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Mixing Business and Humor: 5 Lessons From South Park Creators

The Comedy Central show South Park is known for its irreverence, raw humor and timeliness. Within a week of any national event, crisis or media scandal, South Park’s creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker can put together an episode and have it in front of their ardent fans. Though their humor may be adolescent at times, their business model is not. There is much to be learned from Stone and Parker when it comes to running a business with a cornerstone of efficiency.

No Talk

One of the common misconceptions with the production of South Park is that there is a lot of discussion leading up to the development of a full script. In an interview with A.V Club magazine, Parker and Stone claim there is only a matter of minutes before they begin to knock out a script. Here, the combination of talent and speed come together to make for an efficient work environment. Getting the job done does not take a lot of dialogue—if one person has an idea and the ability to follow through, then let them.

Be Prepared

The 2008 and 2012 presidential elections gave the duo opportunities to impress with episodes of the show only days after the results. The 2012 show “Obama Wins” had its name a week before Obama won. This gave speculation to the predictive power of the writers and even some good conspiracy theories. In reality, Parker and Stone flexed some logic and created modules that could be pieced together depending on the outcome. They chose a central theme of voter fraud, a reoccurring conspiracy since the Bush/Gore election, and developed a story that would resonate with fans, no matter the outcome. In other words, they were prepared for any contingency.

Create Shortcuts

Post-dubbed voices can be a problem, especially for cartoons, because it is more believable when the mouth moves with the voice. When this doesn't happen, the cartoon looks like poorly-dubbed anime. However, with South Park, they created a whole character around their inability to make the mouth move with the sound. Kenny, the oft killed character, has no discernable facial characteristics. They took the quick fix, used it to their advantage and developed Kenny into a fan favorite. The entire drawing style of South Park is unrefined, at best, but instead of apologizing for their sloppiness, the creative team has developed it into an art form.

Keep Your Humor

No matter what they do, Stone and Parker always seem to keep humor in their business model. According to Stone, they are entertainers, and they are trying to entertain. The Book of Mormon has been lauded as brilliantly funny and bashed as offensive and anti-religion. Yet, Broadway tickets for The Book of Mormon are still highly sought after. The team seems to keep their collective eyes on the central price and pump out the kind of humor that has become their brand.

Bro Down

Maybe their South Park character Eric Cartman has the answer to their business model. In a 2014 episode, Cartman lays out a business plan that states: start up, cash in, sell out and bro down. These are pretty self-explanatory, but the last point means you should fight when you need to and compromise when you can. Sometimes you bro down and other times you bro out.

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