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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

9

Cartman Pretends He Has Tourettes (Season 11, Episode 8)

A great Season 11 entry, “Le Petit Tourette,” really pushed how far Comedy Central was willing to go with the seven dirty words and highlight Cartman’s favorite hobby. After spying a kid with Tourette’s Syndrome in a store, Cartman pretends he has the condition, soon learning that swearing all the time can be tough work. Merging with a parody of the Dateline NBC “To Catch a Predator” craze, this episode actually earned praise from the Tourette Association of America for its “surprising amount of actual information” about the condition. BT
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Comedy Central

8

Racist Wheel of Fortune (Season 11, Episode 1)

South Park often conjures up attention-getting scenes – but they’ll probably never top the prologue of “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson,” an episode semi-inspired by Michael Richards’ notorious rant. Randy Marsh is on Wheel of Fortune, having made it to the final round. The episode is airing live. And after guessing his letters, he’s facing “N_GGERS” with the category clue of “People Who Annoy You.” (The answer is, of course, “Naggers.”) Parker and Stone use the shock value of this opening scene for one of their best episodes overall, particularly in the way it examines controversy and the cult of the public apology. BT
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Comedy Central

7

Stan Gets Sucked into Facebook (Season 14, Episode 4)

After trying to delete his popular account, Stan gets literally sucked into the world of Facebook, which is imagined like a really lame version of the Eighties hit Tron. There are no lightcycle races here, however: It’s just deadly games of Yahtzee and people taking care of their “Farm Town” properties. As Stan traverses this world, a poor kid named Kip laments that he has 0 friends. The idea that social networks mean nothing and everything at the same time, especially to kids, has never been better captured. BT
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Comedy Central

6

The Dog Whisperer Tames Cartman (Season 10, Episode 7)

Parker and Stone tackled the behavioral reality TV craze of the 2000s with this episode that goes from Super Nanny to The Dog Whisperer. Cartman’s family starts by trying to get the former to bring some discipline to their rebellious brat but the fattest kid in South Park leaves the Super Nanny on the verge of sanity. Why not use the same techniques that Cesar Millan uses on dogs and train Cartman the same way you would a rambunctious puppy? Remember, it just takes a few “Tssts” to the neck, and voila! BT 
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Comedy Central

5

Cartman Wins the Special Olympics (Season 8, Episode 2)

When Timmy and Jimmy decide to compete in the Special Olympics, Eric Cartman refuses to let them steal any of his potential glory – and pretends to be “special” in order to compete. South Park was rarely more offensive than when it mocked the disabled, and this episode certainly walks an extremely fine line between satirizing the way society treats those with disabilities versus using such characters for cheap laughs. In the end, of course, Cartman is simply too physically unfit to truly compete. On the DVD commentary for this episode, Stone claimed that he once pretended to be disabled to get into an amusement park for free. We’re still cringing. BT
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Comedy Central

4

Timmy vs. Jimmy (Season 5, Episode 2)

It features a shot-for-shot parody of John Carpenter’s famous They Live fisticuffs – what more could you ask for? One of the absolute peaks of South Park history came in this 2001 episode in which fan-favorite Timmy became annoyed at the adoration heaped upon the new disabled kid in town, Jimmy. While the subplot about Big Gay Al being kicked out of the Mountain Scouts actually got more attention overall, it’s the big scene between the two boys that everyone remembers. Close your eyes and you can almost hear Cartman yelling the episode gloriously offensive title: “CRIPPLE FIGHT!” BT
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Comedy Central

3

Kanye West Becomes a Gay Fish (Season 13, Episode 5)

By 2009, Kanye West had established himself as one of the new century’s most brilliant artists. (Just ask him.) For Season 13’s “Fishsticks,” Parker and Stone took aim at his ego and his equally infinitesimal sense of humor, crafting a scathing episode in which a joke about people’s love of fish sticks enrages West because he doesn’t get it. The highlight comes when a bout of self-reflection that results in him embracing his inner gay fish. At the time, the rapper took the mockery with rare humility, acknowledging on his blog, “South Park murdered me last night, and it’s pretty funny. … I actually have been working on my ego.” Still, it wasn’t long until Kanye was mad again: On his 2010 track “Gorgeous,” he railed, “Choke a South Park writer with a fish stick.” Yes … but do you love putting fish sticks in your mouth? TG
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Comedy Central

2

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

1

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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