South Park, the grown-up cartoon entering its 20th year this season, is going to lay off the Donald Trump jokes. The show’s creator said he made the decision to avoid ending up like CNN, a news network that has sacrificed content for ratings garnered from round-the-clock focus on all manner of Trump controversy.
South Park creator Trey Parker revealed the show’s directional change in a recent Los Angeles Times interview promoting his new movie Despicable Me 3.
After going full-on political in its last season, Parker says that South Park needs new direction to avoid becoming a dumping ground for Trump jokes.The show, he insisted, was never meant to be so political.
From the interview:
We did start to become that, though, especially the last season. We fell into the same trap that “Saturday Night Live” fell into, where it was like, “Dude, we’re just becoming CNN now. We’re becoming: ‘Tune in to see what we’re going to say about Trump.’ ” Matt and I hated it but we got stuck in it somehow.
This season I want to get back to Cartman dressing up like a robot and [screwing] with Butters, because to me that’s the bread and butter of “South Park”: kids being kids and being ridiculous and outrageous but not “did you see what Trump did last night?” Because I don’t give a … anymore.
We probably could put up billboards — “Look what we’re going to do to Trump next week!” — and get crazy ratings. But I just don’t care.
Parker also pointed out something that anti-Trump media personalities and comedians don’t seem to grasp: a lot of the time, the president’s antics are calculated.
He told LA Times:
He’s not intentionally funny but he is intentionally using comedic art to propel himself. The things that we do — being outrageous and taking things to the extreme to get a reaction out of people — he’s using those tools. At his rallies he gets people laughing and whooping.
I don’t think he’s good at it. But it obviously sells — it made him president.
The South Park creator isn’t the first name in American comedy to decide to veer away from the political in an age where every anti-Trump personality with a Twitter account seems to be a presidential joke machine.
Last month, Saturday Night Live alumni and standup comedian Norm Macdonald explained to Vulture why he believes anti-Trump comedy really isn’t all that funny at all.
On “comedienne” Kathy Griffin’s severed head photo debacle, Macdonald opined:
What she did was grotesque. Disgusting. It shows how isolated everyone is. I was golfing last week and I told the guy I was golfing with, “It’s getting pretty crazy. I heard someone say they’re trying to ‘humanize’ Trump. Well, he is human.” And this guy goes, “Well, barely.” Jesus Christ. But Kathy Griffin went about as far as you can go. It’s like she had no sense of the history of that kind of image.
The photographer, her manager, her agent, the person who made the severed head — no one said, eeeh. And I hate the immediate apology. Why are you apologizing? You apologize and then everyone just accepts that the apology is genuine.
On presidential jokes in general:
Personally, with comedy, I think if it doesn’t make you laugh 100 years from now, what good is it? Have you listened to a Mort Sahl album lately? The Eisenhower stuff is a little weak.
On lopsided Trump coverage:
I can’t take Morning Joe anymore. I can’t take wall-to-wall Trump. I see his picture all the time almost like how’d you’d see Mao’s picture all the time in China. Not in a fascist way, which is how it seems like Trump’s being portrayed. I don’t think that’s the kind of person he is.
You know, people say stuff like, “You gotta wake up. Trump and his boys are trying to take over. There’s a coup going on.” That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t know much, but I know coups are not undertaken by the president of the United States. If anything, it looks like a coup going on the other way. They’re talking about impeaching a guy before any investigation has even begun.
Macdonald recently released a comedy special, “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery,” on Netflix. It’s as funny as it is refreshingly devoid of political cheap shots.