Considering that you were broke just a few years ago, is it surreal to find yourself being discussed in terms of your cultural impact?
Parker: It is. We get enough positive feedback, too. But as soon as we came out with South Park, the media were saying, “This is trite stuff; this won’t have any impact.” Now they bring us up when they talk about America’s youth and how we’re to blame. It’s like, “I thought we were trite and we would have no impact.”
You’re insignificant yet responsible.
Stone: They don’t pay any attention until there’s something bad.
What was your original goal for the South Park movie?
Stone: We wanted to do something worthy of a movie, not just a long episode or four episodes strung together. We wanted to do something bigger, just like the title implies. We wanted to justify the existence of a South Park movie.
Had you ever been disappointed by a film version of something you liked?
Parker: We were huge fans of Beavis and Butt-head, and huge fans of Mike Judge. We went to the premiere of the Beavis and Butt-head movie, and we wanted more. But they did the smart thing and made that movie for people who weren’t necessarily Beavis and Butt-head fans, and therefore made a shitload of money. I think it’s possible our movie is a little more inaccessible.
What would someone who’s been on a desert island for the past couple of years make of the movie if they were to wander into the wrong theater at the multiplex?
Parker: First of all, they’re going to say, “Holy shit,” but on the other hand, the movie is a very poignant story. Like I said, it’s insanely relevant all of a sudden. Scott Rudin — one of the movie’s executive producers and one of the biggest musical producers — thinks this may be the biggest movie musical to come out in many years.
Stone: It’s an R-rated, animated musical.
Parker: That just doesn’t happen a whole lot. We may just kill the genre right here. We would rather have someone say, “That was really fucked-up” than, “Oh, that was cute.”
Are you still fighting the ratings board?
Parker: It’s just scary — going through the trailer process and getting the notes back that say, “You just can’t fart.” It’s, like, the shot of the guy shooting the M60 and all these people getting shot — that was OK. But the guy farting has to come out.
Stone: Who ever died of a fart?
For better or worse, it’s probably safe to say there’s worse language heard in most high school cafeterias than in South Park.
Stone: Oh, God, yeah.
Parker: It’s nothing compared with what these fuckers are really talking about.
Then does the success of South Park actually make you more optimistic about America’s youth?
Stone: It gives me hope. If there’s an overriding message in South Park, it’s just to question authority. That’s the shit we make fun of.
Did you see a South Park backlash coming?
Parker: Back when people were first hearing about the show, Mike Judge basically showed us a diagram of how the popularity would go. He was like, “It’s going to be real popular; you’re going to hit a peak; then there’s going to be a backlash. Then it will go down, and it will level out. And before you know it, you’re going to be a sellout just by doing what you do.” I remember reading reviews that said we were sellouts when ‘Mr.Hankey the Christmas Poo’ came out. I was like, “What did we sell out?” Something is cool until everyone thinks it’s cool. Instead of saying that, it’s easier to say we’ve sold out. People see the merchandise and think that Matt and I are sewing dolls together, putting price tags on them and placing them on the shelves.
Has there ever been South Park merchandise you were uncomfortable with?
Parker: Oh, lots of things — lots.
Stone: It becomes a tidal wave.
Parker: The only way you can fight it is to spend days fighting it — days you don’t have.
Stone: That’s where you just have to go, “If the episodes are good, the rest will follow.”
How much life is left in the show?
Stone: We signed for seventy episodes, and we’re halfway through now. So another couple of years at most. We are psyched for more.
What did you learn from starring in BASEketball?
Parker: It was a completely positive experience. We got to see the whole process of a studio movie, but not from the director’s chair — to see what they do, how they fuck you. I learned a shitload. Universal made the mistake of thinking that people would come see us. They don’t give a shit about us. They care about Cartman and Stan and Kyle. I totally understand why. Also, there was no big emotional payoff in that movie — the funny thing about a movie like There’s Something About Mary is, simple as it is, you know what everybody in the movie wants. And in BASEketball, you didn’t really. That was a huge lesson learned.
What’s the most bizarre offer you’ve gotten since everything took off?
Stone: To star in a movie for Universal.
Parker: Yeah, what was that all about? This last New Year’s, I wanted to write down a list of all the things we had done in 1998. Like, we were on The Tonight Show, we recorded a song with Perry Farrell, met Elton John and Robert Smith, kissed Yasmine Bleeth, went to the Playboy mansion with Metallica there — like a list of a hundred weird things we never dreamed of doing one year earlier.
You kissed Yasmine Bleeth?
Parker: In BASEketball.
At the peak of South Park mania, were women throwing themselves at you like the rock stars you really are?
Parker: When you’re superhot, you don’t have the time to enjoy being superhot, because you’re working your ass off. By the time we will actually have time to really go out and screw around, we won’t be hot anymore.
Stone: Sad — God’s fucking cruel joke.