Opinion: ‘South Park’ creator on his tricky Obama-beats-McCain election episode
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‘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.
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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