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Arts & Entertainment

'South Park' creators head back to school

| Monday, Oct. 3, 2011

It should be gravy time for "South Park" co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Last spring, the longtime comic cohorts saw their first Broadway musical, "The Book of Mormon," which they conceived and wrote with Robert Lopez, become a massive critical and commercial hit. It earned nine Tony Awards and remains the hottest ticket in town.

At 10 p.m. Wednesday, Parker and Stone launch a new season of the irreverent animated sitcom that put them on the map in 1997. In its 15th anniversary year, "South Park" is Comedy Central's longest-running hit; now its masterminds return as conquering heroes of yet another form, ready to coast on their proven prowess.

Well, not really.

"The beginning of every season, it feels like, 'Oh, (expletive),"' Parker, 41, says. "Every week, it's, 'Can we pull this show off?' It's always stressful and always a grind. The most fun part is Thursday." That's the start of production week -- "when you just try to make each other laugh."

Stone, 40, nods. "Monday's the least fun. And Tuesday's super-not-fun. But then you see the end coming."

Fans can witness the duo's angst on "Six Days to Air: The Making of South Park," a behind-the-scenes documentary premiering at 10 p.m. Sunday. But they'll also see happy mischief unfold as Parker and Stone craft the continuing adventures of (and provide voices for) misguided youths Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman.

"We think of it in terms of being in a band, even though that's much cooler than what we do," Parker says. "Every season is an album, and every show's a song. This album will be different from the last one, but it's the same band."

And as with bands, longevity is a concern -- though not a preoccupying one.

"We've always written South Park for ourselves," Parker says. "When we were 27, we wrote for 27-year-olds. Now, we're 40, and we're writing for 40-year-olds. We're not trying to pander."

Stone notes that the show has older fans, as well. "Problem is, that demo doesn't get us advertising. The 18-to-24-year-old male -- that's still key for us." Luckily, there are still "South Park enthusiasts" in that demographic and even younger.

"You meet 15-year-olds who love the show," Stone says. "One friend has a kid who's 10 or 12 and has just discovered 'South Park.' Now he's mainlining it, watching 200 episodes online."

To hear Parker and Stone tell it, network execs aren't concerned that "South Park's" raw language and impish take on hot-button issues will put off parents, or anyone else.

"We're so spoiled," Stone says. "Comedy Central gives us a few legal notes, but we basically do whatever we want. We'd probably benefit from a few pointers here and there."

He and Parker regard their Mormon success with the same mix of gratitude and wry humility. "We hooked up with some really awesome people for that show," Stone says. "It was much less painful than I thought it would be."

A national tour is set to begin in Denver next August. Asked if they're planning another stage musical, Parker says, "Bobby (Lopez) and Matt and I will probably all need to be in a room together again at some point, for the tour. So I think that we're all, in the back of our minds, hoping we can start kicking something else around."

Stone confirms that they'd "absolutely want to work with" Lopez again. "If Bobby wasn't so rich and famous, we'd put him to work on South Park. Honestly."

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