies in America with Kevin Bacon!… Okay, that was a bad joke, moving on.
I think it’s safe to say that the fact that Kanye West has an ego the size of Jupiter has pretty much become common knowledge nowadays. Apparently, Kanye West has never met Cartman. Jimmy writes a joke which takes the world by storm, and Cartman, in typical Cartman fashion, tries to take all the credit, despite not doing anything besides being present when the joke was thought up. Meanwhile, the joke becomes a national sensation and everyone is laughing except for Kanye West who, in typical Kanye West fashion, thinks the joke is a direct attack on his person. This episode really shows us just how Cartman’s mind works and how he comes up with all the solutions that he does like when he made that one kid- Wait, never mind, I’ll tell you later. Kanye West claims it was a real eye opener for him, but then six months later he does something like interrupt Taylor Swift’s speech. Way to go, Kanye.
If you were alive during the 90’s, then you knew about Pokémon. If you were a kid, it was your only obsession. If you were a parent, it was a strain on your sanity and your wallet. It wasn’t just a franchise, it was an empire! And it was only a matter of time before Matt and Trey decided to take a few slams at it. Growing up with Pokémon, I knew I had to put this episode on here somewhere. This was one of the first episodes where they started attacking something very specific, since before that it was all volcanoes and pink eye. But once you think about it, the whole Pokemon fad does kind of seem like a plot to take back Pearl Harbor, doesn’t it?
5. Woodland Critter Christmas
Another thing I knew I had to put up here was one of the show’s many great Christmas episodes. There are a lot of good ones involving talking poop or Santa getting shot down in Iraq, but nothing quite beats a group of Satan worshiping forest animals. It has everything you could wish for in a Christmas special: devil worship, blood orgies, dead parents, abortions, the works. It’s really sick and demented in a way only South Park can deliver, and there’s a lot of got a lot of great moments, especially the revealing of the narrator. The Woodland Critters would later return in the Imaginationland Trilogy where they really suggest they get someone with AIDS to pee in Strawberry Shortcake’s eye, and then rape Kurt Russell. But in the end the critters are slain, the Anti-Christ is extracted from Kyle’s body, Stan has a merry Christmas, and everyone lives happily ever after… except for Kyle who died of AIDS two weeks later.
4. It Hits the Fan
One thing that South Park has always been doing is pushing the boundaries of common decency and censorship, and in this one, they practically broke the scales. Apparently, Matt and Trey weren’t impressed with the fact that NYPD Blue was called “bold” and “artistic” for saying the word “shit” just once. So they decided to accept this challenge and kick it into high gear. With a counter on the bottom of the screen to keep track, the word “shit” was uttered 162 times in total with no bleeps. But it turns out there’s a reason they’re called “curse words”, as it unleashes an apocalyptic plague on the world. In the end, the lesson was about how not just that excessive swearing can be harmful, but when something is taken off limits, it stops being fun.
3. Trapped in the Closet
The first South Park to ever get pulled from the air, they finally went too far by humiliating one of the most sacred of sacred cows. Yes, I am talking, of course, about Tom Cruise. The episode has since been put back on air, but they’ve learned a valuable lesson: when you mess with Tom Cruise, you might as well be throwing stones at a hornets nest. There was also something about Scientology and the departure of Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, but it wasn’t really that important.
2. The Biggest Douche in the Universe
One day everyone at South Park Studios decided that fake psychic John Edward was the biggest douche in the universe, and decided to dedicate an entire episode to saying it. Time well spent if you ask me. It’s probably the most blunt and scathing episode in the whole series, but it makes a really direct and brutally honest point about people who pray on people’s suffering for money, and slams the psychic craze as a whole by revealing their simplest of tricks. Penn and Teller, known for their show Penn and Teller: Bullshit, claim that this is their most favorite episode for its honesty and no-nonsense approach. This was also the last episode where Cartman has Kenny’s soul taken out of his body. (Don’t ask it’s a long story.) Also: Rob Schneider derp de derp!
1. Scott Tenorman Must Die.
Before this episode, Eric Cartman was just a selfish little fat kid with a dirty mouth. By the end of this episode, Cartman officially established himself as one of the most evil hellspawns on the planet. The premise is this: Cartman was tricked into buying pubic hairs from a teen named Scott Tenorman. When he tries to get his money back and is duped once again, he declares all out war on Scott. He tries again and again to get back at him to no avail, but finally comes up with a master plan involving a pony, some chili, and the band Radiohead, to humiliate and destroy him once and for all. The Titus Andronicus-esque ending is without a doubt one of the most infamous moments in South Park history. It comes completely out of nowhere, shows a whole new side to Cartman that not even the sickest fan-fic writer knew about, and is one of the only moments in the show that really freaked me out. Think about it. There is a ton of sick shit on this show, and most of it I have sat through without batting an eye. (I guess you could say I’m desensitized, but whatever.) But this was the part that really shocked and grossed me out. And that is why it is the number one episode.