South Park often has some iconic moments within the show. Some of which are the recurring gags presented within a series of episodes.
Comedy Central’s South Park is regarded for its wacky, often obscene sense of humor – along with its deceptively clever cultural and social satire. Like many great comedies, the show often draws from an arsenal of running gags that serve as fun, amusing callbacks as well as defining traits.
On one level, showrunners Trey Parker and Matt Stone do have a knack for keeping the viewer guessing with its unique premises, along with plenty of unpredictable goofiness and absurdities.
In what can be considered both a subtle gag and fun easter egg, Parker and Stone often insert the strange “mooing” aliens into the backgrounds of certain scenes. Ever since their debut in the memorable pilot, these silent Visitors have become a classic South Park staple.
Their brief cameos add a fun little Where’s Waldo-esque game to the experience, and make no mistake – there are several episodes to spot them in. They’ve appeared dozens of times throughout the show’s long history, in fact. And though they haven’t been sighted nearly as much in recent years, it just makes it all the more amusing when one does show up.
As it happens, a Visitor appears as recently as “The Pandemic Special,” where one can be seen running for a bit as the riots in South Park take place.
Satan And Hell
The lord of the underworld has seen a number of varying depictions in TV, film, and pop culture. Though Satan’s portrayal in SP is especially amusing and pretty much has been since his hilarious debut in the film, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.
On the one hand, he often acts in the nefarious way you might expect the devil to be. But on the other, he often acts like a more typical – and even vulnerable – being who’s in over his head. The random, “just your average guy” demeanor juxtaposed with his demonic appearance and deep voice brings a humorous dynamic. This is particularly the case during his dysfunctional relationship with Saddam Hussein.
It’s no coincidence that many episodes featuring him and his underworld – such as “Hell on Earth 2006” – are some of the funniest SP romps.
Kyle And Stan’s Moral Monologues
with a raunchy comedy like SP, it certainly helps to have that counterbalance of morality and sentimentality. This is often channeled through Kyle and Stan, who tend to break into sitcom-esque sermons about what they’ve learned at the end of an episode. These can induce some chuckles in their own right – especially when these words of wisdom ring surprisingly true.
But on top of this, these monologues will occasionally become self-aware or satirizing, making them all the more amusing. It’s fairly clear that Parker and Stone occasionally mock this trope, as they often have funny twists of self-parodying. An example is the episode “Butt Out,” in which Kyle actually anticipates that he’ll end up explaining the lessons to be learned. Lo and behold – he begrudgingly does.
Chef Breaking Into Song
There’s much to love about South Park’s resident school chef, voiced by the late Isaac Hayes. Despite his absence for several seasons now, Chef has been solidified as an iconic SP character. Perhaps his most prominent trait is his knack for breaking into songs. These soulful tunes are typically about his desire to bed women, though they will occasionally go off the beaten path. One example involves a blatant innuendo in which he sings about his suggestive sounding chocolate cookies.
This SP trope is played out right until his very last appearance, where his musical numbers take a strange turn in the episode “The Return of Chef.”
Cartman Is Going Home
Cartman’s “screw you guys, I’m going home” declarations are about as close to a catchphrase as this rascal has – along with his demands to “respect my authority!”
There’s something about Cartman’s tendency to just say “screw it all” and bail amidst a significant scene that’s both delightful and funny. While he’s usually the one to ruffle feathers and stir the pot, this statement is an amusing way to convey that Cartman is the one who’s peeved here – to the point of totally ditching a scene.
Kick The Baby!
More often than not, Kyle tends to treat his little Canadian brother Ike with kindness and care. This makes it all the more humorous when, out of nowhere, he decides to punt him like a football. This running gag occurs more often in SP’s younger, more juvenile years than in recent history – though there’s a particularly funny instance of this bit in season 7’s “Cancelled.”
At the beginning of this fan-favorite episode, he uses his own brother to smack Cartman onto the ground. He then sets up to kick Ike, before his brother emphatically tells him “don’t kick the g****mn baby!”
Butters’ Jaunty Tunes
For many fans, Butters makes for one of the show’s keep focal points of comedy, with its delightfully wholesome and naive ways. He’s often the punching bag of his cruel “friends,” particularly the loudmouthed Cartman.
This makes it all the more entertaining when Butters is able to shake off these slights and maintain a joyous, positive attitude – which he often conveys through cheesy songs. From his jaunty Bennigan’s jingle to his childlike songs about apples and robots, these tunes from Butters offer plenty of jovial laughs.
They Took Our Jobs!
SP thrives with its mockery of society and various figures through its over-the-top caricatures and premises. One of the more hilarious reoccurring imitations is that of the angry rednecks – who insist that their jobs are being taken away. The ambiguous “they” seems to shift depending on the episode, making the outbursts by these men all more comical.
Even better is that in each of their handful of appearances, this proclamation is increasingly angry and mispronounced. This is driven home in the episode “W.T.F.” where these declarations give way to a rooster crowing – which happens to sound similar to them.
Randy’s Goofy Antics
It’s no accident that fans have pointed to SP increasingly becoming “The Randy Show” lately, especially with the recent emphasis on his “Tegridy Farms” endeavor. Really, he’s just that funny and often serves as the crux of the humor in a given episode. Stan’s dense and clumsy father often finds himself getting wrapped up in a bizarre obsession, or falling into shenanigans that spiral out of control.
Whether it’s his desire to be a great chef, get blessings from the Virgin Mary to heal his alcoholism, or start baseball brawls with parents – his antics are always good for a laugh.
Oh My God, They Killed Kenny!
It’s tough to overstate the iconic status of this delightful SP callback. At least in the early seasons – the sporadic killing of poor Kenny McCormick served as a staple trait of the show, to the point where an episode didn’t quite feel complete without it. It was emblematic of the show’s crude, provocative, no-holds-barred nature.
The humor of this running gag ironically stems somewhat from its overuse, though it also brings laughs with the crazy, off-the-wall ways in which Kenny sometimes dies. These range from being zapped by laser eyes and run over by motorcycles to even laughing himself to death. While Parker and Stone have largely abandoned this gag, they occasionally pay homage to it in subtle, creative fashions.