Welcome folks, 'tis I... the obese big boned one reporting from my massage table at the Moriarty Labs Spa & Resorts. One of the wonderful things about the Moriarty Labs Spa & Resort is that they have these little outings that we can go on. Tonight, it was a journey to the Director's Guild building to watch Matt Stone, Trey Parker and a ton of other people involved in SOUTH PARK to talk about the show, their film, the future and the MPAA.
So we sat 4th row center and watched the insanity unfold. First was the screening part of the show where we watched the Mr Hanky episode and the Pokemon destruction show.
After watching Matt and Trey for the better part of an hour, I can say that they have got to be at least as insane as Robogeek. Do you realize that sometimes a week before a new episode of SOUTH PARK is aired... there might not even be a script yet?
If fact... it's so disorganized that sometimes... even on the day of airing, there are last minute changes occurring. THIS IS BEAUTIFUL! It's so anti-big business, complete shoot from the hip anarchy...and I think that is why the show is so much fun. Except when I talk to Quint, and then in that case the show sucks and I'll never watch it.
If you are waiting on... THE NEXT SOUTH PARK movie, you may not want to hold your breath. You see... The film was truly a violent experience for these guys, and they have the feeling that there is no way in hell that they'd get the word... 'beautician' past the MPAA without garnering an NC-17. Matt and Trey are both completely content (sounding) about just continuing to produce the television show till it gets so weird and bizarre that it just ceases to exist.
There were no big revelations about the show tonight, though the replacement of Mary Kay Bergman has been extremely painful and hard. It's looking like they are going to need 4 or 5 voice artists to adequately replace the work of this gifted talent. As for the changes for the OSCARS to 'BLAME CANADA' right now the word that is really gumming up the works is.... 'FART'. Apparently the Academy or the Network or whoever doesn't believe the word 'FART' should be sung in a song for a mass audience. Weird... And then the best part of the whole evening was listening to Matt and Trey slam the shit out of the MPAA.
They've experienced both the independent side (ORGAZMO) and the studio side (SOUTH PARK THE MOVIE) and from that experience they believe the MPAA to be a completely self-serving tool of the industry. When attempting to work with the MPAA on ORGAZMO, they asked what they could do to earn an R and the MPAA told them that they couldn't say... because that would be sponsoring censorship. Instead they need to just submit a new cut. Well... on an indie film, that time in the editing facilities is expensive... and if you are not told exactly what is the offending material... all that time and money could be wasted. MEANWHILE, on SOUTH PARK THE MOVIE, Matt and Trey were privvy to the memos about what needed to be done to the film so it could earn an R. These memos were procured by executives at Paramount apparently.
They also talked about how some 'friends' at New Line told them that before they were owned by WARNER BROTHERS, they could get zero to no cooperation from the MPAA... But right after being consumed by Warners... one of the studios that pay the bills at the MPAA... phone calls and communication opened up for those working at New Line and ever since... it's been spiffy. Sigh. Here's Moriarty with more...
First, I'd just like to thank Hercules The Strong for inviting Harry and I to the SOUTH PARK event. Second, I'd like to suggest that anyone in LA who hasn't attended an evening of the William Paley Festival try to catch any of the remaining shows this year, or keep your eye out for the next time they do this. There's something great about seeing a show on the big screen. It really does play completely different when you have a whole crowd of people. Third, I'd like to commend whatever sick monkey decided to kick off tonight's program by showing the very first TV appearance of the PEANUTS characters, a Ford Wagon spot that was oddly sweet and very sad. Nice contrast with the animation to follow.
I've never met Trey or Matt, but I can say that spending the evening with them as they talk about their show, they're the exact kind of guys who keep this business fun. There's a real sense of anarchy when they're together, and I'd love to see their band DVDA perform sometime. Sounds like they'll be playing shows after they finish the next batch of original episodes for Comedy Central, which should start airing sometime in April. There's a savage wit to both of them, although Trey comes across as a little less dark. After all, this is the guy who always wanted to write musicals his whole life. How dark can he be? Matt's the one who genuinely seems like he'd be in jail if this show hadn't come along. His comments tonight were angry, even if they were hysterically funny. I loved the story he told about the making of the music video to promote the SOUTH PARK movie. Paramount had a million things they wanted to do, starting with the hiring of Kid Rock. They wanted to use some song Kid Rock had recorded about a year before, something entirely unrelated to SOUTH PARK, and just slap it on the soundtrack so they could get some MTV airplay. Trey and Matt dug their heels in, refusing to have anything to do with it. They wanted to do a video for "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" instead, and Paramount balked. Trey and Matt couldn't see the point in releasing a song that's not even in the movie when they were, in fact, making a traditional musical, complete WITH FREAKING SONGS! Paramount tried to bully them by saying that they were spending $300,000 on the video, so Trey and Matt told Paramount they'd pay for the video themselves, which is exactly what they ended up doing.
A similar situation arose as they were working on the trailers for the film. As we all learned when Lauren Shuler-Donner wrote in about the X-MEN trailer and the nonsense with the optic blasts, any trailer approved by the MPAA has to be the equivalent of a "G." As a result, there was pretty much no way a trailer could be cut with actual footage from the SOUTH PARK film. Instead, Paramount prepared a number of potential trailers, all of which sold it as "this summer's wackiest kook fest, with all your favorite zany characters in brand new wackalicious adventures!," as Matt put it. They were repulsed by the trailers, and cut their own using CARMINA BURANA that tried to play it as an epic, a complete goof on those types of trailers. Paramount refused to use it, and the back and forth began. It got down to the point where they had about 48 hours to cut the trailer so that it could go out attached to some big Paramount film. They needed a particular tape from Trey and Matt in order to do the cutting. Matt figured there was an easy way to settle things: he threw the tape in his truck and drove home with it. 48 hours passed, and Matt's lawyer called to tell him that the lawsuits were about to begin.
The thing that gives these guys the most strength when dealing with things like this is that they know they are incredibly lucky, and that all of this is bizarre. They don't invest it with any more importance than it deserves, and they're not sharks about it. They are willing to get sued if it means they're doing things the right way. They are willing to be punished rather than sell out this thing they've created. Freedom in this town truly does come from having the balls to say, "No," no matter how good the money is. Too many decisions about films and television shows are made based on fear. Seeing them being made from a position of confidence is refreshing.
I loved listening to them detail the changes made in the movie because of the MPAA. In every case, it sounds like the MPAA's intervention made the film much filthier. Originally, there was a short sequence in the film in which the kids find a film on the internet of Cartman's mom blowing a horse. The MPAA freaked out, despite the arguments that such films really are bouncing around where anyone can find them. Instead, Trey and Matt substituted the much longer, much dirtier version of the scene in which they find the German shit videos with Cartman's mom. The title of the film, of course, is the best example of this happening. HELL BREAKS LOOSE or BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT... which one of those is truly nasty? I agree with them wholeheartedly that the biggest sins the MPAA commits are directed towards the indie film world. ORGAZMO was released with an NC-17. It played a few blocks from the Labs at the Sunset 5 theaters, so that's not really a big deal to me. Of course, I live in Hollywood, so that makes sense. When I used to house the Labs in a Florida facility, there were no theaters in town equipped to handle NC-17s or unrated films. They simply didn't play in that area. That rating is economic death, and when you don't know how to cut your film because the MPAA won't tell you, there's simply no resources available. You can't just book all the AVID time you want and just cut and cut and cut until you hit the magic combination. With a studio, you could do that, but you don't have to. All an executive has to do is call up, ask for the cuts that need to be made, and then address them with the filmmaker. Now, sure, the MPAA is going to say that's not true, but tell me this: why do filmmakers always have their stories afterwards about "we had to cut a few frames here" when they get their R? Those crucial frames are no accident. You seriously want us to believe that they just happened to guess what seven frames of film you wanted excised? You TELL THEM, and THEY CUT IT. It's a simple logical equation. That sort of discrepancy is exactly the kind of abuse that Jack Valenti swears never occurs, and it's obvious to anyone who's worked in the system on both sides. The reason they can't make a SOUTH PARK sequel is because they've made the mistake of telling the truth about their experiences. If the bridge is already burned then why not go all out and write the definitive book? Imagine if they publishes all the memos that they exchanged with Paramount and the MPAA as the SOUTH PARK film made its way from script to screen. It would be glorious. They only hinted tonight at how insane the process had to have been.
I also loved listening to them talk about finally getting a chance to meet the Monty Python team at the Aspen Comedy Arts Festival a few years ago, a lifelong dream for them. They both still cite Python as the single most formative influence on their comedy, and they said they were approached by a "strange little sweaty weirdo" who wanted to introduce them to Python. It wasn't until later that they realized the sweaty little guy was the rather brilliant Eddie Izzard.
And I really loved listening to them talk about the Academy's specific objection to one of the lyrics in "Blame Canada." You can understand of course: "Fuck that bitch Anne Murray" isn't exactly broadcast safe. They were even a little afraid it might be actionable. Trey and Matt asked the network if it would be okay if Anne Murray said it was okay, joking more than anything, but they decided to call and find out. To her enormous credit, Anne Murray said she had no problem with the lyric in context. Trey laughed really hard telling the story tonight. "She's a hip lady. I went out and bought a bunch of fucking Anne Murray records." It was almost as much fun as listening to Matt's story about being this guy straight out of Colorado who knows next to nothing about music who suddenly finds himself in a recording studio in New York telling Isaac Hayes that he's singing "I'm Gonna Make Love To You, Woman" wrong. These guys deflate the idea of celebrity with pretty much everything they do, every story they tell, and it makes them seem so much more likeable as a result.
I think they've really hit a stride with the work they're doing on the show these days. They understand the nature of the show and its appeal. They know that one of the secrets to SOUTH PARK is that it's not just wall to wall filth and outrageousness. There's a sweetness to the show that can't be denied. Part of that is the influence of the show's producers or the standards & practices department at Comedy Central or the network execs, but part of that is also understanding that there is a line. There are things that aren't funny. There is a way to tell each joke right and a way to tell it wrong. Matt and Trey said there was a time when they believed that there was no line, that they could joke about anything, a philosophy that I heard Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks both espouse at times. These days, though, Matt and Trey say they have found the line, and it is baby fucking. They performed a song with DVDA called "Robert Redford Fucks Babies" at Lapdance, another Park City event held this January, a song that was meant to sum up how crass they feel the Sundance fest has become. To them, there's no worse insult. I just love the fact that I sat in an audience at the DGA and listened to a moderator try to hold a serious discussion about baby fucking with these guys. It's a big sick world, and these guys manage to make that funny. I look forward to their continued work. Until then...