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The 25 Greatest ‘South Park’ Moments – Updated

From singing poops to Scientologists – looking back on the hit Comedy Central show’s most memorable (and memorably offensive) jokes

Happy 20th birthday, South Park! Since its premiere on August 13th, 1997, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have given the world singing excrement, stoned towels, a sensitive Satan, characters with names like Big Gay Al and Tweek Tweak, farting Canadian comedy duos and some of the most scabrous celebrity parodies imaginable. And two decades after Cartman’s first alien anal probe, the animators still refuse to play nice or tow anything even resembling P.C. line. How many shows do you know that could come up with something as biting as the “Memberberries” concept – one of the sharper takedowns of how a nostalgia-worshipping culture can slide into dodgy territory – much less in its 20th season?

A decade ago, we attempted to single out the 25 most memorable (and memorably jaw-dropping) highlights of the show. A lot has happened to Stan, Kyle, Cartman and the indestructible Kenny since then, however, so we’ve updated and substantially revised our old list – to paraphrase a wise man, respect our au-thor-i-tiiiie on this. These are our picks for the best South Park moments to date. It’s been a remarkably consistent middle finger to cultural propriety for the 20 years. It feels like it could keep flipping the world the bird for another 20 more.

Comedy Central

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Cartman Feeds Scott Tenorman’s Parents to Him (Season 5, Episode 4)

Even after four seasons, it wasn’t completely clear how far Trey Parker and Matt Stone were willing to go for a joke until “Scott Tenorman Must Die” revealed that there were, in fact, no boundaries. When Eric Cartman is crossed by ninth-grader Scott Tenorman, the pudgy rebel doesn’t just get your typical TV revenge; instead, he murders his parents and then feeds them to him. With guest appearances by Radiohead and a script that some considered a loose retelling of Titus Andronicus, this episode is the perfect high-low amalgamation of the show’s ability to be both shocking and brilliant at the same time. BT
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Comedy Central

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Tom Cruise Gets Trapped in the Closet (Season 9, Episode 12)

Parker and Stone often hid their cultural critiques behind satire, allowing even their targets to appreciate the mockery. That wasn’t really the case with Scientology, however, resulting in arguably the most infamous episode in the show’s history. The gents went at L. Ron Hubbard’s religion with both barrels, mocking famous members of the group and even flashing the statement “This is what Scientologists actually believe” over some of the more ridiculous tenets of the faith. The topper, however, may have been when Tom Cruise hid in Stan’s coatroom – prompting numerous folks to beg him to “just come out of the closet already.” (You may draw your own conclusions.) The star was so pissed he reportedly threatened to back out of publicity for Mission: Impossible III; noted church member Isaac Hayes left the show because he was offended by it. It remains not just one of South Park‘s more remarkable “did they really just go there?” episodes, as well as one of the most daring critiques of a belief system in television history. BT
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