MOTW: South Park Creators: Matt Stone and Trey Parker
Best known as the creators of the ever-funny animated comedy South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been entertaining people for over a decade. The pair became best friends while attending the University of Colorado and have been serving up controversial comedy ever since.
Trey Parker was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1969 to a geologist named Randy and his wife, an insurance broker named Sharon. He has an older sister named Shelly. Fans of South Park will recognize these names, as his family is the inspiration for Stan Marsh's family on the show. Meanwhile, Matt Stone was born in Houston, Texas, in 1971 to Gerald, an economics professor, and Sheila, who is Jewish, providing the inspiration for Kyle Broflovski's family on the show. Stone was raised in Littleton, Colorado, and went on to study at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker.
The comic duo's first collaboration, "Jesus vs. Frosty," was filmed while they were still students using only construction paper, glue, and a very old 8mm camera. Featuring four boys—who very much resemble the later South Park characters—the short film included a tentacled evil Frosty and an avenging baby Jesus. The pair premiered the film at a 1992 student film screening where it was well received. "Jesus vs. Frosty" lead to even bigger things when, in 1995, Brian Graden, a Fox executive, paid the duo $2,000 to create another animated short that he could send as a Christmas card. "Jesus vs. Santa" was the result. The hilarious take on the meaning of Christmas featured a fistfight between Jesus and Santa, figure skater Brian Boitano, and the group of four boys deciding to become Jewish. The film only had a budget of $750 and was filmed in a style very similar to the one eventually used in the "South Park" series. Although the film was initially only given to around 80 people, it was passed around on the Internet for months, becoming one of the first viral videos and eventually landing with Comedy Central's Doug Herzog, who thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. He commissioned the two to turn the animated short into a series.
"South Park" debuted on August 13, 1997, with a pilot episode entitled "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe." The pair made thirteen episodes for the first season, and the show was a smash hit with audiences, becoming the most successful show on the Comedy Central network ever in just three month's time. "South Park" remains one of the most popular shows on Comedy Central to this day, having just finished its seventeenth season. The show has been nominated for Emmy Awards ten times and has won four times. The unorthodox show is known for tackling controversial topics, such as politics and religion, and generating debate and criticism for its taboo and hilarious handling of serious subject matter. From Scientology to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the two have shown that nothing is off limits.
Although Parker is credited with most of the writing, directing, and voice acting for the show, the two work as a pair. Stone is the business man of the duo, keeping the episodes on time and on budget, dealing with the network, and handling the business side of the operation. Stone is also charged with smoothing over and granting interviews after the more volatile Parker has said or done something controversial.
Aside from "South Park," the comic duo have successfully collaborated on a number of other projects. In 1999, the pair released "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." The full-length feature film included twelve songs and parodies animated Disney films. The film was well received, becoming a hit at the box office and garnering mostly positive reviews. In 2004, the two made "Team America: World Police." Although the film got mostly positive reviews, it was not considered a success at the box office. Parker and Stone also collaborated with Robert Lopez on "The Book of Mormon," a Broadway musical with a hilarious take on organized religion. The project was in development for seven years and opened in March of 2011. The musical was an incredible success, winning nine Tony Awards and the praise of many critics. The resulting cast album became the highest charting album in four decades.
Parker and Stone plan to continue their comic exploits. The two announced they would be starting a film production company, Important Studios, in January of 2013. Ten days later, they announced they would also be producing a fishing show that would combine sports fishing, music, and comedy. Hopefully, the comedic pair will be giving audiences laughs for years to come.