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Lost in Cyberspace
Cyber 'South Park'
© 1998 by H.B. Koplowitz

Both the best and worst that can be said of "South Park," the wildly irreverent hit animated series on Comedy Central, is that there have been too few episodes. Not so in cyberspace, where the show about four foul-mouthed third graders in a minimalist Colorado town beset by flaming flatulence, gay dogs, anal probes and Barbra Streisand has what "Yahoo! Internet Life" magazine calls "the highest Web site-to-episode ratio in television history."

In addition to the official Comedy Central site, <www.comcentral.com/southpark>, with its "South Park"-themed Java games, trivia and of course merchandise, there are hundreds of unofficial fan pages with "South Park" images, sounds, storyboards, plot synopses, character analyses, news and novelties. There are so many "South Park" websites, in fact, that there is even a "South Park" search engine, www.youkilledkenny.com, where you can search for "South Park" content by word, website, or phrase.

Comedy Central Vice President Larry Lieberman told "Yahoo!" that the channel's website gets 1 million hits a day, about 40 percent for "South Park." He attributed the show's popularity in cyberspace to its demographics -- the same Internet-literate Gen Xers who made "Beavis and Butt-Head" and "The Simpsons" such hits -- along with its crude but Web-friendly animation style.

Last Halloween, when a special episode of "South Park" set the highest ratings ever for the channel, Comedy Central also posted a Web-exclusive 90-second short, "A Mother's Courage," in which the accident prone Kenny dismembers himself while trying to carve a pumpkin to look like Lou Diamond Phillips. 

Comedy Central also worked with "The Palace" <www.palacespace.com>, to develop an avatar chat version of "South Park," where participants play the roles of Stan the ring leader, Kyle the Jew, Cartman the chunky bigot and Kenny the doomed. The chat room uses plot elements from the series, so based on the episode "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe," his avatar can obliterate nearby avatars with flaming farts.
 
Not bad for a couple of struggling young animators fresh from Colorado State University, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who in 1995 were given $2,000 by a Fox Lab executive to create a personalized video Christmas card. The resulting short, "The Spirit of Christmas," was an instant hit with its potty language and depiction of Jesus Christ and Santa Claus duking it out over the true meaning of Christmas.

Hollywood friends sent it to more Hollywood friends, the video found its way onto the Internet, and with the blowback came job offers. Stone and Parker eventually decided to turn their short into an animated series for Comedy Central, which with eight often repeated episodes won a Cable Ace award and became the most successful series debut in the network's history. Another planned 24 episodes began airing this season.

At some websites, such as "Mark's South Park Site" <members.tripod.com/~Mark1010>, you can download and view the entire five-minute "Spirit of Christmas" video that inspired the show and brought riches and fame to its creators. This site also polled visitors on who they thought was Cartman's father, tied in with the April 22 debut of a new episode, a revelatory prequel.

The Halloween Short, "A Mother's Courage," can be viewed at "A South Park Information Center" <www.beef-cake.com>, which also claims to have an email from Parker clarifying what the character Kenny said in a promo. The email, which begins, "Hey, dude," says that what Kenny actually said was "That sounds f*cking gay," and that "I want fans to know this, because Matt and I were so pissed off at having to do the stupid promo."

Another website, "Cartman's Chronicles" <www.telusplanet.net/public/bushx>, is currently conducting a survey on whether the children's teacher, Mr. Garrison, is gay, and has annotated links to sites with such names as "The South Park Ate My Balls Page," "The Cheesy Poof Factory," "Aliens Stuck Things Up Your Butt!," "Chef's Kitchen," "Mr Hat's Hell Hole," "Planet South Park," and "Spazboy's South Park World."

With so many sites to choose from, it's tough to pick best of show. But my favorite has to be "East Side vs. South Park Side" <www.circle-r.com/sp>, which answers "The Question on Everyone's Mind: Puff Daddy or South Park?"

Website author Rodney Blackwell, who claims to be a fan of hip hop music as well as "South Park," provides 11 reasons why "South Park" is better than Puff Daddy, a.k.a. Sean "Puffy" Combs, CEO of the rap record label Bad Boy Entertainment. Among them are: The kids from South Park have never used a fish-eye camera for emphasis; South Park doesn't repeat the name of its company over and over through each episode; compared to most of the artists on Puff Daddy's label, the kids from South Park talk like priests; and finally, "South Park" is funny.

© 1998 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.


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