The term "easy target" might seem derogatory, but I don't mean it that way when it comes to South Park.
The less Matt Stone and Trey Parker have to reach for the start of their joke, the more time they can devote to pushing the butt of the joke into new territory, and their punchlines just come all the more naturally. (By "naturally," of course, I mean that they lead into completely bizarre, satirical mockery--South Park
's version of "natural.")
Last night's season 14 finale, "Creme Fraiche," was one of those episodes. Within a minute of its start, we could see where it was going, at least in a broad sense: For Randy, the Food Network is like porn. He's addicted to it, and it's breaking up his marriage. This all culminates in a hilarious "Food Network hotline" scene:
They never actually use the term "food porn," and that's why it works: We've all heard that term before, but in true South Park
form, the critique is turned literal, and then turned on its head, as
Randy's addiction quickly escalates, and all of a sudden he's South Park
Elementary's new chef, and going up against the likes of Mario Batali,
Paula Deen and Jamie Oliver in a kids' lunch culinary showdown:
The Iron Chef
joke works so well because it's not much of a stretch: The show really does employ a bizarrely intense battle environment while using silly, pretentious French words like "creme fraiche."
Comparatively, Sharon's love affair with her Shake Weight didn't play as well, perhaps because it was a relatively one note joke about a device that has been so universally mocked that it makes you wonder if it was secretly invented to be a gag gift. It looks like a penis, and using it makes it look even more like a penis--we get it. Still, for a one-note sex joke, there were funny, original touches. I especially liked the special "emotional" voice features on Sharon's model. "Tell me about the women who you do not like. You are so witty and insightful," it coos at her so she'll "exercise" some more. Ah, us ladies: Always with the bitching
and the feelings
One of the brilliant things about Stone and Parker's writing on South Park
is their ability to take two seemingly unrelated cultural phenomenons--like the Food Network and the Shake Weight--and turn them into two sides of the same off-color coin, as they do in this episode all about sex-replacements. But it's still the characters who draw the biggest laughs, and remind us why we're still watching South Park
after 14 years. For all the quality Food Network humor, it was this line from Cartman that make me laugh hardest: "Hearing you bitch about your dad all the time is super interesting, Stan. I hope you do it all lunch period."(Image courtesy of Comedy Central)