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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

22

Stan Grows Up – and Realizes New Music Literally Sounds Like Shit (Season 15, Episode 7)

In what’s widely considered one of the creators’ most personal episodes, South Park experiences a new form of popular music for kids called Tween Wave that literally sounds like someone shitting to Stan. Some 15 seasons into their cultural phenomenon, here’s Parker and Stone directly addressing the fact that they’re getting older, and what’s popular now doesn’t quite work for them – though to be fair, Bob Dylan and the Police sound just as “shitty” to kids as Tween Wave does to Stan and the adults. The episode then delivers an emotional haymaker: a montage involving the aftermath of a wrecked marriage and the passage of time, set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” It’s also just a great excuse for more farting noises per minute than you can possibly imagine. BT
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21

Cartman Goes to Court (Season 11, Episode 10)

Season 11 ended with a brilliant trilogy of episodes called “Imaginationland,” in which terrorists attacked and tortured a land of innocent, mythical creatures – but it all starts with a Leprechaun. Cartman bets Kyle that he can catch one; the latter claims that he will suck the former’s balls if he does. Surprising even himself, the chubby young man gets the gold grabber, at which point his friend refuses to come through on his end of the bet. So they go to court, leading to a hysterical scene in which a judge rules that, yes, Kyle has to suck Cartman’s balls. A deal’s a deal, folks. BT
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Comedy Central

20

PC Principal and The Fight Against Sentient Online Advertising (Season 19, Episodes 8-10)

One of South Park‘s best new additions has been a loud-mouthed frat bro named PC Principal, who bullies everyone into supporting the causes of social justice and political correctness. His contradictions drove the story-arc for the tightly serialized 19th season, in which the show made the case that aggressive policing of anything problematic – both online and IRL – creates a society confused and phony enough to be controlled by ad agencies. In the finale, even the single-minded PC Principal begins to grasp the extent to which he’s been duped, as he faces off against an invasion of artificial creatures who look like real people but are actually “sponsored content.” NM
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19

Satan Throws a Fit at His Super Sweet 16 Party (Season 10, Episode 11)

The ruler of Hell became one of the show’s most popular characters after the success of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut; he’s less the Prince of Darkness here than a petulant child. So using Satan to spoof the bizarre reality-TV celebration of excess that was MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen – it just made perfect sense. The devil ends up throwing a massive hissy fit when his actual-size Ferrari cake comes shaped like an Acura instead. Even the ghost of Biggie Smalls, summoned by the boys in a Bloody Mary ritual, can’t save the party. BT
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18

Mr. Garrison Wins the Presidential Election (Season 20, Episode 7)

Because Season 20 aired in the fall of 2016, the crew attempted an ongoing commentary about the presidential election by making Mr. Garrison into a Trump-esque rabble-rousing populist. But plans for a satirical storyline about the new “First Gentleman” Bill Clinton changed overnight with the world-shaking upset on November 8th – the night before that episode was supposed to air. Instead, Parker quickly rewrote the script to have the reluctant President-Elect Garrison giving a stunned acceptance speech. The moment ended up being more than just memorable; it reflected the times well, as South Park seemed as baffled as the rest of us about how to make current events funny. NM
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17

Cartman Jerks Off Ben Affleck (Season 7, Episode 5)

South Park has often crossed line that some would consider insensitive – but it’s the fearlessness of episodes like this one, and the sense that nothing is sacred, that’s allowed them to get away with it. The elementary school’s cultural diversity event is interrupted by a special appearance by Jennifer Lopez; few notice that it’s really just Cartman’s hand dressed up like the superstar in a parody of Señor Wences. Things get awkward, naturally, when her then-boyfriend Ben Affleck shows up. This remains one of the show’s most insane episodes: A major movie star makes “love all night” to a boy’s hand. Really. BT
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Comedy Central

16

Kyle Won’t Call Caitlyn Jenner a ‘Hero’ (Season 19, Episode 1)

Given how much Parker and Stone hate being told who to lionize, it was probably inevitable that South Park would eventually take on Caitlyn Jenner, who went from being a reality-TV star to a cultural icon overnight when she came out as transgender. In the Season 19 premiere, Kyle clashes with the community when he won’t toe the line and say publicly that the Olympic champ is “stunning and brave.” The show has followed Kyle’s lead, questioning what the creators felt was a knee-jerk heroism on the part of the political left by reminding viewers repeatedly that she’s a raging right-winger; the episode’s references to a fatal car accident that Jenner was involved in didn’t exactly speak well to the unquestioning public worship as well. NM
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15

Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo (Season 1, Episode 9)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone created an iconic Christmas character designed to look and sound a lot like Mickey Mouse – and did we mention that this guest in the Santa hat was a piece of feces who was prone to leave brown stains wherever it went? The result was a talking “Christmas Poo,” the star of one of the first “I can’t believe they just did that on television” episodes of the show. The first great South Park seasons-greetings episode is also notable for including two of the show’s funnier songs, “A Lonely Jew on Christmas” and “Kyle’s Mom is a Big Fat Bitch.” The holiday spirit would never be the same. BT
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Comedy Central

14

Father Maxi’s ‘Pitfall’ Adventure (Season 6, Episode 8)

The whole episode – blessed with the glorious name “Red Hot Catholic Love” – has a lot of high points, including the revelation that inserting food into one’s rectum will force them to poop out their mouths. But its peak is undoubtedly when Father Maxi goes on his own Pitfall adventure. In the basement of the Vatican, looking for the “Holy Document of Vatican Law,” Maxi becomes the video game adventurer to stop priests from molesting children. Only South Park could manage to merge Eighties nostalgia, seriously edgy humor and a socially taboo subject so deftly. BT
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Comedy Central

13

Cartman Gets an Anal Probe (Season 1, Episode 1)

In 1997, without a contract from Comedy Central, Trey Parker and Matt Stone capitalized on the success of their Christmas short involving Santa and Jesus battling over the holiday – it was a viral sensation before that was a thing, getting passed around Hollywood one VHS copy at a time. It’s no exaggeration to say that the first season eventually turned the Colorado duo into first-rate social satirists and put the network on the map. And whereas most premieres would introduce us to a show’s sense of humor gradually, Parker and Stone started right out of the gate with a foul-mouthed kid getting an alien anal probe. This was the one that started it all. BT
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Comedy Central

12

The Boys Meet Mel Gibson (Season 8, Episode 3)

Long before Mel Gibson was screaming about blowjobs and hot tubs, South Park tackled the controversial Oscar-winner with a sense of righteous fury. Cartman essentially turns the actor-director into his personal Jesus after seeing The Passion of the Christ – and becomes a bit of a Nazi in the process. Then Stan and Kenny find the star so they can demand their money back and quickly learning that he is crazier than Martin Riggs. Spoofing some of Gibson’s biggest hits, Parker and Stone unapologetically sketch the celebrity as a gun-toting, homicidal lunatic. And in the name of adding insult to injury, Comedy Central released the episode it on DVD the same day that Passion hit shelves. Amen. BT
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Comedy Central

11

Woodland Creatures Blood Orgy (Season 8, Episode 14)

After a stressful season during which they were also trying to make Team America: World Police, Parker and Stone were short on ideas for their finale. They finally settled on doing a holiday episode that parodied John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, once again inserting vile behavior into something long-considered quaint. In their version, Stan finds a clearing of woodland creatures building a Christmas tree. They couldn’t be cuter – until the beasts sacrifice Rabbity the Rabbit as part of their plan to summon the Antichrist. Of course, the revelation that the story was one written by Eric Cartman surprises exactly no one. BT
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10

The Death of Chef (Season 10, Episode 1)

After the brilliant, Scientology-skewering “Trapped in the Closet” at the end of the ninth season, Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef and himself a Scientologist, made his objections public and accused the show of “intolerance and bigotry” in a prepared statement. Parker and Stone responded by noting how they had mocked every religion before that infamous episode, and their collaborator had never objected before. And then they killed Chef. Using old audio of the actor, the episode features the character joining a brainwashing group before the bridge he’s on collapses and he’s ravaged by boars below. It was sad to see Chef go, though it also admittedly made for hysterical television in which the line between personal issues and fiction blurred. BT
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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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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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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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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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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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