Thursday, March 02, 2006

The South Park of the South

What does it take to make it in the entertainment world? A Lafayette-based animator has found out:

It's best that Marc Moceri can't officially divulge the plot of his pilot for Comedy Central -- the synopsis alone is too graphic for print. As he outlines the story about a blood-thirsty space vampire of a different sort, he quickly catches himself saying a word he's not fond of letting slip past his lips.

"That's vulgar," he says, stopping the graphic flow of details. Strangely, Moceri is the creator -- literally based out of an extra bedroom in his Lafayette apartment -- of Sick Animation Dot Com, a site featuring cartoons making South Park on its worst day look like a kindergarten primer for manners and civilized behavior. For his site, the 26-year-old University of Louisiana alumni creates very simple cartoon clips ripe with foul language and toilet and genitalia humor, almost always ending with a punch line of man-on-man erotic behavior.


"I think they (professors) all disliked my work -- not because of subject matter. It was all the drawing and stuff. I'm a terrible drawer, a terrible artist, and I didn't make an effort what-so-ever to perfect my craft," Moceri says about the program. "I really didn't care at all. I just wanted to do animation, and I felt like, man, you don't have to draw, when in actuality it's a huge part."

I've been to his site, watched his animation and browsed through his strips. Saying Moceri's work deals with homosexual behavior is (and I'm sure he'd find this funny) like calling the Grand Canyon a hole. It consumes pretty much every pixel of his creations.

The Times article compares Moceri's work favorably to South Park, a spot-on comparison. They're both in the same poorly drawn, profane-for-profanity's-sake, homophobic vein. "Oh, look at the poorly drawn ghost! He's so....GAY!" Har de har har har.

I understand that I appear to be eating sour grapes here. After all, this dude's currently the darling of National Lampoon, and he manages to make a full-time living as an animator, which is quite a feat anywhere, let alone in Lafayette. I will give him major props for that.

Still, the humor typified in works like this escapes me. Maybe it's because it's so prevalent in this day and age. All I know is that several devices, unfortunately far too common in today's comedy, should be retired as punchlines:

--The word "fuck." I've seen exactly one instance where the word "fuck" was an effective punchline: at the start of his Shakespearean documentary Looking for Richard, Al Pacino walks onto the stage in an empty theater and silently scans the seats. Sitting alone amid the emptiness is William Shakespeare himself. Already nervous about the production he's going to put on, Pacino mutters to himself, "Fuck!" Cue title cards. It's a far more hilarious moment than anything Eric Cartman has ever done.

Keep in mind that I'm no prude; George Carlin and Chris Rock are two of my favorite comedians ever. But like with all smart comedians, they curse as punctuation, and to great effect. Just like with anything else, profanity needs a sparing context.

--Randomness. Adult Swim promos, anyone? I don't get them. Some girl's dancing in a corner while a guy stares at his laptop. I know people who think that is the funniest thing ever, and yet it escapes me. And I will add to my payroll the first person who can explain Jerkcity to me.

--Bad drawings. Beavis and Butthead did this extremely well, and South Park made it into a cottage industry. But it takes genuine talent to do bad drawings well, and that fact seems to have escaped many of today's imitators, who really are bad artists. They doodle pictures unfit for a third-grade cursive tablet, add one outrageous punchline and wink at their genius. If William Hung ever gets tired of the music biz, cartooning should be his next vocation.

--South Park. Please, Comedy Central, kill that show. It ridicules gays, Jews, disabled people and activists, and makes an anti-hero out of a racist, obnoxious third-grader. Its punchlines weren't funny the first time, let alone the 1,367th time, and its crude animation is "complemented" by the most obnoxious voicework this side of Walton and Johnson.

People say, "Oh, it's such a satirical show, though! It makes fun of popular culture and social conventions." Which I suppose it does, if you count that South Park injects topical events into hackneyed storylines:

Stan: Hey, I just saw Brokeback Mountain!
Kyle: Brokeback Mountain? The gay cowboy movie?
Eric: Those cowboys were f*cking fags, man! Fags!
Kyle: I hear the movie really gets you in the end.
Kenny: Mffff fffffmm! [Gets smashed by a runaway giant phallus]
Stan: Oh my God, they killed Kenny!
Eric: F*ckin' bastards! F*ck! F*ck!
Timmy: TIM-MAY!

"TIM-MAY!" Yeah, ha ha ha. I never got tired of hearing that at the kegger.

South Park is but one example of a school of humor I've never understood. I guess calling it a school is a stretch, because pigeonholing it doesn't do it justice. But I'd describe it as any of the self-aware, poorly drawn, homophobic, random, catchphrase-heavy, gross-out-for-its-own-sake humor.

Some of you might say, "But Ian, you're a fan of SNL, Family Guy and Anchorman. You even find Tenacious D funny!" And you'd be right about that, because those are generally done well. Even with Tenacious D, there's a dimension of playing it straight that makes the humor explode. South Park, on the other hand, is all self-conscious cuteness; their idea of fighting the FCC is to have every other word bleeped. If your idea of bucking The Man is making your show so annoying that it can aggravate from five rooms away, then perhaps you should rethink your mission.

No wonder Comedy Central now has the uncensored Secret Stash. Thank God. If I wanted to hear constant bleeping, I'd dial a phone. Moceri would be perfect in that time slot, and I wish him well. I know he'll succeed, because he knows his audience. Heh heh heh. Huh huh huh.


Neil Shakespeare said...

Worse and more infantile than 'Terence & Philip'?

yournamehere said...

Sometimes I like South Park and sometimes I don't. I thought the movie was very funny and some episodes make me laugh, but the lack of subtlety can get annoying.