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South Park is an American animated television series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central lierlevision network. The ongoing narrative revolves around four children, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick, and their bizarre adventures in and around the fictional and eponymous Colorado town. The town is also home to an assortment of characters who make frequent appearances in the show such as students and their family members, elementary school staff, and recurring characters.
Stan is portrayed as the everyman of the group, as the show's official website describes him as "a normal, average, American, mixed-up kid". Kyle is the lone Jew among the group, and his portrayal in this role is often dealt with satirically. Stan and Kyle are best friends, and their relationship, which is intended to reflect the real-life friendship between South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, is a common topic throughout the series. Cartman—loud, obnoxious, and obese—is sometimes portrayed as the major villain, and whose anti-Semitic attitude has resulted in an ever-progressing rivalry with Kyle. Kenny, who comes from a poor family, wears his parka hood so tightly that it covers most of his face and muffles his speech. During the show's first five seasons, Kenny would die in almost every single episode before returning in the next without explanation.
Stone and Parker voice most of the male South Park characters. Mary Kay Bergman voiced the majority of the female characters until her death in 1999. Eliza Schneider (1999–2003), Mona Marshall (2000–present), and April Stewart (2003–present) have voiced most of the female characters since. A few staff members such as Jennifer Howell, Vernon Chatman, John Hansen, Adrien Beard have voiced the other recurring characters.
Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone originally conceived the idea of a South Park-like show with four children characters, but with a talking stool named Mr. Hankey as the show's main character and planned to call it The Mr. Hankey Show. Eventually, Parker and Stone adapted their original idea into a show revolving around the South Park town and four children with Mr. Hankey in a minor supporting role in a future episode. Comedy Central later expressed interest in the series, and picked it up. The premiere episode, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe", debuted on Comedy Central on August 13, 1997, while Mr. Hankey would debut in the tenth episode, "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo".
In tradition with the show's cutout animation style, the characters are composed of simple geometrical shapes and uninflected patches of predominantly primary colors. They are not offered the same free range of motion associated with hand-drawn characters, as they are mostly shown from only one angle, and their movements are animated in an intentionally jerky fashion. Ever since the show's second episode, "Weight Gain 4000", all the characters on the show have been animated with computer software, though they are portrayed to give the impression that the show still utilizes the original technique of cutout animation.
Stone and Parker voice most of the male South Park characters. Mary Kay Bergman voiced the majority of the female characters until her death in 1999, near the end of the third season. Eliza Schneider and Mona Marshall succeeded Bergman since 1999, and respectively 2000, with Schneider leaving the show in 2003, after the seventh season. She was replaced by April Stewart, who, along with Marshall, continues to voice most of the female characters. Bergman was originally listed in the credits under the alias Shannen Cassidy to protect her reputation as the voice of several Disney characters. Stewart was originally credited under the name Gracie Lazar, while Schneider was sometimes credited under her rock opera performance pseudonym Blue Girl.
Some South Park staff members voice other recurring characters; supervising producer Jennifer Howell voices student Bebe Stevens, writing consultant Vernon Chatman voices an anthropomorphic towel named Towelie, and production supervisor John Hansen voices Mr. Slave, the former gay lover of Mr. Garrison. South Park producer and storyboard artist Adrien Beard, who voices Token Black, the only black kid in South Park, was recruited to voice the character "because he was the only black guy [in the] building" when Parker needed to quickly find someone to voice the character during the production of the season four (2000) episode "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000".
Stanley Randall "Stan" Marsh is one of the show's four central characters and is voiced by and loosely based on series co-creator Trey Parker. He first appeared in The Spirit of Christmas and is portrayed (in words of the show's official website) as "a normal, average, American, mixed-up kid". Stan is a third- then fourth-grade student who commonly has extraordinary experiences not typical of conventional small-town life in his hometown of South Park. In many episodes, Stan contemplates ethics in beliefs, moral dilemmas, and contentious issues, and will often reflect on the lessons he has attained with a speech that often begins with "You know, I learned something today...".
Kyle Broflovski is one of the show's four central characters and is voiced by and loosely based on series co-creator Matt Stone. Having appeared first in The Spirit of Christmas shorts, he often displays the highest moral standard of all the boys and is usually depicted as the most intelligent. When describing Kyle, Stone states that both he and the character are "reactionary", and susceptible to irritability and impatience. In some instances, Kyle is the only child in his class to not initially indulge in a fad or fall victim to a ploy. This has resulted in both his eagerness to fit in, and his resentment and frustration. Kyle is distinctive as one of the few Jewish children on the show, and because of this, he often feels like an outsider amongst the core group of characters. His portrayal in this role is often dealt with satirically, and has elicited both praise and criticism from Jewish viewers. 
Eric Theodore Cartman first appeared in the 1992 short series "Jesus vs Frosty" and is voiced by Trey Parker. Cartman has been portrayed as aggressive, prejudiced and emotionally unstable since his character's inception. These traits are significantly augmented in later seasons as his character evolves, and he begins to exhibit psychopathic and extremely manipulative behavior. He is depicted as highly intelligent, able to execute morally appalling plans and business ideas with success. Among the show's main child characters, Cartman is distinguished as "the fat kid", for which he is continuously insulted and ridiculed. Cartman is frequently portrayed as a villain whose actions set in motion the events serving as the main plot of an episode. Other children and classmates are alienated by Cartman's insensitive, racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, misogynistic, lazy, self-righteous, and wildly insecure behavior. Cartman often makes anti-semitic insults towards Kyle, constantly teases Kenny for being poor, particularly manipulates and mistreats Butters Stotch and displays an extreme disdain for hippies.
Kenneth "Kenny" McCormick is one of the shows' main characters who debuted in the 1992 short. His oft-muffled and indiscernible speech—the result of his parka hood covering his mouth—is provided by co-creator Matt Stone. He is friends with Stan and Kyle, while maintaining a friendship with Eric Cartman solely out of pity. Kenny is regularly teased for living in poverty, particularly by Cartman. Prior to season six, Kenny died in almost every episode, with only a few exceptions.[note 1] The nature of the deaths was often gruesome and portrayed in a comically absurd fashion, and usually followed by Stan and Kyle respectively yelling "Oh my God! They killed Kenny!" and "You bastard(s)!". In the episode "Kenny Dies", Kenny dies after developing a terminal muscular disease, while Parker and Stone claimed that Kenny would not be returning in subsequent episodes and insisted they grew tired of upholding the tradition of having Kenny die in each episode. For most of season six, his place is taken by Butters Stotch and Tweek Tweak. Nevertheless, Kenny returned from the year-long absence in the season six finale "Red Sleigh Down", and has remained a starring character ever since. His character no longer dies each week, and has only been killed occasionally in episodes following his return. Kenny's superhero alter ego, Mysterion, first appeared in the season 13 episode "The Coon".
Leopold "Butters" Stotch is voiced by Matt Stone, and is loosely based on co-producer Eric Stough. He is cheerful, naive, optimistic, gullible and more passive relative to the show's other child characters, and can become increasingly anxious, especially when faced with the likelihood of his parents' punishments, which is usually being grounded. Butters doesn't indulge in foul-mouthed language like the other children and speaks with a mild stutter and tends to fidget with his hands. The other characters perceive him as "nerdy", and he obliviously maintains a wholesome attitude and mild disposition despite the tragedy and abuse that he frequently encounters. His happy-go-lucky persona has been described as resembling that of a typical 1950s sitcom child character, and is usually presented in stark contrast to the harsh treatment he receives at the hands of his friends and strict parents, Butters appeared initially as a background character in first the episode, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe", but gradually became one of Parker and Stone's favorite characters. Besides wanting to genuinely surprise fans, Parker and Stone killed Kenny at the end of season five to allow an opportunity to provide a major role for Butters, as the following episode, "Butters' Very Own Episode," revolves entirely around him. Stan, Kyle, and Cartman allow him into their group as the "fourth friend", but eventually gets ousted and vengefully adopts the alter ego of Professor Chaos. Despite this, Butters has continued to be a major character in recent seasons and continues to be a frequent source of help to Cartman, while also being the main victim of Cartman's pranks and manipulation.
Tweek is a blonde-hair child who usually shout things like "Oh my god!" He also replaced Butters after he was thrown out of the group. Tweek was never officially kicked out of the group like Butters was, but has had small parts since the seventh season.
|Character||Voiced by||Role||First appearance|
|Bebe Stevens||Jennifer Howell||The boys' blonde, female classmate and Wendy's best friend.||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Clyde Donovan||Trey Parker||One of the boys' classmates and considered himself as the sexiest of the class. Accidentally caused the death of his mother by leaving the toilet seat up.||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Craig Tucker||Matt Stone||One of the boys' classmate who occasionally antagonizes them. Frequently gives the middle finger to authority figures then denies doing so.||"Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo"|
|Dougie||Trey Parker||A first-grader who assumes the role of General Disarray, sidekick to Butters's alter-ego Professor Chaos||"Two Guys Naked in a Hot Tub"|
|Jimmy Valmer||Trey Parker||One of the boys' two handicapped classmates and an amateur standup comedian. He stutters a lot when he talks due to his disability.||"Cripple Fight"|
|Timmy Burch||Trey Parker||One of the boys' two handicapped classmates, whose vocabulary is mostly limited to the enthusiastic shouting of his own name||"The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000"|
|Token Black||Adrien Beard||The boys' wealthiest classmate and the only black child in the town.||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Tweek Tweak||Matt Stone||The boys' hyperactive and paranoid classmate due to an excessive intake of coffee, although his parents believe it to be because of ADD. He temporarily replaced Kenny as the fourth member of the "main" group during the time period in which Kenny was considered "permanently dead".||"Gnomes"|
|Wendy Testaburger||Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider, Mona Marshall, April Stewart||One of the boys' classmates, Stan's on-off girlfriend and Bebe's best friend||The Spirit of Christmas: Jesus vs. Santa|
|Character||Voiced by||Role||First appearance|
|Randy Marsh||Trey Parker||Stan's father, who worked as a geologist. He gets involved in stupid things such as becoming a celebrity chef and getting into baseball fights.||"Volcano"|
|Sharon Marsh||Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider, Mona Marshall, April Stewart||Randy's wife and Stan's mother.||"An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig"|
|Shelly Marsh||Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider, April Stewart||Stan's violent, snobbish, ill-tempered and mischievous older sister||"An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig"|
|Grandpa Marvin Marsh||Trey Parker||Randy's father and Stan's grandfather, who attempts to kill himself or have others do so in several episodes||"Death"|
|Jimbo Kern||Matt Stone||Randy Marsh's half brother and Stan's uncle, who is portrayed as a hunter, TV show host, and gun store owner||"Weight Gain 4000"|
|Gerald Broflovski||Matt Stone||Kyle's father, who works as a lawyer.||"Starvin' Marvin"|
|Sheila Broflovski||Mary Kay Bergman, Mona Marshall||Kyle's overly-protective mother.||"Death"|
|Ike Broflovski||various children of South Park employees||Kyle's younger brother, the Canadian-born adopted son of Gerald and Sheila||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Liane Cartman||Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider, April Stewart||Mother of Cartman who spoils her son.||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Stuart McCormick||Matt Stone||Kenny's alcoholic and violent father||"Death"|
|Carol McCormick||Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider, April Stewart||Kenny's alcoholic and violent mother||"Starvin' Marvin"|
|Stephen Stotch||Trey Parker||Butters' strict father (bisexual, as explored in "Butters' Very Own Episode")||"Chickenlover"|
|Linda Stotch||Mona Marshall||Butters' mother||"The Wacky Molestation Adventure"|
|Character||Voiced by||Role||First appearance|
|Mr. Garrison||Trey Parker||The boys' teacher who had a sex change operation during season nine, before changing it back during season twelve||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Mr. Mackey||Trey Parker||The school's counselor, who says "M'Kay" randomly||"Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo"|
|Mr. Slave||John Hansen||Mr. Garrison's lover and classroom assistant, who later married Big Gay Al||"Butters' Very Own Episode"|
|Principal Victoria||Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider, April Stewart||The principal of the school||"Pinkeye"|
|Officer Barbrady||Trey Parker||The town's highly untrained and undereducated police officer||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Big Gay Al||Matt Stone||Ex-scout leader who used to own a sanctuary for gay animals, portrayed as the show's stereotypical gay character||"Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride"|
|Ned Gerblansky||Trey Parker||Jimbo Kern's best friend who speaks through a voicebox||"Volcano"|
|God||Trey Parker||God, portrayed as a strange, cat-like animal||"Are You There God? It's Me, Jesus"|
|Jesus||Matt Stone||Jesus, who lives in an ordinary house and hosts a talk show on the local TV station, and is the leader of the Super Best Friends||The Spirit of Christmas: Jesus vs. Frosty|
|Mr. Hankey||Trey Parker||A talking feces||"Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo"|
|Tuong Lu Kim||Trey Parker||City Wok owner, recently shown to be one of many personalities of a therapist with Multiple Personality Disorder.||"Jared Has Aides"|
|Father Maxi||Matt Stone||Catholic priest||"Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo"|
|Mayor McDaniels||Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider,||Town's mayor||"Weight Gain 4000"|
|Dr. Alphonse Mephisto||Trey Parker||Local mad scientist and Marlon Brando lookalike||"An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig"|
|Moses||Trey Parker||A character based on Moses, a gigantic dreidel who looks and talks like MCP from Tron||"Jewbilee"|
|Santa||Trey Parker||A character based on Santa Claus||The Spirit of Christmas: Jesus vs. Frosty|
|Satan||Trey Parker||A character based on the Christian concept of Satan, portrayed with the outline of a massive phallus upon his abdomen and chest.||"Damien"|
|Starvin' Marvin||Trey Parker||An Ethiopian boy||"Starvin' Marvin"|
|Terrance and Phillip||Matt Stone (Terrance) and Trey Parker (Phillip)||A Canadian television comedy duo later married to the Queef sisters||"Death"|
|Towelie||Vernon Chatman||A talking stoner towel (currently sober), father of Washcloth||"Towelie"|
|Sergeant Harrison Yates||Trey Parker||A police detective||"Christian Rock Hard"|
A few characters have had a major recurring role in the past episodes in the show before their deaths.
|Character||Voiced by||Role||First appearance||Last appearance|
|Pip Pirrup||Matt Stone||The boys' unpopular English classmate, based on the main character in Dickens' Great Expectations. Was killed off by Mecha-Streisand in "201".||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"||"201"|
|Chef||Isaac Hayes, Peter Serafinowicz (Darth Chef)||The school's chef and good friend of the boys, who was killed at the beginning of the tenth season||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"||"The Return of Chef"|
|Ms. Choksondik||Trey Parker||The boys' former teacher who died during the sixth season||"4th Grade"||"The Simpsons Already Did It"|
|Ms. Crabtree||Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider||The former school bus driver before her death during the eighth season||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"||"Cartman's Incredible Gift"|
|Saddam Hussein||Matt Stone||A portrayal of Saddam Hussein, who in the show was involved in a homosexual relationship with Satan and built weapons of mass destruction in heaven||"Terrance and Phillip in Not Without My Anus"||"It's Christmas in Canada"|
Kyle, Eric, Saddam Hussein, Stan and Kenny have all appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
Cartman is a South Park fan favorite, and is often described as the most famous character from the series. With a headline to their online written version of a radio report, NPR declared Cartman as "America's Favorite Little $@#&*%". "Respect my authoritah!" and "Screw you guys ...I'm going home!" became catchphrases and, during the show's earlier seasons, were highly popular in the lexicon of viewers. His eccentric enunciation of "Hey!" was included in the 2002 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases. Stone has said that when fans recognize him or Parker, the fans will usually do their imitation of Cartman, or, in Parker's case, request that he do Cartman's voice. Both Cartman's commentary and the commentary resulting in response to his actions have been interpreted as statements Parker and Stone are attempting to make to the viewing public, and these opinions have been subject to much critical analysis in the media and literary world.
Cartman ranked 10th on TV Guide's 2002 list of the "Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters", 24th on TV Guide’s "25 Greatest TV Villains", 198th on VH1's "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons", and 19th on Bravo's "100 Greatest TV Characters" television special in 2004. When declaring him the second-scariest character on television (behind only Mr. Burns of The Simpsons) in 2005, MSNBC's Brian Bellmont described Cartman as a "bundle of pure, unadulterated evil all wrapped up in a fat—er, big-boned—cartoony package" who "takes a feral delight in his evildoing".
While Parker and Stone portray Stan and Kyle as having common childlike tendencies, their dialogue is often intended to reflect stances and views on more adult-oriented issues, and have been subject to much critical analysis in the media and literary world and have frequently been cited in publications by experts in the fields of politics, religion, popular culture and philosophy.  Kenny's deaths are well known in popular culture, and was one of the things viewers most commonly associated with South Park during its earlier seasons. The exclamation of "Oh my God! They killed Kenny!" quickly became a popular catchphrase, while both Kenny and the phrase have appeared on some of the more popular pieces of South Park merchandise, including shirts, bumper stickers, calendars and baseball caps, and inspired the rap song "Kenny's Dead" by Master P, which was featured on Chef Aid: The South Park Album. The catchphrase also appears in MAD magazine's satire of TITANIC where Stan, Kyle and Cartman are shown on a lifeboat while they were supposedly escaping from the sinking ship. Kenny's deaths have been subject to much critical analysis in the media and literary world. When Sophie Rutschmann of the University of Strasbourg discovered a mutated gene that causes an adult fruit fly to die within two days after it is infected with certain bacteria, she named the gene "Kenny" in honor of the character.
The characters of South Park have spawned several merchandise items, varying from toys to apparel items. In 2004, the first action figure collection was released by Mirage Toys containing five series each with four characters. In 2006, Mezco toys released a second collection containing a total of six series, each containing six or four figures. Comedy Central itself has made available a variety of products through its website, including t-shirts, figures, hats, pants, and even shot glasses. A number of fan websites provides an even more extended amount of merchandise, ranging from posters, to magnets, ties and even skateboards, South Park Studios offer through their website the possibility of creating personalized South Park avatars. Similar possibilities have been available on multiple fan sites.