Thursday, April 22, 2010

"South Park"'s Matt Stone

"South Park"'s Matt Stone

Trey Parker and Matt Stone laid the foundations for an animated empire with "The Spirit of Christmas", an incredibly crude animated short they made with pieces of cut-out construction paper in 1995. Out of that came the Comedy Central show "South Park", which debuted in 1997 and which is now the longest-running and highest-rated show in the history of Comedy Central. Even more remarkable than the show's ratings success has been its durability; in 14 seasons, it's never fallen off.

A huge part of the show's success has always been the music. Parker and Stone have written insane numbers of songs for "South Park", and their songs almost always achieve three very difficult things: They're consistently crudely and absurdly funny, they're almost always catchy enough to get stuck in your head, and they always move the plots of their episodes forward. Pitchfork recently spoke with Stone about his favorite musical moments in the show's history, as well as what it was like to work with Radiohead, Isaac Hayes, and Primus.

Pitchfork: Do you know how many songs you've written for the show over the years?

Matt Stone: We've had musical stuff in the show forever. That's mostly because Trey's a big musical fan, and he's a great songwriter. He's been writing songs his whole life. So since the beginning, we've always put a lot of musical moments. The movie ["South Park": Bigger, Longer & Uncut] is a good example of taking it and making a whole musical.

Pitchfork: What are some of your favorite songs from the course of the show?

MS: [Laughs] Man, that is hard. There are so many. One of my favorites we did recently was from last season. I don't know if you saw the pee in the water park episode, but "Not My Water Park" is so fucking great. It has the perfect tone; it's kind of sarcastic but kind of not. I think Trey writes that really well. The best musical moments are when, like "Not My Water Park", it really isn't just a joke of a song; it really pushes the story forward. That's a deeply emotionally significant moment for Cartman, the death of his water park and all these minorities coming in. So I like that one. Man, I should've looked beforehand. I know there's so many.

One I really like is at the end of Team America. [At] the very end, if you watch the entire credits, we did a song called "You Are Worthless, Alec Baldwin". It's sung by Kim Jong-Il, and it was this last-minute addition to the movie. A lot of people don't know about it because you have to stick to the end, but it's this crazy song that fills you in on the entire backstory of Kim Jong-Il's relationship with Alec Baldwin. I think it's pretty funny, and we recorded it at 4 a.m. We might have been... we weren't high on any illicit drugs, but it was like we were high on DayQuil and coffee and everything else we were taking to stay up.

But let's get back to "South Park". Probably the best one from the early years, one good enough to be in a real musical, was "The Lonely Jew on Christmas". Trey can write songs you can't dismiss out of hand, [and this] wasn't a spoof. It was a real song about a real little kid, and it just had a great concept. That was one of those early songs that pointed out to us that, "Oh, wow, there can actually be quality songs on this kind of show." It's a really touching song, and I kind of know how it was because I was a Jewish boy growing up in Colorado [laughs].

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