They brought us four foulmouthed Colorado kids on South Park, spoofed the President in the sitcom That's My Bush! and annoyed Sean Penn with the movie Team America: World Police. Ahead of the March 22 start of South Park's 10th season on Comedy Central, Stone, 34, left, and Parker, 36, talked to TIME's James Poniewozik about celebs, politics and the innate badness of children.
YOU GUYS ARE FAMOUS FOR HANDING IN EPISODES AT THE LAST MINUTE. HAVE YOU EVEN STARTED SEASON 10? MATT STONE We just started about two days ago. TREY PARKER We're trying to work, but with no pressure we just aren't that funny.
HOW IS SOUTH PARK DIFFERENT FROM IN 1997? M.S. It's just way better. When we started, we didn't know what we were doing. And none of the shows we've done in the last two or three seasons could have been shown on air back in 1997. If you look at the first season, they're tame. T.P. It's definitely a lot dirtier.
YET IN '97 ALL PEOPLE TALKED ABOUT WAS THE VULGARITY. NOW ALL THEY TALK ABOUT IS THE SOCIAL COMMENTARY. T.P. We created a brand for ourselves, so that now people can't get mad at what we do, because then they're just making fun of themselves. We had an animated Muhammad five years ago. But people say, "Oh, yeah, that's just South Park."
ARE THERE EVER TIMES IN THE OFF-SEASON WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS AND YOU THINK, "DAMN! I WISH WE COULD WRITE ABOUT THAT"? M.S. Last year it was the [Live 8] concert, and I was like, "Oh, man, I want to rip on them." And then there was when Tom Cruise was acting crazy. He just stayed crazy for so long--and it was still in the news--that we did a Tom Cruise show anyway.
WHAT WAS SCARIER: THAT TOM CRUISE MIGHT SUE YOU OR THAT SEAN PENN MIGHT PUNCH YOU? T.P. Well, Sean Penn is about 4 ft. 3 [M.S. laughs], so I'm definitely not scared of him. We're both fairly large guys. M.S. Yeah. I'm not scared of Sean Penn or Tom Cruise physically. Now legally, that's a different story.
THE BOOK SOUTH PARK CONSERVATIVES SAID YOUR SHOW IS AN ANTILIBERAL SATIRE. IS THAT A FAIR DESCRIPTION? M.S. I think that's a fair description of some of the show's politics. But you could also easily write a book called South Park Liberals, because we've attacked a lot of funny stuff that conservative people and institutions do in America. But we're the only show that rips on Rob Reiner and antismoking laws and hippies, so we get that label.
THAT'S MY BUSH! LASTED ONE SEASON IN 2001. WOULD IT HAVE DONE BETTER A FEW YEARS LATER? M.S. I think it would. But I don't think we would have been interested, because it would have been more politically charged. And it wasn't a political show for us. T.P. To be a sitcom you need just a superlovable guy at the center, who, yeah, he f___s up a lot, and yeah, he's harebrained sometimes, but he's got a good heart. Which I think is basically George Bush. M.S. He's like Homer Simpson.
WOULD YOU EVER DO ANOTHER MOVIE? SOUTH PARK OR OTHERWISE? T.P. The only way we'd do it is if we were sitting around and were like, "That's a sweet idea for a movie." A lot of the South Park episodes we've done could have probably been really good movies. M.S. We have a hungry baby we have to feed. South Park takes every idea.
SPEAKING OF BABIES, NEITHER OF YOU HAS KIDS, RIGHT? BOTH No.