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'South Park' creator on his tricky Obama-beats-McCain election episode

A scene from this week's South Park involving Democrat Barack Obama being elected president

"South Park" co-creator Trey Parker was elated when he heard the news Tuesday night that Barack Obama had won the presidency. That's not because he bought into Obama's promises for change, or because he dislikes John McCain -- in fact, Parker says McCain is "a great guy."

Parker was crossing his fingers for an Obama victory because he wrote and directed an episode of "South Park," which aired Wednesday night, based on the premise that the Democratic candidate had won the night before. If the results had flipped, Parker says they would have aired the episode anyway, and later dealt with their own "Dewey defeats Truman" moment. (For a video clip of the Obama episode, click on the Read more line below and scroll down.)

The team considered doing an alternate version for a McCain win, but it proved to be ...

... too daunting a task. So, finally they decided, "Well, we're just going to make the Obama version, and if McCain somehow wins, we're basically just totally screwed," Parker said.

But throughout production, Parker says he had no doubt that Obama would win. That's because the sports betting website he uses to gamble on football games placed the odds heavily against the Republican nominee. "Who do we trust the most?" Parker said he asked himself when deciding whether to write the episode. "Who knows the most about who's going to win? And we just went to Vegas."

Parker even threw some of his own money on the line, placing a bet for Obama in October, when the odds were slimmer, he said. Just before the election, Las Vegas parlors upgraded their prediction to -800 -- what the odds might be for an NFL matchup between the undefeated Tennessee Titans and the winless Detroit Lions. (In other words, not close.)

Luckily for Parker, the house doesn't always win.

But just because the episode had been written before the election's fate had been decided doesn't mean Parker was partying in the streets Tuesday night. Like every Tuesday during a "South Park" season, he didn't get a wink of sleep.

The episode still wasn't completed on the eve of its air date. They needed to replicate the stage on which Obama gave his acceptance speech, and record voice-over excerpts from the transcript for the episode's cartoon reenactment of the oration. They finished production on the episode Wednesday morning, about three hours after they normally wrap.

Treyparker2005 Still, Comedy Central had only seen bits and pieces of it before airing at 10 p.m. One scene executives asked to see involved a joke about Obama's grandmother faking her death, which Parker says wasn't intended to be insensitive. "It's kind of nice," he said. "She's OK, and helping her grandson out."

Parker was committed to doing an episode on the election for this week's show once he heard about a McCain-Nazi joke on "Family Guy," which recently stirred some controversy. He called the scene, which showed the Stewie character dressed in a Nazi uniform and outfitted with a McCain-Palin button, "lame" -- amongst a series of expletives not suitable for publication.

"South Park" creators have publicly condemned "Family Guy" in the past, and Wednesday's episode was an attempt to one-up the Fox cartoon. But Parker wasn't going to make his version a political commentary.

"We've all heard about everything; we've talked about everything to death," Parker said of the exhausted political sphere. "And it's like, let's just put him in a diamond heist movie. They're just diamond thieves, and it's not about the politics at all anymore."

But what about change? Isn't Obama going to singlehandedly fix all our problems, and swiftly transform the nation into an eternal utopia? "I think this whole country is supposed to be based around the fact that one guy doesn't have that much power," Parker said.

-- Mark Milian

Photo credits: Comedy Central

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Comments () | Archives (57)

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Oh yeah, South Park. Used to be funny. Trey Parker should join McCain in the retirement home -- they can have good times complaining about other people's happiness.

After seeing part of last week's episode with the guinea pigs, I thought South Park was officially out of ideas. But I enjoyed this week's episode a lot. The parody was right on, and the partying/mourning after the election was very funny.

Do people still watch South Park? Whew, what a bunch of losers.

Yes We Did etc. etc. Calm down, everyone. I like the guy too, but South Park is pretty spot on about overinflated expectations and the general mania that's swirled around him in the campaign.

You have to admit that's funny stuff. And I'm one of the people who got misty-eyed during his speech...

The episode was awesome! But Trey's comment about one guy not having that much power misses the point. Obama does not have that much power -- we do. He will lead us and we'll all fix this mess together.

I watched South Park and some of the jokes went over my head. Like the guy who was drinking beer to excess and singing songs like "Obama" to the tune of "Mandy." Obamsters don't drink beer. We're chardonnay-sippers and tea-totallers at that. Except Bill Ayers, of course. And the conspiracy between McCain and Obama, what was the hidden message there? The Hope diamond-heist was crucial to the satire, but the strife between Michelle and Barack -- more likely to be between Cindy and John. And (finally, whew) there was no depth to the Palin characterization (what a minefield!) Maybe npr and tbird are right. I don't of course define myself as a loser. He did win by 7.5M votes, and I voted for him.

Dude this episode was awesome!

South Park is STILL on?? Are you kidding me? Has it been on all this time, or did it go off and come back on? Man, when I think of South Park I think of 1997.

Although once it was a miracle, South Park is dead several years ago. Its ideological bias, especially bashing of opposite-minded picked personas, started to become just too visible and it never reached or even attempted to reach such a full-spectrum agreement as Simpsons.

I loved this episode, because instead of making fun of the contenders, it made fun of the people of this nation. It didn't potray eith Obama negatively, which was suprising, seeing how conservative the show is. And Randy's outburst after finding out he got fired was really nice social commentary about people expecting way too much out of politicians

This has to be the only smart thing I've heard about this election. And leave it to Trey Parker to speak of it, it's this kind of intelligence that makes South Park the best show on TV ever!

By the way, this was a great episode. I was waiting since October to see an election epi. Great job!

"Man, when I think of South Park I think of 1997."

Then you have missed some of the best episodes of animated television, hell some of the best complete seasons.

To all you haters out there -- I think South Park is still a great show! The humor has changed a bit over the years, but that's A Good Thing. South Park originated intelligent GenX-targeted satire, then kept topping itself. Nothing can keep topping itself forever, and I'm good with its niche. Comparisons to the Simpsons are like apples vs. oranges - Compare South Park to Futurama because the target audiences are the same. I also agree with the South Park team on Family Guy - I've found every episode I've ever tried to watch to be pointless and therefore stupid.

Wow. When I realized the episode was going to be McCain/Obama, I actually girded my loins for something awful. But South Park NAILED it-- I can't believe it. I had long since thought their time was past (especially after that Indiana Jones thing-- shudder). But nobody has come up with a way to joke about Obama, and you can bet this will now be it: Obama as ridiculously suave. I love him, and I can laugh at that. Even if you hate him, you can laugh at that.

Nutcracker: The Simpsons is far from full-spectrum. It's a clearly liberal-oriented show, as Matt Groening is heavily biased towards the left.

Regarding the show, I thought it was great. I'm a huge fan of true crime and heist films, and they did an excellent sendup. Plus the parodying of the gloating Obama supporters and doomsaying McCain backers was hilarious.

I agree with the south park guys about familyguy.Familyguy has become a preachy political show that just isnt funny.Its like the writers over at familyguy have to remind us every week that there liberal and that everyone else is stupid if there not.Im glad to see someone like matt and trey doing something different with there show and just bashing the hell out of everyone and not showing any favortism towards any political party.

Start really watching South Park before talking crap about it. How can you guys say that you didn't know it still existed, but at the same time say that it's lame and stupid. You're basically saying that you haven't really watched it, but you somehow hate it. Typically americans. Some of you just cant stand hearing the truth, so you banish south park from your lifes for telling it, even though you have no idea what it's about. fuk u.

First of all, whoever said that South Park's viewers are "a bunch of losers" is a loser themself because they are wasting time out of their life to complain about a show that they can choose not to watch if they don't like it.

South Park has been on since 1997 and is still the funniest animated program, in my opinion. Ever since its 5th season, it has stopped focusing on random, stupid toilet humor and started having better plot structure, completely non-biased views on political issues, and humor that is very relevant to modern society. And this episode is no different. It manages to point out how stupid extreme supporters of Obama and McCain can be. And the Sarah Palin character in this episode was definately hilarious.

If anyone wants to complain and whine about South Park making fun of Obama's supporters, than go back to watching stupid mindless crap like Family Guy. Family Guy basically just makes cheap jokes about Republicans without explaining its viewpoints and then implies that you suck if you don't think the exact same way on everything. I actually voted for Obama, but I would rather watch a show with hilarious and brilliant humor about both candidate's supporters than a show with cheap, unfunny, one-sided humor.

Honestly, if you live in the United States but weren't aware that this show is still on the air then you probably aren't very aware of anything... On top of remaining as Comedy Central's highest rated show, South Park has made the headlines more times in the last 3 seasons then they had in the 8 years prior combined. The last two years has seen the show awarded its first Emmy Awards while it has cemented its reputation for being the timeliest animated program in history.
If you were aware that the show was still on, but think that it has lost the humor it once had, you probably have either stopped watching altogether or do not have much of a sense of humor. South Park has evolved into the sharpest and most relevant satire on television. While its graphic nature certainly is not for everyone, saying that the show is altogether "unfunny" or that somehow Parker and Stone have lost their edge is kind of ridiculous...

I personally found the episode hilarious, although of course everyone has their own opinions. Half the country is partying way too hard, and the other half is attempting suicide or hiding in shelters. Meanwhile, the candidates were actually planning something completely different and basically screwing over the country. Exaggerated almost beyond recognition, but still right.
And to Failin' w/ Palin: Clearly you don't watch South Park too often. "The guy drinking beer to excess" was Stan's dad Randy, who drinks too much. All the stuff he was doing was partly exaggerated satire, of course, but it was also completely in character.

I still like South Park, and I still like Family Guy. It's one thing to be pissy, it's another to actually catch the joke. You want pissy and over done, then by all means, write Foamy a fan mail and wait a week. Obama won, yes we do drink beer, I love me some Nazi-Stewie Palin/McCain jokes, and South Park is STILL around, and I STILL like it. Now could you all just calm down before I send dead rabid turtles to your doorsteps? Great.

Hilarious episode!! I didn't expect anything like that. Trey and Matt are GENIUSES.

i love this show so much...its better than any other animated comedy and all the rest of you who disagree can go die. its a great show with great points. i LOVE you kyle...i love you.

South Park is change....

South park I think is the best animated sitcom on TV right now.

I dont like the direction the simposons have gone this year. (Im not sure what bothers me about the simpsons right now. I just no Im disapointed).

Family guy in my books hasent changed much in my mind.

South Park... The one main thing bothering me on sout park is CARTMANS VOICE! Its not as good as it was in the earliest seasons.... His voice cracked me up WAY WAY more in the earliest seasons... No adays Cartman sounds almost exactly like Stan...

Thats south parks only big problem. make his voice sound like it used to in the early days... thatll cure 85% of south parks beefs with me.

People who are bashing South Park clearly are close-minded. South Park only rebels against what is around them...namely Los Angeles. People think that just because they don't give the blinded, liberal, one-sided, everything hard-core Dems do is perfect and awesome, that means they are "close-minded." Please, they stick up for gay rights, they stick up for freedom of speech, they make fun of both sides of the aisle. They are one of, if not THE, only show in Hollywood that actually takes both sides into account. It's not just this Sean Penn or Michael Moore "I'm so smart look how dumb people who disagree with me are." Anybody who actually watches the show consistently knows that they show both sides of an argument and then come to (gasp) rational conclusion! Also, the show didn't die YEARS ago...this season, not so consistent, but the show has been really getting better for a while (until this season).

that show was the worst, i didnt find it funny at all, making a mockery of Obama wasnt kool at all, i just really took offense to it

Jonny hero basically summed it up. The last couple seasons of South Park have been the biggest seasons it ever had. How can you NOT have known South Park was still alive? They've been in the news, on award shows, late night T.V. shows, etc.

"Oh yeah, South Park. Used to be funny. Trey Parker should join McCain in the retirement home -- they can have good times complaining about other people's happiness."

I'm guess you've never even heard of Trey Parker or you're just a Family Guy fanboy.

"Its ideological bias, especially bashing of opposite-minded picked personas, started to become just too visible and it never reached or even attempted to reach such a full-spectrum agreement as Simpsons."

I'm sorry what? South Park has always picked on random people. Not people opposite minded from them. After Barbara Streisand spoke her mind about South Park did they keep attacking her? NO. The Simpsons? Please. If you're gonna talk about a series that should be dead the first thing that comes to your mind should be "The Simpsons". The humor in The Simpsons died of cancer a LOOOOOOONG time ago.

There are very few shows that I care to watch the reruns of. SP is one of them. Some episodes are better than others but the form of satire used in this show, for me, is the best regardless of how well the episode goes over with the viewers. Maybe my opinion stems from being in the same age/generation as the creators. How many shows out there can spoof John Carpenter as well as SP did in "Cripple Fight?" How many viewers actually realized it was a spoof on him when they were watching it the first time? I still have not seen an episode of Family Guy, Simpsons, or Futurama that subtley focuses on something that only a teen from the 80's would immediately recognize. (For those of you who do not know, the movie is They Live).

I dont forsee American satire dying anytime soon so the possibilities for SP are limitless. Whether it continues to be broadcasted or the creators decide to stop, whether you are offended by the content or embrace the premise of its humor, we should all remember that SP is created for entertainment. Its a television show. I don't think there's an underlying political agenda in the way it is written. If there is it cetainly isn't prevelant. These guys just seem to be having fun.

South Park is both smart and hilarious. Trey Parker and Matt Stone seem to have a better grasp on reality and a far better ability to analyze and critique the world than anyone else on TV. Also, they make cartoons and tell fart jokes and make fun of everyone and everything. Awesome.

Dont worry Southparkitiers! south park is still hilarious and trey and matt are doing a great job. People really need to stop posting so many hate blogs. if you dont have anything nice to say dont say anything at all!

again, south park shows it's the most politically and socially savy show on tv....

and anyone who takes offensive needs to take a hard long look at themselves.

Family guy is lame...i like'd it better the first time when it was called THE SIMPSONS.

Preachy political show that just isn't funny? With very few exceptions, that 's basically been South Park for the past 4-5 years.

i am a south african and the latest south park episode reminded me of the hilarious south african elections some 18 years ago when we received our first "presidant of color". the blacks where running through the streets elated and expecting change almost immediatly, plent emotional and all that stuff while the white south africans where preparing for doomsday and an all out white slaughter so to speak. after 18 years very little has changed except "apartheid" has now been reversed where whites can't get jobs. so trey and matt kind of hit it on the head there with the american reaction to obama's victory and he is quite correct about one man not having much power, its the shadows behind the scenes that run things not the figure-head
charl SA sp fan

South Park... The one main thing bothering me on sout park is CARTMANS VOICE! Its not as good as it was in the earliest seasons.... His voice cracked me up WAY WAY more in the earliest seasons... No adays Cartman sounds almost exactly like Stan...

Ohhh nooo!!!! I think Cartmans voice is the best animated voice in TV! That´s what makes South Park so funny ^^

South Park is like a lot of other shows, whether they're animated or not. It has hits and misses. There are SP episodes I thought were hilarious and there were ones I thought were ridiculous or stupid.

I didn't care for the first couple seasons especially. The toilet humor was overbearing. And there are definitely a ones even in later seasons where I wondered where in the world they were thinking stuff up. But no show does it right all the time. Yeah, Family Guy is extremely random. But SP can be pretty random too.

Maybe the novelty of the show has worn off. But it was bound to happen eventually. To me it's been pretty consistent for years, with a mixture of humor and satire and lots of stupidity. If it annoys me at a certain time, I just stop watching.

"It didn't potray eith Obama negatively, which was suprising, seeing how conservative the show is."

south park conservative? whahahahahahahahaha. fail.

i actually thought this election episode was meh. funny, since the day before it aired i was just thinking about how south park keeps delivering constant or even better quality each season.

SOUTHPARK GOT WAAAY FUNNIER SMARTER AND SOMETIMES DARKER AFTER THE 3RD SEASON. IT BECAME A BIT MORE COMPLEX . IT REALLY EVOLVED and that is probably why some people started to stop watching. it is an incredible mixture of intelligent and intentional self deprecating stupidity. sorry if you don't "get it". there is always family guy ,king of the hill , FRIENDS RERUNS, ted nugent and kid rock for you ;)

I like how people complain about Family Guy being random when South Park has recently aired a two part episode about gigantic guienea pigs killing everyone because of the missing pan-flute bands. Seriously people, BOTH shows are random and funny. The creators just talk crap about other shows to get you fanboys rilled up and clearly it works.

"The episode was awesome! But Trey's comment about one guy not having that much power misses the point. Obama does not have that much power -- we do. He will lead us and we'll all fix this mess together."

Maybe you don't understand the concept of a "balance of power". Congress still has a lot of power. AND you won't be fixing shit, and I'm sure he won't either. The people don't have as much power as you think they do, especially not when the entire country is stuck voting for "the lesser of two evils".

South Park is still one of the best in modern day satire.

Trey and Matt, we salute you!

I agree, Season 12 isn't my FAVORITE season, but they still have a couple of shows that I loved. This episode was, as usual, something I never would have expected. Season 11 was AMAZING.
Season 10 was HILARIOUS.
Season 9 was LOL-WORTHY.
Season 8 was THE BEST SEASON.
Season 7 was INCREDIBLE.
Season 6 was AHHAHAHAHAH
Season 5 was ROTFL
The last few seasons were amazing. I actually like them more than the first. Yeah, I didn't really like The China Probrem or Canada on---wait. Nvm, I loved that one. Yep, Season 12 still has a couple more episodes to go. Maybe they'll save the whole seaon altogether. :))


this just goes to show that we'll argue about anything. Never fails.

It would have been funnier if the person who bought the diamonds turned out to be Bill Clinton.

I haven't had cable or dish for several years so it's become a ritual in my house to watch online on friday night. I loved the storyline about the obama/mccain supporters (ike jumping out the window was too funny), but felt that the heist line fell slightly flat. of course, any episode that doesn't feature cartman is second-rate. overall, i give it about an 8.

South Park is by far the funniest show on television. This episode was great. Matt and Trey always do spot on parodies just like this. I still can't get "Ce Le Brate Good Obama Come On! It's Obama Obama" out of my head. People always type lol about things that aren't even funny but I actually did laugh out loud in RL. I don't watch it so I don't know, but I'm sure the Family Guy McCain Nazi thing was totally irrelevant to the story and had nothing to do with plot development.

Actually both last weeks episode and this weeks episode is entirely hilarious... every south park always has a point and pokes fun of usually 2 things current in society. Both south park episodes had 2 main points that i felt where spot on, as i was getting tired of the same shit myself, if you arent intelligent enough to figure out the metaphors and puns dont knock trey parker and matt stone because you cant figure it out. It usually works out like that I notice something is getting old in the media or becoming retarded popular and next thing i know a south park is made about it.

First off, if you want to talk about bias, talk about it in the NEWS, not on an animated show. Here's a great example of bias right in this article:

"That's not because he bought into Obama's promises for change, or because he dislikes John McCain..."

Now onto the episode and series. Personally, this episode had it's hit and miss points. It was great since it showed both sides as extremists. Never choosing a side to make fun of, they made fun of both. The fact that Trey used Obama as the president-elect is perfect for the story. And in all honesty, McCain would have worked as well.

And Andrea, apparently you missed the part when they mentioned Obama and Michelle weren't married. Yes there were so many opportunities to have Obama and McCain hash it out, but incase you missed it, they planned this heist for 10 years.

As for the people compairing SP to Family Guy or The Simpsons...Are you serious? South Park took an original idea and made it into a success. If you don't like it, don't watch it, that simple. Now Family Guy has it's moments. Personally, the earlier seasons were great. A breath of fresh air. Now they seem to have gone the way of The Simpsons. Ran out of ideas. It happens.

All in all, great episode of SP. Don't like SP, don't watch it. Don't like Family Guy or Simpsons? Don't watch it. No need to go to a site out of your way to comment on a show you don't like.

This wasn't the funniest episode, but it was okay. Yes, South Park is still awesome. But so is Family Guy (sorry Trey), and so is Simpsons. They're all awesome.

As for South Park being done long ago, please... stop criticizing and sit back and enjoy the buffoonery. It's freakin' awesome.

OMG, that person did not just say that..."don't make fun of Obama...thats not cool..." PLEASE! I'm willing to bet that the person who wrote that couldn't care less if you make fun of the "old white rebulican". I hope Obama does a great job but NO ONE in that position deserves any more or less respect than anyone else, regardless of skin color. Southpark is a COMEDY...hello! And i expect Obama's every move to be every bit as watched as any other president, unlike the daily show which only made fun of McCain, and did so at every lame opportunity. I didn't realize john stewart was such a ultra left wing liberal Dbag. He and Barbra Streisand are probably BFF. i voted Obama but the way some people treated everything was like "down with the greedy white rebublican guy!" I wont be sensitive to this president because of his skin color, if he screws up i'm still gonna be pissed. Trey, Matt, i hope they make Southpark FOREVER!

Except, the thing is... one man DOES have that much power. Remember the patriot act? The presidential directives? FEMA? Yea. We are closer to martial law than we have been since the cuban missle crisis. The structure is set up, all we need is another catastrophe and legally, we're in state of emergency and martial law. Thank you boosh.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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