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 Mr. Showbiz  

The South Park guy takes political incorrectness to new levels with a Mormon porn farce called Orgazmo

By Michael Szymanski

Trey Parker sort of lurches into the room with his straw-yellow hair strewn all over as if he just got out of bed, even though it's the middle of the afternoon. But you've got to forgive him for acting like a star: Parker is the toast of Hollywood, having given show-business execs a blueprint for reaching that all-important youth market with his crude, hilarious animated series South Park. These days, he's working with longtime writing partner Matt Stone on a feature-length movie version of the instant hit, due to reach theaters in April, while waiting for this weekend's theatrical release of his cult classic-to-be Orgazmo.

Some believe that with the new movie (actually filmed more than two years ago), Parker has gone from obnoxious to offensive: Orgazmo has been branded with the dreaded NC-17 rating. The story follows a straight-arrow Mormon missionary (Parker) who stumbles across a porn shoot while spreading the good word door to door in Los Angeles. Lured into the business by big bucks that can help him give his fiancée a proper wedding, he quickly becomes a star, and an ass-kicking superhero. Stone appears in a small but sexually conflicted role as Dave, the Lighting Guy.

Meanwhile, the four foul-mouthed third-graders that Parker and Stone created continue to shock, stun, and generally piss off just about everyone every week on Comedy Central. Among the classic South Park episodes the duo has donated to the cultural consciousness are a piece of talking poo called Mr. Hanky, a gay dog, aliens who give anal probes, and the recurring horrible deaths of a mumbling kid named Kenny

During an interview with Mr. Showbiz in Los Angeles recently, Parker's penchant for uncensored speech was on full display. Shortly after referring to the MPAA ratings board as "Nazis," he reflected on the research he did while writing the Orgazmo script, saying, "In the entire porn industry, I have not met anyone nearly as hateful and evil as the people in the Hollywood movie industry."

Care to read on?

You must be pretty upset about the NC-17 rating.

Yeah, that really bummed me out. What I told the MPAA rating board is that you're going to have college guys going to this thinking they're going to see the raunchiest film ever, and they're not. But it still has the NC-17 rating.

And for what?

Right, there's nothing. The only nudity is two guys' butts. And the only sex has everyone clothed and they're pretending to have sex. And the only violence is that kung fu bullshit. It is absolutely baffling!

And the MPAA didn't tell you what it didn't like?

They won't tell you, because they say if they tell you then they're a censorship group but that's ridiculous because they are a censorship group! What it comes down to is the language. That's it!

But even the language isn't all that--

Exactly, but there's no control. This group, the MPAA, is such a big scary thing in our society. They're Nazis, and they can say what they want and it goes. It's very scary. It's completely arbitrary. Throw this up against other movies like Seven or Boogie Nights and tell me which one is R-rated and which one should be rated X?

And Boogie Nights showed a penis!

Completely, and it had lots of sex and lots of nudity. It really makes no sense. I did cut stuff out and sent it back [to the MPAA] three times. Finally I said, "I don't know what else to cut guys." So I went back to October Films and said, "Well, look, I can't afford an editor. I can't keep cutting this thing and we have to do South Park."

So is the version that I saw last year at the Toronto Film Festival any different from the one that's going to be released this week?

It's not much different. You won't even notice it, because once they said NC-17, I started putting stuff back in.

Good for you. This is something that is obviously going to attain some type of cult status.

The thing is that when we made Orgazmo, we were thinking that in the best-case scenario we would get this thing into Sundance. It was a movie to go to festivals, because that was the joke—that in the midst of all these very serious films you would get this. It was not meant to be this big, widely released movie at all. So I'm glad that it's not.

There's a lot of sparring in Orgazmo, and your character is a martial arts expert. Did you really know how to fight?

Oh yeah, I've done tae kwon do from the time I was about 11 to the time I was 15.

So those were real moves?

Yeah, but I didn't do Orgazmo until I was what, about 25, so I had to re-learn things again.

Have you known any Mormons in your own life?

Oh yeah, I grew up in Colorado, so we had a lot of Mormons that we went to school with. Actually, my first girlfriend was Mormon. Every Mormon I've ever met is a great person, and to me this was a great character—I didn't go out of my way to make him give up his religion, like Joe's been stupid all this time. He remains a Mormon, he wins, he destroys evil, and stays a Mormon. The Mormons win.

Interestingly enough, when we were in pre-production on Orgazmo and we were living down in Playa del Rey [California], two Mormons came knocking on the door. I said, "Oh, thank you. Come on in," and it was perfect because I was working on those scenes where they were knocking on the doors. I sat there and listened to their whole spiels and afterward I said, "Thank you, I can't thank you enough. I'm writing a movie about you guys and you just totally helped me." They were just like, "Oh."

Is there going to be an Orgazmo sequel? You set up that possibility.

No. We have no business making a movie, and Orgazmo has no business being a movie. Part of the joke is that we're setting it up like we're going to do another one. That's really more of a joke than anything else.

Are you being apologetic for BASEketball?

Apologetic? Whatever do you mean?

Well, people didn't go see it. Weren't you disappointed about that?

I would have been more bummed if it opened huge and then people hated it, but the truth is that nobody saw it. Nobody went to go see that movie. That's OK. The whole thing about BASEketball is that [Matt Stone and I] had the experience of being involved with a studio movie without the pressures of being a director. It was a great opportunity—I wouldn't take it back for anything in the world. That was the best film school I've ever seen, just sitting there being able to watch [director] David [Zucker] all the time. He'd say, "OK, go stand over there and say this," and we'd go over and do it and watch what happened. We never took any huge ownership over BASEketball, you know. We didn't write and we didn't direct it. We were sort of just acting in it. And believe me, it didn't shock the hell out of us that people weren't ready to embrace us as Alec Baldwin.

Now, you have obviously been on some porn sets—

Yeah. [Laughs.]

Because I can tell that you know the lingo. You don't just know that people walk out and say, "I'm not going to do any ass-licking today," and not have been on a porn shoot.

Right, right, right. [Laughs.] When [Matt Stone and I] had the first draft of the Orgazmo script and were trying to make some money, we were PA's on a BBC documentary about American porn. There was a guy down there shooting named Tim Lake, a director. He was great. He read the script and said, "You'll have to come down to a video shoot." And we were all stoked. It was hysterical, and a lot of stuff just wrote itself, you know. We didn't have to make too much stuff up. [Laughs.]

What struck you as unusual about being on a real porn shoot?

What's funny is that being on a porn shoot is like being on a regular movie shoot in that for about five minutes it's really titillating and after about five minutes you're kind of like, "All right, what am I doing here?"

And you see how un-erotic it really is?

Yeah, and you see that it's really . . . well, however, I have to say that I've been on a couple sets that were like way hot. You know, like the director says, "Let's break for 10 minutes" and they didn't. There were definitely times that people were going crazy.

Do you have favorite porn stars?

Only people that I know, like Juli Ashton. She is such a great person. The first draft of script was that this story was about a very overbearing guy and all these women who were very weak, they were all drug addicts and dumb. And then I met some women in the business who were really cool and very colorful women.

And you changed the script?

Yeah. They were very powerful women, they liked what they were doing, and they were fine with it. I changed their characters, because the director Orbison, as powerful as he is with the guys, it's different with the women. When she says, "I'm not doing any ass licking," he's like "OK, OK," and backs away from her. That's really the way it is.

Have you met guys like Orbison in the adult industry?

Not really, he was more like the cliché bad guy. I just needed a good villain. In fact, in the entire porn industry, I have not met anyone nearly as hateful and evil as the people in the Hollywood movie industry. [Laughs.]

Do you remember any of the titles of the porn flicks that you worked on?

Yeah, yeah, Tim Lake's films were called Profiles for the Young and Horny and Sex for Life.

Do you think you would ever direct a porn movie? Even under a pseudonym?

If I did, I wouldn't do it with a pseudonym, I'm not embarrassed about it at all. If I did do it I wouldn't use a fake name. But I probably wouldn't do it, because I probably wouldn't be good at it. I only know comedy. I don't think I would be a good drama director—I don't have the patience. Everything I do is very sloppy and haphazard because I just want to get it over with and go onto the next project. That's how I work.

Do you hope to do more movies along the lines of Orgazmo?

You know, we've always just done what we find amusing at the time. We started doing little cartoons and we're probably going to do that for a while. We're sort of locked into South Park for awhile, which is fine because we love doing it. We'll just keep doing that and then if something else comes about, we'll try to do it.

How do you react to the attention you've had since South Park became a hit?

Well, the coolest advice I got kind of early on, just when South Park was taking off, was from [Beavis and Butt-head creator] Mike Judge, who said, "The biggest thing that you've got to learn now is to ignore all press."

So that's why you're here talking to me?

Believe me, that's not by choice.

Oh, thanks!

No really, good press and bad press. He said, "Don't let the good press go to your head, and the bad press you can't let it go to your heart." It's totally true. When South Park came out everybody loved it because we were nobodies, because we were one of them. Then South Park became huge and we became millionaires and everyone loves it and now everyone hates us. It's exactly what Mike said it would be. We don't really care; we ignore it. Luckily we were so prepared for it that by the time BASEketball came about we didn't care. Whatever anyone says about Orgazmo, we did it and who cares. Ignore the press and ignore the critics and just do your work is the biggest lesson you learn.

But these are your fans, these are not just critics.

Yeah, but the only way to truly ignore it is to ignore it all. That's what I'm saying, it's sort of a Zen philosophy: if you get too far into the good stuff, then the bad stuff is going to hurt you. But if this [good] stuff happens and you really ignore it, and you don't listen to the praise, then you don't have to listen to the criticism.

So do you explore the Internet on your own? Do you ever need to use it?

Not really. Sometimes we do when we need last-minute song lyrics. Before the show, both Matt and I were big computer freaks. But when it got to the point that no matter what we clicked on, there was a little thing of Cartman coming up, I swear to God, I got turned off to going onto the Internet anymore.

Where do you find things that are funny? Do you go out and look for them, or do funny things just sort of happen around you?

I sort of see the humor in everything. Especially when we're doing South Park—we're taking things that really shouldn't be funny and we really play it up, because everything's got a funny side to it. That's the beauty of it. What's so interesting about humor is that people view it in such a wrong way; people get so offended because they think if you're laughing at something, you hate it. If I laugh at a Mormon, they think I hate Mormons because I'm belittling Mormons. It's so untrue—like I said, every Mormon I've ever met is a great person. I totally respect them. But I can laugh at them and they can laugh at me. Because laughing doesn't mean that I hate you. It doesn't mean that I think you're stupid. As corny as it sounds, funny comes from fun. And it is more than just a philosophy: yeah, we're all fuck-ups, we're fucking up the rainforest, and that's funny, too. It's not that we hate the rainforest or that we don't care, but jokes about paving the rainforest—that's funny. We don't mean it.

Then there are the situations where someone like Barbra Streisand gets her nose bent out of shape (so to speak) about how you're making fun of her on South Park. What do you think of that?

To me, that specifically anti-Barbra Streisand is so over the top that that's the joke: we're going so far out of our way to make fun of her. You know what, I've never met Barbra Streisand. I really don't know what she's like as a person. I don't hate her. It's just funny to say you do.

And I'm sure you own Barbra Streisand tapes--

Uh yeah, well—funny is just irony, and the irony here is that everybody loves Barbra Streisand, and we came along and said, "Fuck Barbra Streisand," and that became funny.

Among the South Park kids, which one is most likely to grow up and be gay?

Uh, I think Stan, probably, because he's more sensitive and he's more in touch with love than anyone else is. You know what I mean? I think that's most likely.

And which one is most likely become a serial killer?

It's so obvious to say Cartman, but oh, it's Kenny, definitely.

Do you have trouble challenging yourself to become edgier with these episodes every week? You've hit on so many taboos now that we watch to find out where you could possibly go now. Is that difficult to do? Is there a lot of pressure? Is that frightening?

It is. But you know, we've never sat down and thought "What offensive thing can we do this week?" We never have. We've always started from a place of, "All right, what's another third-grade story we can remember?" And I would say, for instance, "I remember the biggest thing that happened to me in third grade was that my dog ran away," and we'd say "OK, let's make the dog gay." And it would sort of stem from there. I think that there are going to be shows that we don't do anything that's that offensive, and you're going to have shows that are a little more emotional. And every now and then we'll hit something and people will go, "Holy shit."

Do you worry about running out of ideas?

Of course we'll run out of stuff. But as long as society is going the way it's going, we'll always have a few more things to throw in.