Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
I know I’m late on this one, and I do apologize. The last few weeks were difficult on another professional front, and it’s required my full attention. Now, finally, thanks to the magical extra hour of Daylight Savings Time, I am able to finish all my outstanding transcriptions and bring you two very different interviews in one day. First up is this one, done with Matt Stone and Trey Parker a few days before the release of TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE. What struck me most was how they didn’t seem completely exhausted, like any normal person would have been after the insane schedule they’ve been keeping all year. In fact, they seemed positively chipper from the moment I walked into the room at the Beverly Wilshire Regent Hotel.
Moriarty: Hey, guys, good to see you.
MATT: How you doin’, man?
TREY: How you doin’?
MATT: Thanks for that review. Thanks for getting the movie.
Moriarty: So I guess by now you’ve seen THE DRUDGE REPORT, and you’ve seen Sean’s big angry open letter to you...
MATT: (delighted) Yeah.
TREY: (equally delighted) Yeah.
Moriarty: ... so are you going to pull a quote and run it at the top of your ads for opening weekend?
TREY: The great thing about this is that on the one hand, he’s totally mad in his letter, and on the other hand, there’s nothing he could have done to help us out more. We couldn’t have bought that.
MATT: Paramount executives and our lawyer literally called me up and said, “Did you guys write that letter?”
TREY: It sounds just like Sean Penn in our movie.
MATT: It sounds like some deranged satirical version of a person.
Moriarty: My favorite part is when he invites you to go to Iraq with him.
TREY: “I went to Iraq. I went to Iraq.”
MATT: It’s exactly like what’s in the movie. It’s so fucked up.
Moriarty: So what are the changes? I saw the rough-cut on Sunday [which I reviewed here], and then I saw the finished version of it last night, and the one new thing I noticed was the Alec Baldwin song at the very, very end. How late was that added to the film?
MATT: We did that on... Tuesday. Tuesday night, at 4:00 in the morning.
Moriarty: It’s hilarious.
TREY: We were up for, like, 24 hours doing the sound mix, and we had all this down time, but we had to be awake. So it was, like, 2 in the morning, and we’d been up around the clock...
MATT: We’d been up forever.
TREY: ... and they were like, “What do you want to do over the credits?” And I was like, “Well, I want to marry all the songs together like a musical.” So the credits were so long on that movie that even after we did that, they came to us and were, like, “You’re still two minutes short.” And we’re, like, “Sweet. Let’s go write a fucking song.” So we literally went into the ADR studio, and we got Bruce and said, “Grab your guitar,” and he got his guitar and we just went in there and did like, “Ooooommmmmm...”
MATT: We just made noises. It was so totally fucked up, because we’d been up for long and drank so much coffee.
TREY: And it’s great, because it ended up being the entire backstory to the movie.
Moriarty: I told Matt after I saw the film the first time, that’s my favorite set-up to a sequel that will never happen... just the idea of Kim Jong Il being a cockroach and crawling out of his body at the end...
TREY: Yes, he’s a Zypod from the planet Curron, and they’re at war with the Balbags.
MATT: That’s so fucked up. (laughs)
Moriarty: Okay, so how much of the ratings battle do you think was revenge for SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT?
MATT: It’s hard to say. I mean, there’s definitely an element of it.
Moriarty: It’s ridiculous. If you look at what’s on Comedy Central on an average episode of CRANK YANKERS...
TREY: Comedy Central would show that sex scene.
Moriarty: They do really raunchy stuff with puppets all the time, and there’s the sense that they understand that because they’re puppets, it’s just totally inoffensive. This felt vindictive.
TREY: It was. Totally.
Moriarty: How many times did you have to go back?
TREY: Eight times.
MATT: It was eight or nine times.
TREY: They’re unbelievable. And the fact is, this was totally arbitrary. And because it came down to the thing where we had to make the prints...
MATT: It came down to the last possible hour.
TREY: ... and they were like, “Okay, you’ve got to cut it again and send it to the MPAA.” So we had to go, leave all the shit we were already doing, and actually go and cut out even more of the sex scene. And then it was like, “Okay, it’s getting sent to Mabel.” Mabel somebody was going to take it home.
TREY: It was. It was this one little old lady who was taking the VHS home to watch it, and had to decide in the morning what rating to give it. Seriously. All this time, all this money, and it comes down to fuckin’ Mabel. That is... that is just... and Mabel, by the way, is totally fucking unaccountable, you know? No one knows what he real name is, but one little old lady went and decided what the rating on that film is, and basically... um... that’s just... really, really fucked up.
MATT: I feel like once you’ve got an R, you should be able to do whatever you want.
Moriarty: Was there any other part of the film they had any problem with?
MATT: Nope. Not one note on the whole film. Just the sex scene. You saw the original version of that scene.
Moriarty: It’s not substantially different. They just managed to mute the point.
MATT: Right. They just cut the funniest stuff out.
Moriarty: Exactly. What made it funny to me was the sheer excessiveness of it.
Moriarty: Just the idea of the puppet sutra, seeing how many ways they could do it...
TREY: Yeah. Yeah.
MATT: So fuck them. We’ll just do it on the DVD.
TREY: The crazy thing is that we could just wait two weeks and put it on the Internet and everyone would see it anyway. So there you go, MPAA. Big victory.
Moriarty: I have to ask, because I’m still amazed by the schedule you guys pulled off this year...
MATT: Yeah... me, too.
Moriarty: ... what keeps you focused during this? I’ve already started seeing commercials on Comedy Central for the new season of SOUTH PARK.
MATT: Oh, god, we don’t want to hear that...
Moriarty: Does that pressure ever mount up?
MATT: Oh, yeah.
TREY: This has been the most stressful year of our lives. It’s just been like abuse for us...
MATT: So fucking stressful.
TREY: Especially the post-production schedule. We were already exhausted from making the movie. It’s been like going through the eye of the needle.
MATT: And not just us. Our sound crew would be up for four days straight, around the clock, and toward the end, there was no sleep for any of us, just trying to get the film done. The worst part was when you’d been up for 48 hours, and you knew you were going to be awake for 48 more. Honestly... it fucking sucked. But what kept us going was the thought, “Goddammit, we’ve spent 3 years on this film, and this is the last six days.” You know what I mean? You hit that stretch, that last two weeks, and you don’t want to fuck it all up in the last six days. And you can. You can just fuck it up. You can do something stupid and waste your time and just not get a good mix on one reel. That’s the only thing that kept me going. “We’ve spent so much time on this. Now don’t fuck it up.” I’d just keep telling myself that. “Don’t fuck it up.”
Moriarty: One of the great things about the film is the sound design. If you close your eyes and just listen to it, you could be listening to a Bruckheimer movie...
TREY: So much of the fun of it for me, because I love music... it was so much fun putting the temp score down on those scenes. And I love the score. Like I love the score to the blow-job scene. That’s genius. And the score to him throwing up. I think it’s one of the most genius things because the score is super-important and bombastic, and you’re... if you’re just listening to that score... if you just played that score to somebody and said, “Okay, what do you think this is the score to? What’s going on in this scene?” And then you were told it was for a puppet throwing up... you’d be like, “What?”
MATT: But that’s what is so great about it. That’s his purging scene. Even though he’s just a puppet, we’re treating it like... he’s puking... it’s been in a ton of movies, and that’s him... when he sucks Spottswoode’s dick, that’s him getting back in the plane in TOP GUN. It’s the triumph of “Fucking, you’re back!” You know what I mean? And playing that music, it’s just like, “What’s happening?” It’s so fucked up.
Moriarty: A lot of people have written me since we posted the news about the change in composers, asking why. Marc Shaiman’s been such a great collaborator for you.
TREY: Absolutely he has.
Moriarty: So what happened? Was it a time issue?
TREY: It was a combination of things. And we still worked with Marc on the songs. It’s just that we got to the end of it and we needed... y’know, Marc is such an artist. Marc always brings his voice to what he does. And it kinda came down to the point where we said, “The last thing this movie needs is another voice.” It’s already do hard to hold onto, and the only thing that keeps it leveled it out is this music that you’re familiar with. Wallpaper music. You know what I mean?
Moriarty: That’s interesting, because having seen the film with the temp track, your composer [Harry Gregson-Williams] did a great job of really mimicking the temp tracks. He nails the exact tone of all the action films you’re making fun of.
TREY: We needed that.
MATT: 90% of the jokes in this movie... I don’t want to say the central joke, but the conceit of the whole thing is the music against the dialogue. The music never points to the dialogue. That either works or it doesn’t, and if that doesn’t work, then the whole movie doesn’t work. It would all fall apart.
Moriarty: It’s great that he’s one of the Hans Zimmer guys and he came out of that whole school.
TREY: Oh, it was great. We were at this studio...
MATT: We met him.
TREY: Yeah, we met Hans Zimmer, and he was like, [with heavy accent] “I’m so glad you are making this movie. Maybe you can drive a stake through the heart of the genre. Then I’ll never have to write this score again.”
MATT: He said when he was scoring PEARL HARBOR, the would send him scenes, and he’d be like, “You’re not really going to leave this in the movie, are you?”
TREY: “He’s not really going to say that, is he?”
MATT: He’s a cool guy.
TREY: He was totally cool.
Moriarty: Knowing how much you were rewriting as you were shooting, is this 100% of what you wanted?
MATT: Oh, god, never.
TREY: No, it never is.
MATT: Towards the end, I was like, “I would literally cut off my hand if we could just have one more week.” And if we’d had one more week, we would have been up for the last four days anyway. There’s so many things I would change, but that’s true of every single episode of SOUTH PARK anyway. It just gets to be the morning that it’s going on, and there you go.
TREY: Eventually you just have to let go.
Moriarty: One of the choices that surprised a lot of people... in fact, when I was talking to Harry, my co-editor on the site... he seemed shocked that you didn’t get into election material. I really like the fact that it’s not specifically geared at this moment. So many SOUTH PARK episodes are very topical... very timely...
Moriarty: This seems to stand outside a moment.
TREY: We wanted to make a movie about America. As soon as we brought George Bush into it, it made it seem like we were just making a movie about the last few years. The trust is that America being the police of the world… we could have made that movie in the Clinton era. People were accusing us of being the world’s police when Carter was President. The idea of being the world’s police was around well before Bush, and it’ll be around no matter who gets elected. Every time we talked about making those puppets or we tried to write a scene with Bush or Kerry, it felt like a bad SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE sketch. It felt to us like this movie was bigger than that. What I really loved about the movie... what I think we’re both starting to love about the movie... is that nobody in the movie ever says, “America.” It’s always “Team America.” Team America is always a metaphor for America. So at the end, when we’re talking about pussies, dicks, and assholes, it would have really confused it if you had Bush in the movie. It would be like we’re saying he’s the dick. But we’re not. We’re saying America’s role in the world no matter who’s in charge, whether it’s a liberal or a Republican... we’re the dicks, regardless, and we’re going to be. The film deals with that and with the emotion of how we as Americans feel about that. That, to us, was just so much more interesting than than... who gives a fuck about George Bush? (laughs)
MATT: I think it also made it so that, hopefully, you think about your own politics, and to think about your own emotions and stuff. It’s not so much to answer the question for you. It’s not like, “Here’s what you should do.” It’s more like “Here’s a bunch of shit, and how does that make you feel?” And as soon as you put George Bush in it, everyone would go, “Oh, okay, that’s the side I’m on, and now this doesn’t apply to me.” Who wants to make a movie just ripping on George Bush when you can make a movie about America, or the emotions behind America?
Moriarty: It was fascinating to watch reactions roll in after the studio sneak. We got flooded with reviews... 75 or so in the span of about 12 hours... and there are people who are obviously conservative who are offended, people who are conservative who felt like it was for them...
MATT: Right. Sure.
Moriarty: ... people who are liberal who were deeply offended...
Moriarty: And there were liberals who were sure you were on their side.
Moriarty: That seems like a really difficult balancing act to pull off. This year, especially, I’ve seen more people than ever step up and insert their voices into this dialogue that’s going on about what’s happening in the country. It’s bold to step outside that and attack anybody.
Moriarty: You seem to feel free to roast everybody equally.
TREY: Everybody needs a good roasting.
MATT: It’s been pretty funny on both sides.
TREY: And it comes from an honest belief we have, which is... George Bush doesn’t know what’s going on. Michael Moore does not know what’s going on. And Alec Baldwin definitely does not know what’s going on. Basically, this shit is gigantically complicated, and for us to think that we, as cartoon makers...
TREY: ... to think that we could say, “Listen, here’s what’s up. Listen to us.” Dude, we don’t know fuck-all about Middle East peace policy. You know what I mean? And it’s almost like right now, as an American, you’re put in a position where you have to take a side. And you have to either say, “I love George Bush” or “I love Michael Moore,” and there is nothing in-between. And it’s basically like we’re saying, “It’s okay to say you don’t know.” Because we don’t fucking know.
Moriarty: What’s amazing is you talk to ROLLING STONE and you say that, basically, and then... and it’s almost ridiculous to say this out loud, but then you get attacked by P. Diddy in the press for saying, perhaps, if you don’t have an informed opinion...
MATT: That’s so great. It’s been a great year. We’ve gotten attacked by P. Diddy, Sean Penn and the White House.
Moriarty: It’s like your film has spilled over the edges of the frame into life.
MATT: All of this is over that retarded “Vote Or Die.” We talked to ROLLING STONE, and it’s not even something that’s in the film. It’s just something we were pissed off about. Actually, we weren’t even pissed off. It’s just something we were talking about one night. We were just sitting there going, “That ‘Vote Or Die’ thing sure is stupid.” You know what I mean? Why would you encourage uninformed people to go to the polls? And both sides are doing it. It’s not just Democrats. The Republicans are doing it through churches. And all they do is try to encourage uninformed people to vote based on emotion and go vote for their side. And our point was, maybe if you don’t know what’s going on, don’t be shamed into voting. Sit it out. That’s fine. Now, if the campaign was “Get informed and then vote. Get informed. Learn what’s going on in the world.” I think that would be a great campaign. I just think it’s irresponsible to encourage uninformed people to get out there and pull the lever. I don’t want them voting. I know people in my life that I don’t think should vote. I think they should have the right, obviously. They’re Americans. But they have never, ever picked up a newspaper. They don’t even really care, but all of a sudden, they’re like, “Oh, my god, I love P. Diddy.”
TREY: “We’ve got to go vote! P. Diddy’s going to kill us if we don’t vote!” (laughs) It’s so stupid.
MATT: (laughs) So that’s why we have two demagogues to choose from. Ultimately, both parties want people to be uninformed so they’ll vote based on pure emotion. So for people who want to think about it and consider things carefully, they get crowded out, and that’s why we have Bush or Kerry sitting in the White House. Because of people like P. Diddy, who get retards out to vote. Ultimately, the electorate is made up of too many people who are uninformed. So... yeah... Sean Penn got pissed off at us for that.
TREY: That’s the short answer. (laughs) Seriously, that letter makes no sense.
MATT: It was complete alien logic. I read it thinking, “You’re a great actor, but you have no reasoning skills.”
Moriarty: I wouldn’t imagine you’re worried about the reactions from any of the celebrities. (to Matt) Now, you’re actually in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE...
Moriarty: ... but it’s not a particularly political appearance. It’s more just you speaking about your experience growing up in the area.
MATT: I was very careful doing that. The only reason I spoke in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE was because I grew up in Littleton. When I was talking to Michael Moore, I would talk about things I knew about. I talked about SOUTH PARK. I’ll talk about SOUTH PARK all day. I know all about that. I talked about growing up in Littleton, if it was any different from any other area. Those were the things I know about. He would try to steer the conversation to gun stuff, and I would give my opinion. You know, growing up in Littleton, everyone had guns, for instance. Just a fact. Everyone had guns. I am an expert on growing up in Littleton, and I’m an expert on SOUTH PARK. Those are the two things I know about.
Moriarty: The only person you satirize in the film worth being worried about is Kim Jong Il, because he very likely has nuclear weapons.
TREY: And he does have people kidnapped and killed.
Moriarty: And the guy loves movies and Western culture.
TREY: Oh, he’ll see it.
MATT: We can’t wait for him to see it.
TREY: I think when “I’m So Ronery” starts to play... he’ll cry. He’ll be like, “Oh... wow... I am lonely.”
Moriarty: Was there ever a discussion about using a fictional bad guy instead of Kim Jong Il?
TREY: The original bad guy in the original script was Alec Baldwin. It was just Team America versus Alec Baldwin. It was pretty funny. But we just started talking about Kim Jong Il, and it was like, “Oh, man, he would make such a great puppet.” It really just came down out of that. You know, this little short puppet with big glasses. It seemed perfect.
Moriarty: It’s hilarious. I love the side view of him.
TREY: Oh, yeah.
MATT: It’s a great puppet. He’s the best character in the film.
Moriarty: Thanks for sitting down at the end of this unbelievable process, just before gearing up on the show.
MATT: Where’d you see the film last night?
Moriarty: We went to Paramount. I took my wife, and we took my mother-in-law, this sweet little South American lady... who just happens to have the raunchiest sense of humor.
MATT: Really? Sweet!
Moriarty: She just rolled through the entire movie.
MATT: You saw it on film this time, right?
Moriarty: Yep. Finished.
MATT: It’s so cool looking, isn’t it?
Moriarty: Bill Pope’s work is great, and the sets are amazing.
MATT: It’s such a different experience, watching it on film.
Moriarty: The final version is really lush, especially considering your schedule. Leaving the strings in... I just love the handmade low-tech feel of it.
TREY: It’s very handmade. Very handcrafted.
Moriarty: And the actual jokes about the puppeteering, like when she’s trying to shush him and she can’t quite point at his mouth. Or when she tries to point at his heart and doesn’t.
MATT: I like the fact that she looks at her hand.
Moriarty: Like she’s puzzled. Some great subtle work by your puppeteers. They’re really the unsung heroes on the film...
MATT: You should definitely say that.
Moriarty: One last question, actually. When you work with Pam Brady as a writer, she rarely gets any press or any outside attention. What is it she brings to the table? Because you guys have very distinct comic voices, and looking at something like the painfully funny MR. WONG that she did...
TREY: The truth is, we just work well together. We make each other laugh.
MATT: The way we work, from early on, is we just sit around and talk about shit.
TREY: That is worth so much. When it comes to sitting down and writing, that’s the really hard part, but... but just sitting around and talking about shit is where you get the best stuff. Bottom line is, she’s somebody who thinks the exact same shit is funny that we do, basically.
MATT: We make each other laugh. We talk to her all the time.
TREY: I think great comedy comes from people just hanging out trying to make each other laugh.
Moriarty: I love that you guys work with the same people throughout... people like Anne Garafino and Pam Brady... and to have that continuity in all the things you’ve done...
MATT: You have to.
Moriarty: ... that’s probably why you’re able to pull off a schedule like this.
MATT: Oh, man, without Anne and Frank [Angnone], for instance, two people that we brought from SOUTH PARK... it’s not even close. We would not have gotten the movie done. Anne and Frank are...
TREY: They’re our family.
MATT: Anne... and Frank... Anne Frank. Huh. Weird.
Moriarty: And where in the midst of all of this did you fit in the new HOW’S YOUR NEWS? And how involved were you?
MATT: We weren’t involved. All we did is, I made a call to Trio and hooked them up with Arthur [Bradford]. Then Arthur went and did it. We did nothing. Nothing. I mean, I actually have a rough cut of it in my car that I haven’t even looked at. Arthur asked me to look at it and give him notes, but we literally had no time. I made, I think, two phone calls. That’s all we did.
Moriarty: I love that you’re still helping them, though.
MATT: Oh, sure. Wait till you see this stuff. It’s fucking amazing.
Moriarty: I love the idea of them in a political arena.
TREY: It’s like, Sean and Hillary Clinton. Or Bobbi Bird with Al Franken.
MATT: It’s so awesome.
And with that, the press day ended. I was the last scheduled interview that afternoon, so we all headed downstairs to claim our cars. The few weeks since the interview has obviously seen the release of the movie, the season premiere of SOUTH PARK, complete with a very funny riff on P. Diddy’s “Vote Or Die” campaign, and the election of George Bush. My guess is... we’ve got a great season of the show ahead of us. My thanks to Paramount and to Matt and Trey for their time.