Why the New Season of ‘South Park’ Deserves Applause

Media are already declaring war on the comedy show ahead of September 13 debut

by Zachary Leeman | Updated 23 Aug 2017 at 8:47 AM

When the 21st season of Comedy Central’s “South Park” debuts September 13, it will look very different from many of today’s comedy shows on TV.

Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have chosen to avoid going down the same politics-obsessed road as other television shows. Week to week, people can watch “The President Show,” “Weekend Update,” “Saturday Night Live,” “The Daily Show,” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” if they want to see jokes and barbs aimed at President Donald Trump. There’s also an animated show from Colbert on its way about the Trump family, a new Michael Moore program, and a series from the increasingly political David Letterman.

All of this has become tiresome and boring, two things comedy should never be.

In an interview this summer with the Los Angeles Times, Parker explained the decision to steer away from politics in "South Park": "We did start to become that ... especially the last season. We fell into the same trap that 'Saturday Night Live' fell into, where it was like, 'Dude, we're just becoming CNN now. We're becoming: Tune in to see what we're going to say about Trump.' Matt [Stone] and I hated it, but we got stuck in it somehow."

While "South Park" did tackle the election last season, it's likely no one would accuse the show of parroting other "satirists," since the series was smart enough to take on both political sides — rather than just performing a Trump-bashing marathon with regurgitated jokes a la "Saturday Night Live."

"We probably could put up billboards — 'Look what we're going to do to Trump next week!' — and get crazy ratings. But I just don't care," said Parker, who had a voice role in this summer's hit "Despicable Me 3."

Related: 'South Park' — 20 Years of Political Incorrectness

He also said the president is tough to satirize, as he is an entertainer himself. "He's not intentionally funny but he is intentionally using comedic art to propel himself. The things that we do — being outrageous and taking things to the extreme to get a reaction out of people — he's using those tools," said Parker.

While many viewers are likely sighing in relief that there will finally be a show full of laughs rather than commentary on the president, many in the media have attempted to shame "South Park," as its release date nears, for not joining the anti-Trump train.

"Co-creator Trey Parker says he doesn't want ‘South Park' to become CNN. But what is the show's responsibility in the age of Trump?" reads a Daily Beast article. The website went on to criticize Parker and Stone — who have identified themselves as libertarians in the past — for daring to satirize anything but Republicans. "Yet just as they used 2004's 'Team America: World Police' to skewer Hollywood liberals like Sean Penn and Matt Damon, it's easier to imagine them going after the Women's March and Trump's CNN critics than it is to see them targeting the president directly."

"Co-creator Trey Parker says he doesn't want ‘South Park' to become CNN. But what is the show's responsibility in the age of Trump?"

Philly.com joined in on the "South Park" bashing, saying, "20 years later, does America still need South Park?" The article continued, "To now ignore or significantly reduce the emphasis on Trump after a strong initial focus on him seems like an abdication of the responsibility the show has earned for itself as a comedic chronicler of pop culture."

AV Club also chimed in, saying the program's decision to stay away from Trump was "a real disappointment at best, cowardice at worst." It added that it was a "cop out."

Have two artists ever been so shamed for simply deciding not to tell a joke? We can expect plenty more hate when the new season of "South Park" actually premieres. It's now an enemy of the press, clearly.

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"South Park" should be applauded. Many artists are so caught up in hatred for the president that their work is suffering. "Saturday Night Live" is a stale rehash of jokes against Trump; its spinoff, "Weekend Update," the same predictable mess, "The President Show" has seen its satire taken so seriously by its audience that people like Rosie O'Donnell unknowingly spread scenes thinking it's about the real Trump — and Comedy Central's other show set to premiere in September, "Broad City," is bleeping out Trump's name in its new season. That's just some of it.

This is out of control. Artists are making photocopies of photocopies of other artists' jokes about the president.

Related: The Five Best Performances by Jerry Lewis

"South Park" should be praised for choosing to make people laugh — one of the most daring things a comedy series can do in 2017. The show has never toed the Hollywood liberal political line, which is partly why the show has been going strong for 20 years. The creators recognize the staleness in Hollywood's Trump obsession.

"South Park" may end up being one of the few TV programs in 2017 to bring people together culturally, as it drops the direct political talk and sticks with the funny.

(photo credit, homepage image: BagoGames, Flickr)

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