After weeks of successful previews, The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway last month to critical adulation and talk that it could be this season’s smash hit. The early success of a vulgarity-laden musical from the creators of South Park should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s previous collaborations. As Parker told Jon Stewart, in an interview before the show’s opening, the two have attempted to cram music into every project they’ve ever worked on—usually in the face of pushback from studio executives.
Their first film, Cannibal! The Musical—made while they were students at University of Colorado (where Parker majored in music)—evokes the cheerful optimism of Rodgers and Hammerstein while telling a gory comic fable about infamous man-eater Alferd Packer. The film version of South Park, which took the form of a musical despite the initial objections of Paramount, has one of the most memorable songbooks of any film made in the last 20 years, including the Oscar-nominated “Blame Canada” and a song that would later become the title of a Food Network program. Stone and Parker’s last movie, Team America: World Police, included a diverse assortment of songs parodying everything from bombastic Broadway numbers, to clichéd rock power ballads, to overzealously patriotic country songs. South Park, meanwhile, has featured more than 150 songs, song parodies, and song snippets in its 14 seasons on Comedy Central.
Given this vast body of work, Parker and Stone might rightly be called the greatest musical satirists of their generation. And while much of their music is as crude as you’d expect from the creators of “Uncle Fucka,” it’s frequently cut with a surprising sweetness—a spoonful of sugar to help the profanity go down.
Click here for a video slide show on the musical canon of Trey Parker and Matt Stone .