On "South Park," nothing is sacred
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Animators Matt Stone and Trey Parker broke ground in "South Park" in 1992, when a baby Jesus decapitated an evil snowman during their five-minute student film. Since that amateur allegory, the cartoon has lampooned dozens of other Christian symbols, a handful of Jewish traditions, and the baser instincts of certain Roman Catholic priests.
Isaac Hayes never appeared to have a problem with spoofing religious beliefs during the nine seasons he spent cooking up controversy as Chef, the elementary-school cook famous for his chocolate salty balls.
That's what made his resignation from the hit show Monday so surprising.
"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," Hayes said in a statement.
Hayes turned down an interview with The Associated Press to explain the specifics of his departure. But Hayes is a Scientologist, and the show took on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard last November in an episode called "Trapped in the Closet." It quickly became one of the most popular episodes in the cartoon's nine-year run, thanks to pokes at the religion's alien theories and Scientologist Tom Cruise's refusal to come out of Stan's closet.
Stone and Parker were unavailable for comment this week. But in an interview in the February issue of GQ, the pair said they held off roasting Scientology out of respect to Hayes, but couldn't look the other way any longer.
"To be honest, what kept us from doing it before was Isaac Hayes," Parker said. "We knew he was a Scientologist. And he's an awesome guy. We're like, 'Let's just avoid that for now.' ... Finally, we just had to tell Isaac, 'Dude, we totally love working with you, and this is nothing personal, it's just we're 'South Park,' and if we don't do this, we're belittling everything else we've ripped on.' "
Chef's diminished role on the show over the past few seasons has Comedy Central less than concerned about Hayes' decision. The 10th season begins Wednesday.
"Matt told me yesterday when all this was going down that Chef has not been a huge part of the show as of late anyway," executive vice president Tony Fox said Tuesday. "I think [Parker and Stone] felt that to withhold a discussion or episode that dealt with Scientology was sort of not being honest with themselves, so I don't think it was an issue for the network."
Here are a few of the show's most outrageous episodes:
"Jewbilee" (July 28, 1999)
Kyle attends the Jewish equivalent of Boy Scouts: Jewbilee, where Moses appears in a campfire and orders the boys to make macaroni designs on paper plates. An elder from the Synagogue of Anti-Semites tries to capture Moses' spirit in a conch shell in the name of Haman (the main villain on Purim), but Kenny (who is not Jewish) saves the day.
Quote: "And let us glue paper plates together with beans inside so when you shake them they make rattling noises." — Moses
"Red Hot Catholic Love" (July 3, 2002)
A priest from South Park, Maxi, travels to the Vatican to fight child molestation in the church and finds out that it's quite popular with those in charge. He fights through an imitation of the video game "Pitfall" to find the "Holy Vatican Law," in the hopes of adding a stipulation that priests cannot have sex with young boys, but his quest is vanquished when the leader of the Catholic church, a giant queen spider, declares the doctrine cannot be changed.
Quote: "The Vatican rules cannot be changed, so sayeth the spider." — The Great Queen Spider
"Woodland Critter Christmas" (Dec. 15, 2004)
In one of the most gruesome Christmas specials ever, Stan helps a forest of critters build a manger for the nativity. Stan later finds out that these animals serve Satan when they hold a blood orgy to celebrate the birth of the Antichrist.
Quote: "We finally did it Santa! We brought forth the Antichrist with help from our good friend, Stanny." — A raccoon
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