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South Park Goes All In On The Penn State Jokes

The problem with South Park’s Penn State episode, which aired last night on Comedy Central, is that it didn’t really say anything. Usually, the show uses its offensiveness as a means to drive home some sort of larger point — Scientology is weird, the Catholic church is messed up, etc. — but “The Poor Kid,” an episode that centered around Kenny and Cartman being taken away from their parents and sent to a foster home, didn’t make any sort of point at all.

If you want to make rape jokes, specifically child rape jokes, you better be saying something. You better be making some sort grand statement on the institutional failure that is Penn State, and it better blow people’s minds to the point that they are talking about it the next day. The stakes aren’t high when you’re making fun of Tom Cruise being trapped in the closet, but in this case, they are.

Instead, you didn’t say anything, South Park. It was almost like your show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, sat down to try to write a Penn State episode, couldn’t figure out what they wanted to say, and settled for jokes that weren’t directed at anyone or anything. I felt uncomfortable laughing at them last night, because I read the grand jury report of what Jerry Sandusky is accused of doing to those kids, and it’s affected me. But at some point you have to laugh to alleviate the tension induced by the soul-crushing things you’ve been reading in the last week, and I thought I’d get something out of it in the end. I thought I’d be rewarded for laughing at dumb Penn State jokes with some sort of larger statement made in the show’s closing moments. When that statement wasn’t made, I was mad at myself and mad at the show.

I don’t know what South Park’s making fun of here. Is it making fun of people who make too many offensive Penn State jokes? Because I don’t think those people exist. Is it making fun of Penn State itself? If so, it didn’t do a good job — these are all throwaways. I don’t think it knows who it’s making fun of. I think it threw a bunch of shit at the wall, and hoped some of it would stick. I think when Parker and Stone are interviewed about this at some point over the next few weeks, and asked who or what this episode was criticizing, they’re going to pick the most convenient target at that moment. Because I’m pretty sure they had no idea who they were criticizing when they were writing this episode. And that shit is offensive.

[South Park Studios]

Follow Dan Fogarty on Twitter.

  • Pj62788

    You are a dumbass, dan

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LTOYPBQB46JSMMXS45BT7BLTSA Brian

    Finally SOMEONE takes the time to critique a cartoon on Comedy Central! Intellegent analysis is what we need of South Park. I wonder what other shows have been given the Dan Fogarty treatement? Family Guy? Freak Show? Archer? Maybe he’s gone a little old school with critiques of Hey Arnold! and Dexter’s Laboraty. I hope so. I’d love to read them. 

  • Anonymous


  • Mo-and-lance

    Actually it did make a point that I guess you are to dumb to pick up on… They were showing how the child services in this country rush into taking children away from parents over stupid reasons and throw them into homes that they know very little about. Doing this is messing up kids much more then they would be staying with their real parents.

  • Jim

    dan and brian are both dunbasses.  it was funny and if you didnt laugh at the penn state jokes because they were funny then your stupid.  there doesnt have to be a point to be funny and i think they accomplished what they set out to do and that is to make people laugh,

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4WAE7K5JACFGC6ASD3MPPSXQOI Anonymous

     It was their way of verbally humiliating a stupid college sports program that has gotten away with terrible thing for years and I think they get a damn good job. The colleges are getting rich of their “Student Atholetes!” in the words of southern Cartman. Modern day slavery and rape. One reason I don’t even watch sports its more corrupt than politics.

  • Cthulu48

    Dan, since you are a journalist, I figured you would have heard of the word “levity” before. Since you obviously haven’t, I’ll quote straight from the dictionary: LEVITY: lightness of mind, character, or behavior; lack of appropriate seriousness or earnestness. THAT was the point… that no one has joked about this situation, therefore no LEVITY has been introduced. With the awful alleged charges against Sandusky and the all-media-consuming story, not one person has cracked a joke without regards to being offensive. You wrote this article as if South Park SUPPORTED Sandusky (if he is, in fact, guilty… I think he is, but I haven’t seen ALL the evidence either) in their lambasting of Penn St last night. They were doing no such thing. The jokes were tasteless and crude, but, THIS IS SOUTH PARK! WHAT ELSE IS NEW? It’s too bad that you are a sports writer and don’t see the value of comedy, even in the worst of situations.

    Furthermore, you basically said (and I’m paraphrasing here): “You can’t joke about rape. Rape’s not funny.” Well, let me quote one of the greatest comedians of all time, George Carlin:  “I can prove to you that rape is funny… Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.”

    You should settle down and learn to take a joke. South Park most certainly was not looking for any Pulitzer Prize for literature nominations. They wanted to make people laugh in the midst of a horrible tragedy. In other words, provide some “levity”. Look it up. South Park forever!

  • Anonymous

    Good thing you weren’t around for my 1996 takedown of “Ahhh! Real Monsters.” You would’ve flipped.

  • Grab

    The point seems pretty obvious to me. Everybody thinks they are comedians because they can make a penn state
    joke (handing out headshots), but they are really just rehashed catholic
    priest jokes which are old  by now (just like yo mamma jokes).  Although i think they showed that if told correctly even old jokes can be funny.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, although that’s an important point to make, it has nothing to do with Penn State. 

  • anonymous111111

    I am 99% sure that they were criticizing society for putting children in foster homes where they are actually just as worse off as they were at home. Kind of like the parents who let their kids “spend the night” at Sandusky’s house and trusted his organization without really looking into it. If you paid any attention you would notice that no one laughs at the Penn State jokes at any point in the episode other than they guy telling them. They do not mock the victims. The satire is reflected at the end when the social worker realizes he put the children in a dangerous situation without even thinking about it. Also, I am still trying to figure out how you can be offended by a plot that you admitted you do not truly understand. If South Park is too complex maybe you should choose a different show to critique. 

  • Grab

    Also i believe they were saying that there is a general disregard for the well being of children. People put them somewhere they assume is safe (foster home in the show, Penn state programs in real life). But afterward they don’t check on their well being.  Hence the foster kids were being abused as they were at penn state. Again i think the point of the episode was pretty transparent

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LTOYPBQB46JSMMXS45BT7BLTSA Brian

    I wasn’t dissing South Park. Look at it this way: I love Lean Pockets, but who cares about some food critic giving us his opinion of Lean Pockets? They’re Lean Pockets. Just eat and enjoy.

  • Anonymous

    The “verbal humiliation” point is the best one I’ve heard so far. But SP is making jokes about kids getting raped (“… because at Penn State they like when you’re a little behind in the locker room!”), so I’d hope they’d aim a little higher than briefly making PSU administrators uncomfortable. 

    I love South Park. I just think they were lazy in attacking a topic that they shouldn’t have been lazy in attacking. 

  • MuscleBustedLabia

    So the joke “Joe Paterno doesn’t go into a police station?” wasn’t a point?  Saying the head of the football program AND the face of the university failed to go to the police about the abuse of children?

    Dan..you are dense. 

  • Anonimo

     i laughed again when you quoted that

  • Dirtydank

     it totally does. because people put children in positions that they assume to be safe. Much like the kids at Penn State. I thought that was an obvious parallel

  • Anonymous

    “You wrote this article as if South Park SUPPORTED Sandusky.”

    I stopped reading right there.

  • J Walsh 3bf

    No. The show did have a point. It’s making fun of all the wannabe comedians out there, that make a bunch of “zings” about current events in an effort to finally “make it” as a comedian. But they never will–because they are a dime a dozen and they give their head shots to the wrong audiences.

  • Anonymous

    Haha. Nah.

  • Cthulu48

    Doesn’t surprise me. You didn’t make it to the “L” section of the dictionary either (Levity, say it with me, levity… I noticed you don’t have a response to that part of my comment…). You just hear what you want and ignore everything else, don’t you? Way to be objective (In case you don’t know what “sarcasm” is either, the previous statement was sarcastic; You are too opinionated to critique a button-pushing cartoon).

    I just disagree with your asinine stance, and you should learn to take criticism if you are going to be a “journalist” who expresses controversial opinions.

    My advice: Get over it. Your article missed the point entirely…It’s very simple… Trey Parker and Matt Stone are having FUN creating their art (something your contributions are missing entirely…fun). But you can sit around and be offended all you want. South Park isn’t trying to please everybody, and they are definitely not trying to impress sports writers. South Park has a fan base that is unshakable, and quite frankly, you just don’t belong.

    South Park: Best animated series ever. The show crosses boundaries and challenges primitive thinkers to think outside of their little brain and look at situations in a new light. You are really missing out on a great time if this is your opinion of South Park having a little fun.

  • http://twitter.com/faithplusone Kevin Bragg

    Wow Dan, you should probably quit writing, because this is some of the dumbest shit that I have ever read.  I bet there are probably a lot of episodes of South Park that you get the point of, huh?  Yeah, that isn’t Trey and Matt’s fault bro, it is yours. 

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  • Jimmy james

    Yeah…. you know what South Park is, right?

  • Mocity08

    Yeah you’re an idiot, Dan. It was comparing how what the CPS does to children(puts them in much worse situations) is what happened at Penn State. Unnecessary and a stretch, it still made the point damn clear. I notice you didn’t say a word about the CPS even being in the episode. These guys made this show in less than a week, and you simply have the mindless task of commenting on it. At least remember everything in the episode next time, Dan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1642414556 Sonya Trejo

    Matt and Trey are geniuses. Here. You need it explained who they are making fun of? SOCIAL WORKERS. Were you even paying attention? It’s a social worker acting like a jerk. Social workers are idiots. Six percent of foster homes are abusive. The whole system is wrecked. Hello, it was poor and at-risk kids that were being raped by Sandusky. You think it was some sort of accident that he set up a charity for them? At-risk kids are easy pickings for predators. If we actually cared about child abuse, we’d address our screwed up foster care system and how many kids are living in impoverished conditions with stressed-out parents. 

  • jpleaser

    Sure, the Penn State jokes were put in because they are somewhat offensive and taboo; it’s a sensitive situation. But they weren’t just making a point to humiliate anyone affiliated with Penn State, they were also dissecting their own work. Cartman didn’t think his case-workers jokes were funny because they were topical, and yes, very lazy.

    Oh, and I wouldn’t doubt that there are people out there making jokes about the whole Penn State situation. I don’t have enough faith in humanity to believe that it’s off limits.

  • Dagonn3

    wow i’ve never seen a writer for a site actually go through the comments on his post and troll the people commenting on his writing. way to go fag-erty

    “Is it making fun of people who make too many offensive Penn State jokes? Because I don’t think those people exist.”

    that comment was what originally inspired me to post a response, but after seeing dan’s childlike attitude.. fuck it and fuck him.

  • Dagonn3

    Haven’t seen the episode yet, but if they’re making fun of social workers then perhaps the point of the episode was to comment on the fact that a detective and a government social worker visited with Sandusky in 1998, four years before McQueary saw him.

    Sandusky admitted to the detective and social worker that he had showered naked with a young boy, and bear-hugged the boy while the two were naked in the shower.

    The detective told Sandusky not to shower with boys anymore, and Sandusky agreed. End of investigation.

    So Sandusky abused children for 11 more years, and if the detective wasn’t going to stop this, the social worker definitely should. so, makes sense to talk shit on them.

  • Dirk

    It can’t be him. The person posting as “Dan_Fogarty”  is even more dense and simple-minded than the writer of the post, plus his/her responses are childish.

  • Nonoperationalstation

    If something, especially a cartoon, goes flying over your head, maybe not critique it and just shut up. ?

  • Guest

    I think the point in that episode was addressing the stupidity of an easy joke. If somethings shocking, then people will ride on it and then think they’re comedians. Really, I think  that on one level they’re saying, “aren’t state jokes as about as clever as poor jokes?” with Cartman playing off his  caseworker with poor jokes. Next time I hear a slew of any bigoted or shocking joke it’ll remind me of what that person is actually doing: they’re choosing an easy form of humor – or maybe I’ll laugh. I mean who can really know for sure? Is a Penn State joke really funny or isn’t it? You just can’t know for sure. It’s like GOD – who knows if he exists or not right?

  • Butter’s_Bottom_B*tch89

    Rape ISN’T funny… AT ALL!! Rape is worse than murder because when you rape someone, their soul (and everything they were before this happened to them) is murdered forever. At least if you are murdered, you don’t have to live with what has been done to you and what was subsequently taken from you as a result of this. However, just because South Park makes a few rape jokes now and then, doesn’t mean I will start hating the show or stop watching it altogether. I guess I should’ve posted this in your other comment below since you made the point that SP’s fan-base is unshakable. I guess what I am trying to say is even though they make rape jokes (which I do NOT find funny at all because I know first-hand what that does to a person), I will not start hating on the show or stop watching it because, like you said, the true SP fan-base is unshakable, and I am proud to be a part of SP’s fan-base, regardless of if I agree with everything they make fun of or not. If you don’t understand South Park, then you should probably find another show to critique. Just saying…

  • jcw

    While the joke itself was intentionally tasteless, and the reality of the situation was terrible the joke was sort of funny still in a dark way. Of course they knew who they were criticizing, and obviously they knew it would be offensive. There is no law which states you have the right to not be offended. They’re not afraid at all to push the limits, and they are comical geniuses because of it. South Park is awesome, and they don’t give a shit if they offend anyone. They intentionally do it to piss you off. Which is hilarious, it’s freedom of speach. If you don’t like it, too bad.

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