Friday, May 2, 2008
UT Masters Class with Matt Stone
In Helping us understand our world, you're pretty much at the top."
Oh, That's too bad." - Matt Stone
Matt Stone graced the UT Masters Class tonight with host John Pierson at the legendary Austin City Limits studio on the six floor of the UT communications building. Very much like Inside the Actors Studio the setting was simple and intimate using the classic ACL backdrop and two chairs in talk show fashion. Students and AFS members watched in shear delight as Mr. Pierson picked the brain of one of the most influential social commentator's of our generation.
Stories of stardom could hardly best the quirky alternative rise to the top experienced by best friends Matt Stone and Trey Parker. A product of the 80's Stone and Parker did not have the vast networking capabilities of the internet to market themselves. Though, they do have plenty of wonderfully 80's references such as Cartman channeling Jamie A Escalante from Stand and Deliver. They did however do something quite remarkable. The spirit of Christmas Aka Jesus vs. Santa Clause was a short animation in somewhat bad taste that appeared around Hollywood in 95. Word spread like wildfire. People were making VHS copies. Then copying the copies until the the quality was almost not watchable on some. Today this would be called a Viral video and be on YouTube or something similar. Who were these guys? No one knew. Stone and Parker had decided not to put any credits. This added to the mystique. Mysterious funny as hell animators afoot in Los Angeles. They drove to Sundance with a with their finished film Cannibal the Musical and had no planned screenings. Yet, they managed play it up and make it work. This business is all about how badly you want it and how far you are willing to go to make that dream come true.
Then in 1997 the first episode of South Park airs, the rest is history. Literally an overnight success fame and more importantly, constant work slaps them in the face. This would be welcome considering Stone spent the entire OJ trial in front of his TV smoking cigarettes and eating burritos while waiting for their William Morris agent to call. Stone couldn't say how it all come together or if it would have ever happened if they had been part of the YouTube generation.
On a more present note, when asked about their experience in Hollywood during the writers strike Stone explained that it it did not affect the show except in commentary. South Park has always been non-union and as result he got to watch the strike come and go. He told us that many in Hollywood believed it to be a failure . Certainly not an "inspiration, not only to us but the entire organized labor movement." As spoken by Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East. Then he laughed mocking the WGA for being so boisterously cocky; as if they needed anymore work or money.
Southpark's success comes directly from their ability to be of the times. They can literally read a story in the newspaper, observe the public opinion and then turn around and comment just one week later. But, ultimately the story is about the boys stuck in a world of cliches and cultural faux pas that only they seem to see as ridiculous or damaging. It is this model that allows them to examine the social extremes to which many readily conform. Sometimes they agree with an extreme and other times they don't - but i am most happy when the finale lands somewhere in the middle because that is just where we are; stuck in the middle of never ending, randomly evolving social issues that always affect us whether we know it or not. And, the truth is - our reality is quite ridiculous at times.
Next year Southpark will go HD and right now you can view any episode up to the present on their official website.
"we succeed, but it's mostly because we are immature." - Matt Stone