On this date in 1969, Trey Parker was born Randolph Severn Parker III in Denver, Colo. Parker grew up in Conifer, Colo. He attended the Berklee School of Music before transferring to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he studied film and music and met his long-time collaborator, Matt Stone. After leaving school, Parker directed a film called “Cannibal! The Musical” (1993). Parker and Stone collaborated on various projects, including an animated short entitled “The Spirit of Christmas” (1996), in which Santa Claus and Jesus fight about the true meaning of Christmas (the answer is that the true meaning of Christmas is presents, not fighting). This short led to a deal with Comedy Central to make the show “South Park,” (1997-present), an animated show, starring four third-grade kids: Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny (characters first explored in the short), which is frequently satirical and often employs crude humor. Parker and Stone do most of the male characters' voices themselves. The show is set in the fictional town of South Park, Colorado. Parker and Stone made a South Park movie in 1999, entitled “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut”. A song from the movie, “Blame Canada,” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. South Park has been nominated for several Emmys, and has won Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour) three times, for 2005's “Best Friends Forever,” the 2006's "Make Love, Not Warcraft,” and 2009's “Margaritaville.” The three-parter “Imaginationland” won 2008's Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour Or More). Parker is also a Tony winner, with "The Book of Mormon," another collaboration with Stone, winning nine Tonys in 2011, including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical.
Parker and Stone are not afraid to satirize sensitive subjects, including religion. Jesus (voiced by Stone) has appeared in many episodes, for example as a superhero and the leader of the Super Best Friends in an episode entitled “Super Best Friends,” which originally aired on July 4, 2001. This group also featured other religious figures, including Buddha, Lao Tse, Krishna, Joseph Smith, and Muhammed. (Islamic law traditionally prohibits visual depictions of their prophet.) In 2006, Stone and Parker's attempt to depict Muhammed in the two-parter “Cartoon Wars” in response to the Danish cartoon controversy was censored by Comedy Central. In the episode “200,” Muhammed is alleged to be totally hidden inside a bear suit inside a U-Haul. In Muhammed's original portrayal on the show (in “Super Best Friends”), he was a superhero with the powers of flame; however, he had since gained the superpower of not being able to be made fun of, which Tom Cruise and other celebrities are shown trying to obtain for themselves in “200” and its follow-up, “201.” (Death threats over Muhammad's portrayal in “201” received in 2010 led “Super Best Friends” to be pulled from syndication, four years after “Cartoon Wars” was censored.) Because South Park operates on a short production schedule, with each episode only taking about a week to produce, some of its most controversial episodes go to air before being met with by disapproval from Comedy Central's corporate parent, Viacom. “200” and “201,” for example, were not censored in broadcast, but are not shown in reruns and are not available to watch on South Park's official website. Episodes satirizing Mormonism (“All about the Mormons?” (2003)) and Scientology (“Trapped in the Closet” (2005)), among other episodes satirizing religion, however, remain available. (Video links are US only.)
(For more on Parker, Stone, and Mormonism, see Matt Stone's Freethought of the Day entry.)