South Park's Penn State Jokes: South Park's Biggest Crime Is Bad Comedy

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterNovember 17, 2011

When something controversial happens, it's really just a matter of time before it is satirized on South Park.

That's just how it is. The show has been on the air for 15 seasons, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone started depending on current events for fresh material years ago. Because the show made it very clear in its very first episode that it has no boundaries, South Park can pretty much get away with anything.

So, you just knew that South Park was going to touch on the Penn State scandal at some point. As far as current events go, there's nothing bigger right now. Moreover, child molestation is not exactly fresh territory for South Park.

Inevitably, Parker and Stone were going to go there.

And they did with Wednesday night's season finale, titled "The Poor Kid."

The Penn State jokes start flying when Kenny and his siblings are taken into a police station and stashed in the "soft room." That's where they are greeted by a case worker named Mr. Adams, who fancies himself as a bit of a comedian.

“I’ve been looking over my file and see you kids have all been horribly physically and emotionally abused,” Mr. Adams said. “Oh, whoops! That isn’t your case file. It’s the Penn State University Gazette. Ha! I’m joking. That’s just a joke. We like to have fun here. It is your case file. I was all just like, ‘It’s the Penn State Gazette,’ to be like a joke. We have fun.”

He continued: "Now listen, you're going to be put into a foster home, so I need to know would you like to go to Neverland Ranch, the Catholic church or Penn State University."

Guess what those three places have in common.

Last but not least: "I’m going to get you to smile! A Penn State administrator walks into a bar…Where’s that smile? How about this one? Joe Paterno doesn’t walk into a police station…C’mon, that’s a good one!”

Well, there were the jokes, and viewers had two options: Laugh or don't laugh.

Personally, I didn't laugh, and I suspect I'm not the only one. For many, the circumstances at play in the Penn State scandal are ones that should not be used for comedy. As if that wasn't enough, it's certainly way too soon to be making jokes.

But that's not why I didn't laugh. I didn't laugh simply because these jokes weren't funny.

In recent seasons, South Park has turned into a real hit-or-miss show. It is not as consistently funny as it used to be, and that's because many of the jokes just feel forced. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

This is a case of the latter. It didn't surprise me that Parker and Stone decided to use the Penn State mess for comedy, but they just plain did a lousy job of using it for comedy that is actually funny.

There is a way that they could have used Penn State for comedy gold. A good comic mind can make anything funny, no matter how sensitive the subject matter may be. You just have to take your best shot and hope people laugh.

That's exactly what South Park did, and it swung and missed.


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