A photograph taken with a cell phone camera, of three VHS tapes in their cardboard covers, lined up on white metal shelving so that the full cover of each tape is visible. The tapes are recordings of the "South Park" animated television series, Volumes 1, 2, and 3. Each cover prominently displays the "TV-MA" warning in the upper right corner, as well as a warning box below the volume number, indicating that these programs are for mature, audiences only and contain adult language and situations.


Going Down to South Park

Ever wonder what made “South Park” such a cultural phenomenon? As show character Kyle Broflovski might say, “You know, I’ve learned something today,” and so have we—thanks to exhibit developer and historian Jeremy Morton, who gives us a little personal insight into the show’s immense popularity.

Back in 1997, my mom was dating a guy named “Wog.” Well, his name was Paul, but everyone knew him as Wog, a nickname short for pollywog. I wasn’t sure about him—I mean, being eleven years old, I wasn’t sure of anything. But there were a couple things that made me like him. We battled on the arcade games at Red & Jerry’s for hours, and when I defeated him in Cruis’n USA he admitted I was the superior racer. And Wog told me about a new show he thought I’d love. It featured four foul-mouthed kids from a town called South Park.

Back then, there were no streaming services or video on demand. Since I’d missed the first four episodes, there was no way to catch up. But Wog had a solution. He’d recorded the episodes on VHS tapes. One by one I popped them into the VCR, and laughed harder than I’d ever laughed before. Before long I was one of those annoying kids constantly doing a Cartman impersonation.

August 13th marks the 26th anniversary of the “South Park” debut. For many people who’ve never been to our great state, the television series is probably what they think of when they imagine Colorado. It makes sense: For decades, show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have maintained a blend of satire and social commentary through the adventures of their sassy animated characters, talking about current events in a unique, humorous way. Others have tried, but few have managed to keep a show so funny for so long.

And Wog? Well, he had staying power too. He’s still my stepdad, we still call him Wog, and this year also marks the 26th anniversary of his first date with my mom.

Catch a “South Park” clip (from the fan favorite “Casa Bonita episode”!) in the Denver A to Z exhibition at the History Colorado Center.