Monday, October 6, 2008

A Very South Park Christmas

Ahhhh, "South Park". A bastion of both political satire and commentary on the superficiality of entertainers. It's also a lifesaver for my family. I know, I know, what kind of family would consider "South Park" a lifesaver? With its lowbrow humor and often disgusting content (which I find endlessly hilarious, so sue me), it's not what you'd call family entertainment. At least, not in families other than my own.

Let's go back to 1996, my cousin Ellen and I were in our senior year of high school, I had just turned 17 on November 5th. Our grandma had been sick for going on 3 years now, which was both good and bad- good because we got more time with her, bad because she was changed- our grandma was gone and a shell of her remained. Christmas was coming up, a holiday our extended family used to spend at Grandma's house. I had gotten all the gifts for my friends and family, carefully choosing those gifts that were the best fit for each person. It was a Wednesday afternoon two days before Christmas break began, and my mom and I had just returned from Target. We had a message on the answering machine. It was Ellen's sister Amy, three years older than we are. The message was chilling, "Hello? Mark (my dad)? Can you give us a call? Grandma's gone." You could hear the tears in her voice, and then my Dad's voice as he picked up the phone in the midst of the message being left. Then the phone rang- it was my Dad calling to tell me to get over to my cousin's house.

That was probably the worst Christmas of my life. Spending your holiday break numb inside, waiting for the inevitable tears to fall. I couldn't understand why everyone else in the family was crying, and I couldn't. I loved her too, I missed her, I wanted to be back in her arms again, smelling of rose lotion and Coty powder. It's funny, how now just writing that phrase brings tears to my eyes, yet back in 1996, I was a stone. It wasn't until her funeral, when it all hit me. Ellen stood at the podium and talked about our grandma and what she had brought to our life. I sat there, alone in the pew trying to keep my sobs as quiet as possible, only succeeding in making them echo throughout the room. When I saw the parents I had baby-sat for, neighbors of my grandma, sitting in the pews, I cried harder. This was it. Grandma was gone. She wouldn't be leaving tomatoes on their back porch anymore. She wouldn't wave across the street to me, while I walked the halls consoling a teething 2 year old.

What does this have to do with "South Park", you ask? Well, as I had mentioned, Grandma had passed away about 5/6 days before Christmas, and we were all just so down. It was like the world was in color, and we were all in black and white. What to do for the usual festive holiday? The gifts were bought and wrapped, and yet the joy was gone. My cousin Mike was working for MTV at the time, and they had received a demo of something they had ultimately passed on. So, Mike brought it home to us, and showed it to us on Christmas day. It was the "South Park" Christmas card (aka The Spirit of Christmas), a precursor to South Park.

For some ridiculous reason, MTV passed on this goldmine, and Comedy Central picked it up. "The Spirit of Christmas" gave us a Christmas filled with laughter and crudeness, just what our family needed (as evidenced by our Thanksgiving choice of entertainment: "Kingpin"). There were horrible references to Santa Claus, and disgusting references to a pig, and there were smiles on our faces. Amazingly, my cousin Mike and South Park had saved Christmas- our very first without Grandma.

Luckily, one of the producers of the show is a parent at Paul's school. Paul coaches his kids in various sports, and we've been invited to their house for various holidays. Their daughter Milan (who actually has done a few voices on the show) looks exactly like me at that age, and their son is a sweetheart. After 10 or so years, I was able to thank "South Park" for what they did for us all those years ago. And yes, we did make fun of MTV for passing on that opportunity.

It's not often you can say a cartoon (especially such a foul-mouthed one) saved Christmas, but it did. And that's why you'll find "South Park" being DVRed every Wednesday in our house. I owe them.

1 comment:

Kj said...

love this post.