November 2, 2020

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.”  

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