South Park has been a television fixture dating back to when a Clinton was President, not running for it. The raunchy comedy, however, was far from a sure thing when it debuted back in August 1997.
Senior writer Clark Collis took to Entertainment Weekly: The Show to reflect on the series, currently in its 20th season. Early signs weren’t great, earning a C grade while Rugrats took home an A in the same issue.
“When South Park started, I think it’s fair to say it concentrated very much on crude humor,” Collis reflects, “but pretty soon, they got into some topical stuff as well. Somewhat ironically, there’s lots of stuff about Mel Gibson, who was on the cover of Entertainment Weekly when it started, and became a character on South Park.”
Collis also remembers interviewing co-creator Trey Parker before the show aired. Parker told Collis about wanting to make a show with swearing 5-year-olds. “I can remember clear as day putting down the phone and thinking, ‘No one’s ever going to hear from that maniac again,'” Collis says. Parker has since won five Emmys and a Peabody for South Park, as well as four Tonys (it won nine total) and a Grammy for the comedy musical The Book of Mormon.
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Hear Collis’s thoughts above. South Park airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.