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Film

How George Clooney helped to popularise 'South Park'

@Russellisation

Having long prodded and goaded various icons of modern Hollywood, the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have built a career that revolves around irreverent comedy that exposes the sheer lunacy of modern life.  

No strangers to a celebrity confrontation, Parker and Stone parodied the lives of several Hollywood stars in their 2004 film Team America: World Police including the likes of George Clooney, Ethan Hawke, Matt Damon, Samuel L. Jackson and Sean Penn. In fact, Sean Penn despised his depiction in the film so much so that he wrote a letter to the filmmakers explicitly voicing his annoyance. 

Concluding his note with an explicit “f*ck you”, Penn’s letter remarks, “I never mind being of service, in satire and silliness,” before adding, “I do mind when anybody who doesn’t have a child, doesn’t have a child at war, or isn’t or won’t be in harm’s way themselves, is encouraging that there’s ‘no shame in not voting’”.

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Whilst Penn was quite clearly rattled by his appearance in the film, one of his fellow puppet comrades wasn’t too fussed about his comedic depiction, with George Clooney taking the mockery on the chin, after all, he’s a big supporter of the South Park creators. 

Long before the likes of Eric Cartman, Stan Marsh and Towelie became iconic characters in the pop-culture landscape and South Park was a mere glimmer in the eyes of its creators, Parker and Stone worked on a series of short films, with one, in particular, gaining nation-wide attention in 1995. The video, named The Spirit of Christmas caught the attention of several celebrity admirers, none more famous than George Clooney who was at the height of his Hollywood stardom. 

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about his influence, executive producer of South Park, Anne Garefino, explained, “Before we even began working on the series, the fact that George Clooney had made hundreds of VHS copies of The Spirit of Christmas and sent them out to all his friends was already the stuff of Hollywood history”.

Helping the comedy duo to be discovered by Comedy Central, with South Park becoming a key fixture of their network, Parker and Stone repaid their gratitude to Clooney by having him voice a totally unexpected character in the TV show; Stan’s gay dog, Sparky.

Voicing the dog remotely, the show’s creators never actually got the chance to meet the actor in person for the series, though were able to pay their respects years later upon the release of the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.

So, whilst many saw it as an insult to be mocked in the 2004 satirical comedy Team America: World Police, Clooney saw it as a compliment, telling the magazine Hotdog, “I must say I would’ve been offended if I wasn’t in it”. 

Confirming his involvement in the series and his continued collaboration with the creatives, he added, “Those guys, they’re friends of mine. I helped them get their show on the air and was Sparky the gay dog and was in their South Park movie. Part of the fun about being up here is that we get to be objects of that”. 

For Eric Cartman, Kyle Broflovski, Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo and the hours of laughter, we thank you, George Clooney.

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