Is Scientology really much more unbelievable than, say, the idea of a 600-year-old dude cramming a bunch of animals on an ark? Not exactly, though both schools of belief are certainly equal in the eyes of South Park. Ahead of the airing of the show's season 20 premiere Wednesday, series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone joined the Hollywood Reporter for an all-encompassing chat on their history of topical subversion. Parker and Stone cover a lot of ground alongside a host of notable South Park participators, hitting on everything from that infamous Oscars acid trip to, yes, the power of Scientology.
Discussing their notorious 2005 "Trapped in the Closet" episode, the South Park creators and Isaac Hayes III, the son of the late soul legend who played Chef, suggested Scientology may have had a hand in the events that followed the episode's original airing. "When we did the Scientology episode, [Isaac Hayes, who was a Scientologist] came over, and I sat with him," Stone told THR. "It was like a day or two after, and it was pretty obvious from the conversation that somebody had sent him to ask us to pull the episode. It had already gone on the air, and we didn't tell him because we didn't want him to be held accountable. Plausible deniability."
According to Hayes III, the notion that his father would have quit the show makes the unfair suggestion that he was some sort of a hypocrite. "Isaac Hayes did not quit South Park; someone quit South Park for him," Hayes III said, adding that the family doesn't know who quit the show on Hayes' behalf while he recovered from a stroke. "My father was not that big of a hypocrite to be part of a show that would constantly poke fun at African-American people, Jewish people, gay people—and only quit when it comes to Scientology," Hayes III said.
In a statement announcing his departure from the series in 2006, the late Hayes (or, according to his son, someone on his behalf) blasted South Park's Scientology mockery as an affront to his history of civil rights activism. "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends, and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the statement asserted, as quoted by the Guardian. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."
South Park returns Wednesday night on Comedy Central to presumably anger more people.