South Park: 10 Supporting Characters to Consider
Ever since its debut in 1997, the American animated sitcom, South Park, has topped various magazine lists as one of the “Best TV Shows of All Time”. Crude, juvenile and sometimes plain absurd, it might have been difficult to imagine the show to be as successful as it is today. However, in the past two decades, this Comedy Central powerhouse proves to be an instant classic, spawning some of the greatest TV moments and characters.
At the start of the series, most of South Park‘s narrative follows the adventures of four foul-mouthed fourth graders – Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny – as they face various wacky scenarios, often satirical of world issues. As the seasons progress, so does the South Park universe, thus allowing the show’s peripheral characters to become more prominent. Some prove to be very popular with fans, while others are more of a hit-and-miss.
Due to South Park‘s extensive collection of characters, it was a task to narrow this list down to a select few. Excluded from this list are Randy Marsh and Leopold “Butters” Stotch as their roles in the show have been enormously expanded on, gaining them main character status. But now, without further ado, here are the ten best supporting South Park characters who have demonstrated that they can shine in their own right – when given the screen time.
“Just let me get high. I know I can remember if I get high.”
The writers of South Park wanted to create “the worst character ever” when they created Towelie, a genetically engineered talking towel who is addicted to marijuana, crystal meth, cocaine and heroin. His first appearance is in the episode Towelie, often appearing out of nowhere to give South Park residents towel advises. He also strikes a close friendship with the boys, though he mostly uses them to borrow money for drugs. Despite the intention of making him a terrible character, Towelie is a fan favorite, with the bizarre combination of his high-pitched voice, stoner attitude and famous catchphrases like “Don’t forget to bring a towel” and “You wanna get high?” somehow managing to win over a large number of South Park fans.
Originally designed to ridicule the studio’s heavy profiteering and exploitation of South Park‘s success, later seasons have portrayed him to be more than just a two-dimensional character whose sole purpose is spitting out cheesy one-liners. His last episode, Crippled Summer, dwells deeper into the matter of his drug addiction and how it has frayed his relationships with his family and friends. In a parody of Intervention, the boys stage an intervention for Towelie to clean up his act. Though he is reluctant at first, Towelie finally agrees to go for rehabilitation, after much pleading from the boys and a heartfelt reunion with his son, Washcloth.
Unfortunately, the episode also marks Towelie’s last appearance in South Park in the past three years, and possibly his last appearance ever, since Crippled Summer informs the audience that he has become sober. Though it does not seem like much more can be milked from Towelie, that Parker and Stone were able to create a sympathetic arc for the ludicrous character, makes him worth of a mention as one of South Park‘s iconic supporting characters.
“How come you always want to make love to me from behind? Is it because you want to pretend I’m somebody else?”
Satan is not the only religious figure parody in South Park, but he might simply be the best one out of all. Based on the biblical figure of the same name, Satan’s bulky, humanoid body and penis-shaped abs will fool the audience at first sight. Often appearing in the title town to carry out his “diabolical” plans, which almost always fail, Satan has never shown any real malicious intentions. He is, in fact, a very nice and sensitive person, whose vicious exterior is just a facade to keep up his reputation.
As one of South Park’s openly gay characters, Satan suffers from many relationship dependency issues. He is emotionally vulnerable, making him easy target for manipulation by his boyfriends, most notably Saddam Hussein. Even though he is often emotionally abused by Saddam, it is clear that Satan is smitten with him and will do anything to gain the approval of his lover. Though we cannot help but feel sorry for Satan in his endless, hopeless pursuit for Saddam’s love, their lovers’ banters are hilarious to say the least.
In South Park, Satan is the ultimate embodiment of the “don’t judge a book by its cover” character. Most of his comedic moments ensue from the irony of his characterization, as he seems to have the mentality of a teenage girl. He is shown to constantly moan about his many relationship problems, and in once instance, he even threw a costume birthday party where he got to dress up as Britney Spears. However, more than just a twisted parody, Satan is perhaps one of the show’s most identifiable characters as his relationship misfortunes and complex inner conflicts are something that the audience go through in real life.
8. Craig Tucker
“He’s the luckiest kid in the world. If I could say ‘shitballs’ to the principal, I would be soooo happy.”
Craig is a classmate of the boys and he is once referred to as “the biggest troublemaker in class” by none other than South Park‘s resident sociopath, Eric Cartman. His early appearances consist of two running gags where he is often shown to flip people off and sit outside of the guidance counselor’s office, though these are no longer used in later seasons. He often competes with the boys and is also the leader of “Craig and Those Guys”, who sometimes act as the boys’ rivals, but more often as their extended group of friends.
As his role expands, it is revealed that Craig has a sarcastic, deadpan humor that is refreshing when compared to the main-characters exaggerated antics. This is clearly apparent in the Pandemic episodes, where Craig steals the spotlight in his most prominent role so far. In the episodes, he is reluctantly coaxed by the boys to join their Peruvian flute band, wastes the $100 he got from his grandmother, and is captured by Homeland Security, then sent to Peru. Though he is angry towards the boys for dragging him into the sticky situation, he merely lashes out at them through emotionless rants, repeatedly pointing out how nobody likes them because they always get themselves into stupid situations without second thoughts.
Despite his attempts to do as little as possible, Craig ends up playing an integral part in Pandemic, after it is revealed that he is part of an ancient Peruvian prophecy. His indifference, which is his main comedic power, is used to its full comic potential in the episodes, most notably in a scene where he phlegmatically defeats the Guinea Pirate. Not only does he save the world from Cloverfield-like destruction, Craig also saves the fairly dull-two parter from becoming a total bore – by not even trying.
7. Ike Broflovski
“Don’t kick the baby!”
Sir Ike Moisha Broflovski, previously known as Peter Gintz, is Kyle’s adoptive baby brother. He is the token Canadian living in the town of South Park, since he is the only character there who possesses the beady eyes and flappy head traits attributed to Canadians. As a character, Ike’s appearance and personality contradict each other. He is portrayed to be just as vile and uncouth as the boys are, but unlike them, he often gets away with his bad behavior, due to his adorable voice and cute looks. In addition, despite being three years old at the start of the series, Ike is notably ahead of his time. He is a child prodigy, and has done many mature things, such as doing LSD, having sex with his hot teacher, and in a hilarious Ocean 12‘s parody, helps Obama and McCain steal the Hope Diamond.
Ike idolizes his older brother, Kyle, and often tries to get his attention, something that the latter rarely reciprocates. Their relationship is often put to the test, most critically in It’s Christmas in Canada, when Ike’s birth parents show up in South Park and demand that Ike is given back to them under the new Canadian law. Seeing how devastated his parents are upon losing his baby brother, Kyle and his friends go on an adventure to Canada to bring Ike back. There, they have a heart-warming reunion.
Regardless of his many bad-ass toddler moments, Ike is his best when he is running towards Kyle for protection. Their relationship might be problematic at times, but they share the closest sibling relationship if compared to the other siblings in South Park. Whatever he does, Ike never fails to deliver an extra zest into the screen, and hopefully the audience will get to see him grow even more in the seasons to come.
6. Mr. Mackey
“M’kay, that’s good! Let’s see what your mom and dad have to say about your little poopscapade!”
Mr. Mackey is the nerdy school counselor of South Park Elementary. He is distinguishable for his unnaturally big head and his habit of adding the word “m’kay” at the start and end of his sentences. In a school full of deranged teachers, he is shown to be the most caring towards the students, though some of his counseling methods are questionable. Though he is portrayed as one of the more responsible adults in the series, does not mean that he is protected from being given typical South Park traits, such as sexual perversion and over-reaction to things. For example, it was discovered that he engaged in BDSM with Cartman’s mother and allegedly killed the boys’ former fourth grade teacher, Ms. Choksondik, by literally choking her with his penis. Furthermore, in one episode, he over-reacted severely to losing his job – going as far as turning into a pseudo-hippie and impulsively traveling to India with a female drug addict that he just met.
Mr. Mackey’s most interesting story arc so far is the Insheeption episode, where the audience is given a glimpse of his life as a bullied fourth-grader in South Park Elementary. Suffering from extreme hoarding, a group of experts hook Mr. Mackey to a dream machine. They delve into his subconscious, hoping to find out the cause of his hoarding, only to discover a disturbing truth. It is revealed that Mr. Mackey was molested by Woodsy Owl, a forest service mascot, while on a school field trip, and as result, Woodsy’s “give a hoot, don’t pollute” slogan was cemented in his mind as a way to repress the psychological trauma.
Though it is quite common for South Park characters to have a grim past, Mr. Mackey’s back story perfectly rounds up his character. It helps the audience sympathize with him, as we can see that in spite of his troubled childhood, he always tries his best to help out his students. In reference to reality, Mackey is the teacher everyone makes fun of in school, but will always be remembered fondly – second to the crazy one who got a sex change.
5. Wendy Testaburger
“Don’t fuck with Wendy Testaburger!”
First introduced in the show as Stan’s love interest, Wendy is South Park‘s most prominent female child character. Though her major character status in the show has fluctuated, Wendy is constantly depicted to be highly critical, intelligent and mature beyond her years. She has strong political and moral views on social issues, and is sometimes shown to be a feminist. Despite of her strengths, Wendy’s character is not without flaws. In some cases, she seems like a typical queen bee who enjoys putting down other girls and has broken up with Stan just to be other guys. Lately, her superficial traits have been toned down considerably, and in The Hobbit episode she appears to have lost her popularity streak.
Wendy’s number one nemesis in South Park is Cartman. The pair often clash with each other, since her liberal views are in discord with his extreme bigotry. Though most of her attempts to outsmart him prove to be futile, she manages to win a fight against him in Breast Cancer Show Ever. Angry over being interrupted while doing a presentation on breast cancer awareness, Wendy challenges Cartman to a fight, which he reluctantly accepts. In truth, he is scared that he might actually lose to a girl and launches a series of sly attempts to get out of the fight. Cartman temporarily escapes when he pretends to be a pitiful bullied student in front of Wendy’s parents, but his victory is short-lived. Their resulting fight scene is glorious to say the least, and for the female audience, it will be hard not to root for Wendy as she beats the living hell out of Cartman.
In a show dominated by male characters, there is an urgent need for a strong, level-headed female character. Though she is not the most sensible, Wendy is portrayed in a much more positive-light if compared to other female characters in South Park, as she almost always has clear reasoning behind her actions. Judging on how her character has evolved through the years, hopefully the audience will get to see more of her kick-ass girl power as there is certainly room for improvement on her characterization in the coming seasons.
4. Timmy Burch
Timmy is the first handicapped fourth-grader to be introduced in South Park. His actual condition has never been revealed, but he appears to be suffering from a combination of disabilities. He has limited vocabulary and most of his speech involves catchphrases, such as the famous “TIMMY!” and “livin’ a lie”. In spite of his severe afflictions and the fourth-grade boys’ tendency to pick on their schoolmates, Timmy is considered part of the gang. He is also an immediate fan favorite, especially within the disabled community.
His very own episode, Timmy 2000, marks his debut as the new student in class. After being released from most of his schoolwork, Timmy makes use of his free time by becoming the lead singer of The Lord of the Underworlds. His antics gain the band popularity, but to mixed reactions. While many praise the band for their unique sound, others are upset, as they believe that people only see the band to make fun of Timmy’s condition. However, their preconceptions are soon shattered, since Timmy himself does not seem to feel like he is being exploited and simply enjoys performing.
Considered to be one of the “South Park Episodes That Changed The World” by Comedy Central, Timmy 2000 succeeds in dealing with the issues of disability gracefully. It serves as a wake-up call to the non-disabled community’s baby-ing behavior towards the disabled. As a handicapped character, Timmy is portrayed to be intelligent and capable. He does not seem to have any difficulty in following lessons in class, and has often been included in the boys’ crazy scenarios. All of them, he does with ease, in contrary to the mainstream belief that a disabled child will have a hard time fitting in with their “normal” peers. Indeed, Timmy is one of the show’s more controversial characters, but he is also the most enduring, thus earning himself a special place in South Park history.
3. Herbert Garrison
“Sorry kids, I just can’t trust something that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”
In a school crowded with problematic staff, Herbert Garrison, mostly referred to as Mr. Garrison, takes the throne as South Park Elementary’s most deranged teacher. Described by Trey Parker as “the soap opera element” of the show, he is a racist bigot who appears to be suffering from several unaddressed psychological issues. He is grossly incompetent at his job, fond of insulting his students and running lessons that almost always have more to do with pop culture or risqué content than actual school curriculum. However, much like other South Park characters, Mr. Garrison’s flaws are his crowning glory, establishing him as a big fan favorite and one of the show’s most complex characters to date.
Most of Mr. Garrison’s storyline concerns itself with the matter of his ambiguous sexuality. In earlier seasons, he was depicted as a closeted homosexual who is in denial of his true identity, resulting in his creation of two antagonistic puppet personalities called Mr. Hat and Mr. Twig. He finally came out in 4th Grade, embracing his a life as an openly gay man, though in true South Park tradition he ended up over-reacting to his newfound identity by proclaiming himself to be a “fag” to anyone he ran into. It seemed like his arc would have been completed by then, but it turned out that Mr. Garrison’s sexual journey was far from over. Unhappy living as a man, he underwent a vaginoplasty procedure and changed his name to Janet Garrison. After that, he went on to have sexual relationships with straight men, who were hilariously unaware of his blatant manliness, and had a lesbian relationship in the episode D-Yikes. The saga of his sexual uncertainty ended in Eek, a Penis!, where he reverted back into his male state. His current sexuality remains unknown.
As mentioned, Mr. Garrison’s various sexual experiments might be a result of an undiagnosed multiple personality disorder. This can be seen clearly by the constant identity shifts in his life, and by the authority Mr. Hat and Mr. Twig had over his daily life. Though he has not been as prominent in later seasons, Mr. Garrison remains one of the show’s most multi-faceted character – possibly second to Cartman – and hopefully by leaving his sexuality undecided for now, the audience will get to see more of his story in the future, which will be preferable to his mere sassy one-liners of late.
2. Jimmy Valmer
“Look, my gang – which I can’t talk about because it’s super secret – is the most important thing to me now. And if you two don’t like it, you can just pass the blunt to the nigga on your left.”
Jimmy is the second handicapped classmate of the boys to be introduced in South Park. He was initially created as a one-shot character for the episode Cripple Fight, but quickly became a fan favorite. Over the years, his prominence in the show has grown immensely, earning him the status of a regular secondary character. Despite having special needs, he is treated as an equal by his classmates is often considered to be part of the boys’ extended group of friends. He also appears to have a positive mindset about his disability, and on various occasions have demonstrated that he can easily overcome the disadvantages of his condition.
In several episodes featuring Jimmy as a prominent character, it is revealed that he is a boy of many talents, since he competed in the Special Olympics in Up the Down Steroid and performed a song with the ukulele in a camp for handicapped children in Crippled Summer. His number one penchant, however, appears to be comedy. Unlike the other boys, whose interests often change from one episode to another, Jimmy’s comedic passion has been fairly consistent. This is plain to see in episodes such as Cripple Fight, where he was first introduced as a stand-up comedian, Fishsticks, where he wrote the world’s greatest joke, and Funnybot, where he held South Park Elementary’s first annual “Comedy Awards”. Though he is sometimes criticized for comic attempts, Jimmy always finishes his routine with the famous catchphrase, “Wow, what a great audience!”
South Park has received generally positive feedback, both from the media and the disabled community, on their treatment of handicapped characters. This attitude that Parker and Stone hold towards disability rings true to the show’s political incorrectness and long opposition against mainstream preconceptions. Though it cannot be denied that the show has indeed mined Jimmy’s weird appearance and stuttering for comical purposes, his existence in the show clearly passes that of a cheap gag character. As Jimmy once said it himself, he prefers the term “handi-capable”, thus instead of laughing at him, or pitying him for his misfortune, the audience can sympathize with Jimmy for his well-rounded characterization and admirable aspirations.
1. Jerome “Chef” McElroy
“DAMN WOMAN! I just gave you sweet loving five minutes ago. Are you trying to kill me?”
Nicknamed Chef, after his job as the school’s cafeteria cook, the all-singing Jerome McElroy has established himself as one of South Park’s more prominent adult characters. The first African-American character to be included in the show, Chef’s portrayal is heavily influenced by Isaac Hayes, his voice actor, and other well-known soul singer from the 1970s. He is originally conceived to be a stereotypical African-American character to mock the perception an almost all-white country town would have towards black people. However, his role has expanded greatly through the seasons, establishing him as a character of his own right, instead of a parody. Aside from singing and cooking, Chef occupies his free time by womanizing, therefore the boys always go to him when they have questions about love and sex. He has a close friendship with the boys, being the only adult character who they can trust, and often acts as the voice of reason in some of South Park‘s zaniest scenarios.
Chef’s character has dealt with some storm, mostly stemming from behind the scenes. Shortly after Comedy Central’s airing of the controversial episode that satirizes the Church of Scientology, Trapped in the Closet, Isaac Hayes quit the show. His departure sparked much speculation and debates, but Parker and Stone insisted that Hayes, who was a member of the church, had left because of the episode.
After Hayes’s resignation, South Park aired its most heartfelt tribute episode, The Return of Chef. In the episode, which uses voice clips from his previous appearances, the boys are elated to learn of Chef’s return to South Park, but notice that he has been brainwashed. In trying to cure him, the boys learn that Chef has become a member of a pedophile cult called the Super Adventure Club. They fight with the club for him, but when given the choice to stay with the cult or go back to South Park, Chef decides to stay with the pedophiles. Tragedy strikes when Chef is hit by lightning on his way back, and the boys watch devastated as their longtime friend dies. At his funeral, Kyle gives an emotional eulogy that re-establishes Chef’s importance in South Park. Though many supporting characters have been killed off in the show, Chef, who has played a significant part ever since South Park‘s first episode, is a character that will sorely be missed by the boys and fans alike.
Like many other critically acclaimed series, such as The Simpsons and King of the Hill, South Park‘s brilliance lies on the vividness of its characters, whose three-dimensionality helps bring the title town to life. Over the last 17 seasons, these characters have played such a big part in the establishment and expansion of the South Park universe that they themselves have become iconic. Despite their secondary roles, all of them have their own stories to tell, making them compelling to the eyes of the audience. Have they not been as well-written, the audience would have stopped paying caring and move on to the next show. To top that off, not only are these characters memorable, they also have a comprehensive library of hilarious dialogue that will continue to be quoted by fans and casual viewers alike, for years and years to come.
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