As in most Election Years, politics permeates through practically every aspect of our culture, and that was more apparent than ever in 2016, with the divisive Presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Comedy Central's South Park aired its 20th season, and like most shows, they got caught up in the campaign as well, with the serialized story following the South Park Elementary teacher Mr. Garrison as a Donald Trump-like figure who was running for President. During a recent podcast appearance, series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone revealed what their original plan for Season 20 was, and how they don't want to focus their show on Donald Trump as they head into Season 21.
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone recently appeared on The Ringer podcast, where Trey Parker said that last season was a "bummer" because he didn't want to turn it into a whole Trump season. As for Season 21, since they don't start writing the show until August, we likely won't know much about the new episodes until they premiere sometime this fall. The show has already been renewed through Season 23 in 2019, so the future of the show is intact for the next few years. However, Matt Stone did say that he's glad their new season isn't airing right now, because he isn't sure what they would put on the air.
"Well, I'm glad that we're not putting anything on the air right now. At the end of last season, we needed to go. We were both so exhausted and had nothing to say. We were just like, "I don't know. We gotta go away." So I don't envy people who, through that tumult, try to go on and be funny. I actually think it's hard, I think it's kinda comedy-killing. People come up to us all the time like, "Oh man, you got so much good material," and I'm like, 'I don't think it's that great of material.'"
They added that Trump is taking the "button pushing" away from the comedians, because his behavior is often so outrageous that it's hard to parody him, adding that the "comedian pushes the button, that's the natural order of things," a balance which has been upset since Trump took over. And this is the main reason they won't be featuring Trump as a character when the show returns later this year. When asked if they've ever encountered anyone in the past 20 years who couldn't be parodied, Trey Parker had this to say.
"If you have like a little monkey and it's running himself into the wall over and over and you're like, 'That's funny, but how am I gonna make fun of the monkey running himself into the wall?' I can discuss the monkey running himself into the wall, I can copy the monkey running into the wall, but nothing's funnier than the monkey just running himself into the wall."
Matt Stone added his own analogy about why Trump shouldn't be President of the United States.
"Or if I flip off the principal and the principal flips me off back, that's really funny, but I really don't know where to go from there, you know what I mean? I moon him and he moons me back. If he moons first, [it's] like, "Oh f--k, that guy shouldn't be the principal."
Both South Park and NBC's Saturday Night Live got big pushes from the political landscape that developed last year. Since both shows operate on similar satirical levels, Trey Parker was asked about how their work compares to SNL. Here's what he had to say.
"I think they're doing better than ever because of it, but it's like now every week I'm seeing a headline about how SNL ripped on the Trump administration this week. They've become that show. And that was part of the bummer for us about [last] season was we didn't want to make it a big Trump thing, and we kept thinking it was gonna go away and we didn't want to get caught up in just being a political show. There's plenty of good political comedy out there. We like to dabble in that and do that one week, but then the next week we [just] want to do fart jokes. We love to change tones. And it's interesting 'cause now people are [saying], 'OK, well let's see how you deal with Trump this coming season." No one ever said, 'Oh, the new season's coming, how you gonna deal with Obama in this season?'"
Trey Parker and Matt Stone also spoke about what they had initially envisioned for this past season, which they'd started writing last August, when Donald Trump was already the Republican candidate. Even while Trump was dominating the pop culture landscape, they didn't want the season to focus on Trump, and they had a much different plan in place for the season. Here's what Trey Parker had to say about the overall thrust of the season, before Election Night.
"Where we were going with the thing, it's all about how girls [have been] slighted. Girls have been marginalized in South Park too, just because we do all the voices and it's hard for us to have people come in at 3 in the morning and change all the lines. We were heading down this whole path of this big boy-girl war going on, and everyone thinks, 'OK well hooray, Hillary Clinton's gonna be president.' And that means that Bill Clinton is the first gentleman. That to us was the most ironic, coolest thing to focus on. 'OK, there you go, you win, he's officially the first gentleman, how do you feel, girls?' And that's where the whole season was going and that's what really got torn apart. [Mr.] Garrison was supposed to come back and just start teaching again and all this stuff and we were now just locked in to this other [timeline]."
When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the show put together an election night episode where they essentially predicted that the Illinois Senator would be elected as the next President of the United States. This time around, they had a Hillary Clinton episode all mapped out that was set to air on November 9, the night after the election, but when Donald Trump won, they had to change almost the entire episode to reflect what happened, in just a few hours. They had considered "going black" and just not airing an episode, but after a few hours, they figured out how to change the episode. Here's what Trey Parker had to say about how that episode changed, and how they decided to air it.
"We just got to the dry erase board and just started erasing shit and filling in and going, 'How can we line this all up to make it make sense?' By 9:30 or 10 we kind of had it figured out. I think (Viacom's Doug) Herzog would have been OK with us just going black, but it was also nice for at least real die-hard South Park fans to see that everything was still [going]. Everyone was so shell-shocked and it was like you didn't want to see that the world had changed. You wanted to be like, 'OK, this horrible thing has happened, and [Trump] has been elected president, [but] South Park's still on the air.' The sun's still rising. Water's still clear."
Comedy Central hasn't announced a premiere date for South Park yet. It isn't clear if these next three seasons will be their last, or if Comedy Central has plans on keeping the show on the air indefinitely. Hopefully we'll find out more about this next season of South Park very soon.