When asked to describe their ideal working conditions, “South Park’s” Trey Parker and Matt Stone say they want to be as “unrefined” and “un-committee-d” as possible. “We wish we were a little more punk rock,” says Parker, “where you just go into the studio and just fuckin’ jam.”
It’s no surprise then, that they don’t require much in terms of office space. “Personally, I don’t understand people who say, ‘Let’s meet at the back of the Bel-Air Hotel by the swimming pool,’ ” says the show’s exec producer, Stone. “I wouldn’t fuckin’ do anything there. An office has to be somewhat utilitarian. Other than windows and candy, it has to be the most boring space imaginable.”
To that end, “South Park” co-exec producer Anne Garefino found them a relatively bland, semi-corporate-looking, concrete-and-steel office space in Marina del Rey, which suits them just fine. The building itself is divided into several mini-campuses for the 60-person staff, with character animators working out of a honeycomb of cubicles on one side and executives in a glass-walled structure on the other. Interior designer Sasha Emerson provided the decor, which includes candy-colored Naugahyde couches and brightly hued paint.
Yet the biggest improvement, as per Parker and Stone, is that they now have an actual “writers’ room.” “Now I can’t imagine not having this space where you can go and shut the door and talk to the writers,” says Parker.
Depending on the time of day, that’s also where you’ll find Parker pacing around the table, scrawling notes, snippets of dialogue and scenes onto index cards. As Stone says, that’s how “South Park” is pieced together — through the constant reworking of handwritten notes — as opposed to working from outlines or full scripts. “I would hate to work on a show like ‘The Simpsons,’ ” Stone says. “From the time they complete a script, then voice it, to the time it’s on the air, it sometimes takes nine months. I don’t know how somebody can stay excited about something for that long. I’d get bored.”
On the plus side that allows them to infuse their material with the most up-to-the-minute, pop-political references. “We’re always inspired by what’s in the news,” says Stone. “But we’re more inspired when someone tells us about some fucked-up thing their parents made them do when they were a kid or some conversation we had with some wasted guy in a bar. Stuff like that will always find its way into a show.”
On the minus side, that often translates into 24-hour work sessions, where scenes are reworked right up until the final Tuesday morning deadline. “It’s much more of a sculpting process,” adds Parker, who often pulls all-nighters. “I think we spend as much time, if not more, creatively on an episode than most TV shows (do).”
Surprisingly, Parker contends they’ve never had any trouble with censors. “Of all the groups we’ve offended on the show, the only group that said, ‘That’s not cool,’ were super, super liberal people on ‘Team America.’ It’s the only group of people who have gotten truly mad at us.”
Stone backs him up, adding, “Everyone else can take a joke.”