VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
WRITTEN BY: Matt Klem
A show as long-running as "South Park" is bound to have a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes facts. For this list, we'll be looking at bits of trivia you may not have known about the inner workings and history of Comedy Central's favorite animated town. Our countdown includes how they bought the real Casa Bonita, George Clooney's two cameos, the origins of Catman's name, and more!
A show as long-running as "South Park" is bound to have a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes facts. For this list, we’ll be looking at bits of trivia you may not have known about the inner workings and history of Comedy Central’s favorite animated town. Our countdown includes how they bought the real Casa Bonita, George Clooney's two cameos, the origins of Catman's name, and more! What’s your favorite episode of “South Park?” Let us know in the comments.
#10: Six Days to Air
In the modern day of television animation, “South Park” far exceeds the production cycle of any other show. Where “Family Guy” takes 10 months to produce an episode, “South Park” goes from conception to being on the air in six days. This rapid-fire schedule has allowed the show to remain as topical as late night television. This staggering accomplishment is possible because both creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are still an integral part of the episodic process. Instead of handing the reins to someone else, they write every episode, do most of the voices, and contribute to virtually every aspect of what goes into making an episode. Since starting their six day schedule, they’ve only missed it once due to an unexpected power failure.
#9: The Origins of Cartman’s Name
Much like many other characters on the show, Eric got his name from someone the creators knew. Matt Karpman was a friend of the show’s creators and was described as a bit of an obnoxious, overweight kid who always had great comeback lines. During a 1995 Super Bowl party, Karpman jumped to give a high five to his friends, which was met with a quick “Shut up, Karpman!” Trey jumps up and exclaims, “Cartman! That’s the perfect name for the Fat Kid.” Cartman’s character had previously been known as “Kenny” in the “Jesus vs. Frosty” short film. But after that fateful party, Eric Cartman was born.
#8: Celebrity Crush Gets Job
When a new show becomes a massive success, there’s inevitably a rush of calls from different actors and actresses who want to be a part of it. “South Park” was no different. So after the studio told the creators they basically could have anyone they want, they responded with, “We want Robert Smith and that chick from ‘Species.’” Having watched her movie not long beforehand, she had caught their attention and it landed her a voiceover role on the show. Apparently quite nervous about doing voice work, she played the part of the substitute teacher, whom everyone got a crush on. Looks like this was life imitating art.
#7: They Bought the Real Casa Bonita
It was the one place Cartman wanted to go to so bad that he hid Butters in a bomb shelter. Based on a real restaurant located in Lakewood, Colorado, the show’s creators had been to the real deal, and spun an entire episode about the famous landmark, even getting permission from the previous owners. Having made comments about their love for the place previously, it should come as no surprise that when the place went up for sale, they went after it. In an interview with Colorado Governor Jared Polis, they officially announced that they had indeed purchased the property. One can only wonder what kind of touch these two will add to this iconic location.
#6: “24” Sent Them a Real Suitcase Nuke as a Thank You
In season 11, “South Park” decided to do their own version of Fox’s “24” with Cartman playing the “Jack Bauer” character. The premise of the episode is all around how a terrorist intends to use a “snuke” or “suitcase nuke” on Hillary Clinton. The episode does a fantastic job of mirroring most of what fans would catch from “24,” but the best part came behind the scenes. A few weeks after the episode aired, “South Park” received a suitcase from the producers of “24.” Inside, they found one of the “suitcase nuke” props from their show with a note saying “Matt and Trey, Here’s a snuke of your very own.” Now that’s how you take a good joke!
#5: John & Jane Smith
We’ve had other “South Park” lists that have spoken about the controversy around the Tom Cruise centered “Trapped in the Closet” episode. As he learns the truth about Stan, he threatens him by saying [“I will. I’ll sue you in England”]. Notorious for many things, Scientology is also famous for its use of litigation against those who speak out against the religion’s practices. Cleverly aware of this already, the show took one last potshot at Scientology by listing everyone in the credits as either “John Smith” or “Jane Smith” to dodge possible lawsuits. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to know who the real people were, but it was a clever way to keep some sense of privacy against prying eyes.
#4: Kenny's Death Tagline
Kenny’s death was a recurring gag during the earlier seasons of the show. No matter what seemed to be happening, he’d end up dead, and the boys would utter their now well-known catchphrase, [“Oh my God! They Killed Kenny. You bastards!”]. As a viewer, you’d think they’d be talking to whomever had taken his poor life within the show. In reality, however, the characters are actually going full meta and are talking to the writers of the show. Trey and Matt have gone on record saying that when Kyle is yelling out the final line, it’s actually to them. It does look as if they got tired of screaming at themselves as Kenny’s deaths tapered off considerably later in the show’s run.
#3: Les Claypool Wrote the Theme Song
Known for their obscure songs, and wicked bass lines, Primus has been a staple of the music scene for years. So when “South Park”’s “Spirit of Christmas” was making the rounds, Primus frontman Les Claypool had seen it and had no issues with working on a song for the upcoming television program. The only issue was the end result was far too long to be an intro song. After a back and forth between the show and the band, they simply sped up the original, and had Claypool re-record his vocals. The original can be heard as the outro of the show as the credits roll.
#2: George Clooney Has Had Two Cameos
As previously mentioned, there was a time when celebrities wanted parts on “South Park.” Jerry Seinfeld famously wanted to be on the show, but Matt and Trey only wanted him to do the voice of turkey #2 in a Thanksgiving special. George Clooney, who famously made 300 copies of the “Spirit of Christmas” VHS recording, has had two cameos within the “South Park” world. Much like how Jay Leno did the voice of Cartman’s cat, Clooney played the part of Stan’s gay dog. But his more noticeable cameo came in the movie “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” where he played the surgeon who tried to save Kenny’s life. Instead, he transplanted his heart with a baked potato.
#1: Construction Paper Pilot
Try this. Go watch the first episode of “South Park” back from Season One. Then watch the second episode and comment down below on how much of a difference you notice. Despite the fact that it has the same animation style, and everything looks virtually the same, there is something noticeably unique about that pilot episode. What you’re seeing is not computer generated imagery, but stop motion photography. The first entire episode was shot in about 70 days using construction paper cutouts. Each piece of paper would be moved slightly, a keyframe shot, and then repeated again and again until the whole scene was filmed. Thankfully now the show uses computers for everything, making it possible to churn out episodes so quickly.