Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kyle's Mom's a #$%*&: Writing South Park

New episodes of South Park FINALLY start back up tonight, and at least this Leaguer is excited. How many non-talk shows manage to stay as topical as this one? I'm always amazed at how it even remains half as edgy as it does after 12 seasons. (12 seasons?! Do you feel as old as I do?) In honor of the occasion, here's a great old AV Club interview with Trey Parker and Matt Stone with a few interesting bits about the writing process for the long-running animated series:

AVC: What would you say are the hardest episodes to write?

MS: Sometimes they're the ones where we start with a point and then we try to shoehorn a story around a point, and it doesn't come out of the story organically. Those just kill us. Or when we try to put two ideas into one episode. You'd be surprised—"Oh, it's about this." "Oh, wait, what's it really about?" "It's about that and that." "Okay, it needs to be about one thing." We've learned that the hard way over the years. I don't know about the easiest, but the best episodes come from "This is a great story with actual emotion in it." And then all of the sudden, when you have a real good story with a real emotional center to it, it actually makes its point. And the point may be what you started out wanting to make, or different, but it will make sense, and it'll be cool. Whereas the ones where we go, "Oh, we want to do a show that rips on this." "How do we do that?" "Okay, how about Kyle gets a letter—" And you just start talking—they always suck that way. They're so hard. We don't make that mistake as much any more, but we do every once in a while.

AVC: What's the time ratio between sitting around and talking it out vs. somebody actually sitting down and banging out the words on paper?

MS: Oh, minutes! Trey really writes most of the dialogue on the first pass, just because we need it so fast. We'll be in the writer's meeting and be like "Oh great, we want to put this in it, we want to do this and this—but what is the scene?" We kind of come up with what the scene will be, "Here's the main joke," and literally Trey runs off and writes it and I go deal with other shit. Sometimes he comes back in and says "Well, that didn't work." But it's minutes. We start an episode on Thursday, and it's on the air in six days, so the writing is done concurrently with the animation.

You can read the whole interview here.

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