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"South Park" on Comedy Central

By Devin D. O'Leary

NOVEMBER 10, 1997:  Who'd have thought that television's first cartoon to be dubbed TV-MA (a rating reserved for "mature audiences" only) would be Comedy Central's highest-rated original series to date? Well, the guys at Comedy Central, probably. With a scant six episodes (and the wickedly funny Halloween special which ran last week) to its name, "South Park" has already stirred up a cover story in TV Guide, a slew of merchandising and a cult of die-hard fans.

Every Wednesday night, rabid fans tune in to witness the adventures of four precocious fourth graders--Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman--in bucolic South Park, Colo. But this ain't no "Peanuts." The quartet's profanity-laced adventures so far have included alien abduction (complete with anal probing), assisted suicide, homosexual house pets and an entire episode built around "explosive diarrhea." Rude? You betcha. Funny? Absolutely. Hey, any show that involves a nine-year-old kid (mumble-mouthed, heavily parka-ed Kenny) getting killed in some gruesome way every week is tops on my list.

"South Park" got its start when two University of Colorado students, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, produced the short film The Spirit of Christmas. The simple construction paper cut-out animation involved Jesus and Santa Claus in a knock-down drag-out fight over who owned Christmas. The film became a major underground hit in Hollywood and eventually landed Stone and Parker a development deal at Comedy Central. The Spirit of Christmas can now be seen as part of Spike and Mike's Sick And Twisted Festival of Animation (currently touring the country, but coming nowhere near Albuquerque, of course).

Just last week a "South Park" float was unveiled at the 24th Annual Village Halloween Party in New York's Greenwich Village. The annual gay pride parade featured "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Float"--a tribute to the highly popular "South Park" episode in which Stan learns compassion for his gay dog Sparky (voiced by George Clooney) thanks to Big Gay Al and his "Big Gay Animal Sanctuary." While the float trolled through Greenwich Village, actors dressed as "South Park" characters repeated popular gags from the show: Kyle kicked his baby brother into the crowd, Stan puked on his girlfriend, Cartman broke wind and--in keeping with the Halloween theme--Kenny was killed repeatedly by the Grim Reaper.

Creators Stone and Parker are riding their wave of popularity for all it's worth. They recently premiered their first live-action film, Orgazmo,at the Toronto Film Festival. Orgazmo tells the story of a young Mormon's involvement in the porno industry and should prove as controversial as their TV series when it opens in America later this year.

"South Park" shows every Wednesday on Comedy Central at 11 p.m.

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