What Late Night Comedy Can Learn From South Park

JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EST and features a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Wednesday, October 7 included Billy Crystal, Jaime Harrison (Campaign for Senate in South Carolina), and musical guest Natanael Cano. (Randy Holmes via Getty Images)
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Good comedy doesn’t have a political home. It ebbs and flows through culture, caricaturing and lampooning everything in the way, without exception. Any comedy that festers in one place becomes stale, like bread left on the counter overnight. This is largely the affliction that, for years now, debased and dumbed-down every popular comedy show from Saturday Night Live, to The Daily Show, to Kimmel and Fallon. None of these comedians have been immune to succumbing to their own political biases. Instead, they’ve allowed their politics to become the focal point of their humor, perverting their craft, and becoming the sole impetus for every joke or jab they write.

However, a rare exception to this comedic ailment can be found in Comedy Central’s long-running animated show, South Park. The show’s libertarian-leaning creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker have a history and reputation as equal opportunity offenders, wielding their shrewd wit, taking no sides, and ridiculing everyone equally.

Here are ten of the best examples of South Park’s wit and cynicism. 

Cartman’s Silly Hate Crime: Season 4: Episode 2

In one of their earliest episodes, the South Park creators’ libertarian tendencies shine through as they cynically repudiate the merits of hate crime laws. When the FBI visits South Park, positing that Eric Cartman hitting his classmate, Token (for deriding his pudgy stature), constituted a federal offense as a hate crime, only because of Token’s African American background. A judge sentences Cartman to juvenile hall, claiming “I am making an example of you to send a message to people everywhere, that if you want to hurt another human being, you better make damn sure that they’re the same color as you are.” The political perspectives of Matt and Trey are voiced through Cartman’s friends, as they plead with the justice system, suggesting that “A motivation for a crime should not affect the sentencing. It is time to stop splitting people into groups… Instead, we should be treated the same, with the same laws and the same punishments for the same crimes.” 

Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow: Season 9, Episode 8

The destruction of a beaver dam floods a neighboring town, in an episode tying the Bush administration’s oft-criticized Hurricane Katrina response to the 2004 film, The Day After Tomorrow, and climate change alarmism more broadly. Matt and Trey poke fun at the alarmist rhetoric hurled from the environmentalist movement and the media. Initial news reports of the flooding say, “we do not have any reports of fatalities yet, but we believe that the death toll may be in the hundreds of millions. Beaverton has only a population of about 8,000, so this would be quite devastating… No, we haven’t actually seen any of this, we are just reporting it.” 

Douche and Turd: Season 8, Episode 8

In what remains a timeless piece of political satire, Matt and Trey spoof the 2004 American election as a race between a “Turd Sandwich” and a “Giant Douche.” In tandem, the episode comically scorns the insufferable “vote now” public service announcement ads – which, today, more than ever annoyingly permeate the internet – where each side subtly hints that you should “vote” insofar as it benefits their preferred candidate.

Smug Alert: Season 10: Episode 2

In “Smug Alert,” Matt and Trey take aim at the insufferable, gushing fad over hybrid cars that spawned in the mid-2000s with the surge in popularity of the Toyota Prius. Taking aim at the stereotypical, aloof, and self-obsessed smugness that accompanied Prius drivers, the episode has them pull over next to every passerby, to passive-aggressively harangue them, saying, “yeah, it’s a hybrid; I just couldn’t sit back and be a part of destroying the earth anymore.” 

In one scene, a Prius driver is handing out “awareness citations” – fake parking tickets to SUV drivers at the hardware store parking lot, for their “failure to care about the environment.”

As more people in South Park begin buying hybrid cars and start flaunting their perceived moral superiorities, dense clouds of heavy smog begin clouding the atmosphere. As described in the episode, “when people drive hybrid cars, they get so full of themselves that they spew tons of self-satisfied garbage into the air. That isn’t smog; it’s smug.”  

ManBearPig: Season 10, Episode 6

In what has become one of South Park’s most quoted episodes, Matt and Trey satirize former Vice President turned climate activist, Al Gore, and his alarmist global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. In the episode, Gore is portrayed as an attention-seeking conspiracy peddler, ginning up fear amongst the public while claiming to be the bearer of the antidote, flaunting the impending threat of “ManBearBig” to elevate his own platform.

About Last Night…: Season 12, Episode 12

In this 2008 episode that aired immediately after the US federal election, South Park sardonically pokes fun at those on both ends of the political spectrum who are far too obsessed with politics. On one side, the Obama supporters are portrayed as sycophantic idolaters, convinced that Barack Obama was a Messiah who would solve all the problems in their lives. Contrarily, the politically obsessed McCain supporting Republicans were depicted as despondent hysterics, convinced that the end times were near.

Margaritaville: Season 13, Episode 3

In their 2009 episode tackling the financial crisis, South Park’s writers weave one of their sharpest, most poignant pieces of political commentary to date. Pinned against the backdrop of the 2008 housing market crash, the episode opens with Stan Marsh trying to deposit birthday money into a savings account. The bank teller explains, “we can put that money into a market mutual fund… Aaaand it’s gone.” 

As economic turmoil intensifies, nobody can seem to understand what the economy is, resorting to perceiving it as some divine, mystique force — a deity. And trying to rationalize and interpret the market crash as some vengeful smite of this higher power against their unrestrained capitalist consumerism. It is through Kyle that the South Park creators’ free-market views are manifested, as he emerges as a ‘heretic,’ explaining that the economy is nothing more than the basic act of individuals buying and selling goods. 

201: Season 14, Episode 6

South Park’s episode 201 (and its prequel, 200) remains the ultimate rebuke to both political censorship and fundamentalist Islam. The focal point of the episode was the inane hypocrisy in being free to deride and ridicule any religion with the lone exception of the Muslim prophet. 

Following a barrage of death threats from religious zealots, Comedy Central bleeped out every mention of the word “Muhammad” in the episode, and meticulously avoided ever depicting the Muslim prophet, instead, displaying him as a black rectangle, bearing the capitalized text, “CENSORED.”

Voicing the views of the show’s creators at the end of the episode, Kyle explained the dangers of capitulating to terrorists and bullies. Though entirely censored and bleeped out upon airing, the original clip has since leaked online, “You see, I learned something today. Throughout this whole ordeal, we’ve all wanted to show things that we weren’t allowed to show, but it wasn’t because of some magic goo. It was because of the magical power of threatening people with violence. That’s obviously the only true power. If there’s anything we’ve all learned, it’s that terrorizing people works.”

Stunning and Brave: Season 19, Episode 1

In their first episode taking on the race-obsessed progressive movement that encapsulates political correctness, Matt and Trey introduce the young and hip (and very white) PC Principal. In “Stunning and Brave,” Kyle is reprimanded for having the audacity to suggest that Caitlyn Jenner wasn’t a hero, as the episode portrays the bully tendencies of woke social justice mobs and outrage culture. 

As PC Principal and his cohort of white-male progressives browbeat, harangue, and effectively lobotomize the entire town of South Park into submission at the altar of political correctness, one of the characters remarks, “everyone’s just keeping their mouths shut, so the PC guys will leave them alone.”

Band in China: Season 23, Episode 2

In an episode bound to be remembered as a modern classic, Matt and Trey lambast Disney and Hollywood for their embarrassing, profit wrought placation of the Chinese Communist regime. 

“Band in China” takes Randy’s family cannabis company abroad, to China, as he looks to broaden his business. The episode’s critical portrayal of China’s forced labor camps and de facto censorship of American-made films had South Park’s entire canon scrubbed and outlawed from the Chinese internet. As one character in the episode pointed out, “You’ve got to lower your ideals of freedom, if you want to suck on the warm tit of China.”

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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