PREACH It! 'Family Guy' may employ manatees, but 'South Park' risks eating crow
No Cheesy Poofs for the producers of "South Park" this week: The people behind the hit show are being accused — for the second time — of essentially stealing material.
An outfit called Brownmark Films has filed a suit in U.S. District Court, alleging that the animated series ripped off a viral video that Brownmark released in 2007. The video was based on a Samwell song called — wait for it — "What What (In the Butt)/"
Per the Hollywood Reporter, "What What (In the Butt)" is one of the most viewed music videos of all time.
In 2008, South Park did its own version of "What What (In the Butt)" — we'll type that as often as we like, thank you very much — in a sendup featuring the popular character Butters as a stand-in for Samwell. (I guess you had to be there.)
Brownmark is calling the spoof an infringement of its copyright, describing the sequence as "willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to the rights of Brownmark."
(Comedy Central, for its part, says the sequence falls under the protection of free speech: "Courts have consistently recognized that parody enjoys broad protections under the First Amendment and the Copyright Act," it said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. "We believe 'South Park's' parody of the 'What What [In the Butt]' viral music video that appeared in the 2008 episode of 'South Park' entitled 'Canada on Strike' is fully protected against any copyright infringement claims under the fair-use doctrine and the First Amendment and we plan to vigorously defend those rights." )
But like we've said, this isn't the first time the "South Park" crew has faced these kinds of accusations. Less than a month ago, show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker found themselves apologizing to writers Dan Gurewitch and David Young shortly after a very loyal take on a Gurewitch-Young video appeared on "South Park." Get this: The scene in question was a spoof of a spoof — of the movie "Inception" to be specific.
It's all very meta.
Anyway, for longtime fans of "South Park," this news may hold more than a touch of irony. After all, Parker and Stone have not hesitated to skewer other shows over lazy writing — "Family Guy," for example. One "South Park" episode, a two-parter called "Cartoon Wars," imagined the "Family Guy" writing staff as a pod of trained manatees who put together their jokes by tapping on brightly colored toy balls with random words on them.
It was a funny sequence. The manatees wrote terrible, incomprehensible gags that were nearly as bad as the stuff that actually airs on "Family Guy."
But at least no one has accused Seth McFarlane's crack sea-mammal writing squad of stealing their material.
— Leslie Gornstein
Top photo: "South Park" creators Matt Stone, left, and Trey Parker. Credit: Michael Yarish / Comedy Central.
Right photo: The "Family Guy" writing staff? Not exactly. Credit: Associated Press.