South Park is gearing up to debut its 20th season. Yes, 20th. Its season debut will put the beloved animated series in a three-way tie for the second longest-running scripted U.S. primetime TV series alongside the classic Gunsmoke and the ripped from the headlines dun-dun chime of Law & Order. (The title of longest, of course, goes to The Simpsons because, as always, Simpsons did it!)
Over the past 20 years, the show has cranked out countless jaw-dropping moments, hilariously crude jokes, and scathing satire, yet Trey Parker and Matt Stone continue to make South Park a refreshing, smart pop culture mainstay that’s as resonant and topical as ever. In honor of the four boys and their expansive community residing in that quiet little mountain town, here’s a look back at South Park‘s most amusing cannabis moments to-date.
Mr. Mackey’s Cannabis Sample Disappears and He Goes Full Hippie (Season 2, Ep. 4)
During one of school counselor Mr. Mackey’s famous “Drugs are bad, mkay?” speeches to the class, the cannabis sample he was using as a visual aid disappears and he’s fired. Despondent, he turns to drugs, marries a hippie, is captured by the A-Team, and is forced into rehab. (Don’t worry, he gets his job back. Oh, and Mr. Garrison is the one who stole his stash.)
Standout Quote: “This is all I’m going to say about drugs. Stay away from them. There’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s called college.” – Chef
Fun Fact: This is the first time you see Mr. Mackey with a normal-sized head instead of his typical balloonish noggin, as once he loosens his necktie, his head deflates to a regular shape and size.
Randy Is Not Pleased With the Kids’ Boy Band, Suggests Marijuana Instead (Season 4, Ep. 9)
Cartman wants to start a boy band so he can make $10 million, so he puts together a group called Fingerbang, much to Randy’s irritation. Stan’s dad suggests that instead of pursuing music, they opt for a different hobby, saying, “Well, there’s plenty of other interesting things you can do. Have you ever tried marijuana?” We ultimately learn that Randy was trying to protect the boys from the harsh realities of being in a boy band, as he was once a member of a world-famous group called the Ghetto Avenue Boys that kicked him out once he became too old.
Standout Quote: “Hell no! I’m not being part of a FOUR member boy band! We’ll look stupid!” – Kyle
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Fun Fact:This scene, where Randy angrily destroys a china cabinet, is a hat tip to a scene in Star Trek: First Contact, in which Captain Jean Luc Piccard angrily destroys a display case with his phaser. Acting!
Towelie, Our Favorite Cannabis Smoking Towel, Debuts (Season 5, Ep. 8)
The boys get caught up between two factions that are after a lab-modified towel designed to be extra-absorbent. Unfortunately, the towel, dubbed “Towelie,” also really loves cannabis. Nonetheless, he manages to vanquish his Evil Towel foe, save the boys, and help them recover their stolen gaming console while the Tynacorp company that created him explodes. How’s that for defying stoner stereotypes?
Standout Quote: “You’re the worst character ever, Towelie.” – Cartman to Towelie (Towelie’s response: “I know.”)
Fun Fact: In 2011, South Park fans voted “Towelie” as their 11th favorite episode of all time. (Rightfully so, because Towelie is delightful.)
Stan’s ‘Future Self’ Tries to Scare Him Away From Drugs (Season 6, Ep. 16)
After Stan volunteers to throw away a joint the boys find in the woods, he’s visited by his “Future Self” to warn him that drugs will turn him into a loser and ruin his life. Butters’ “Future Self” appears as well, but the boys eventually discover that these personas were actually from a company called Motivationcorp and hired by their parents to scare them away from drugs. To get back at his parents, Butters hires Cartman to paint the inside of his house with poop. Eventually, all of the parents admit to the ruse and realize they should have simply talked to their kids about drugs instead of trying to deceive them.
Standout Quote: “You know what us ultra-liberals say: When it comes to children and drugs, lies are okay.” – Motivationcorp Manager
Fun Fact: This episode was inspired by Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s irritation of hyperbolic anti-drug commercials that insinuate how doing drugs once could kill you or that purchasing drugs funds terrorism. Randy’s heart-to-heart with Stan at the end of the episode is a more realistic assessment of the potential downsides of cannabis:
“Well, Stan, the truth is marijuana probably isn’t gonna make you kill people, and it most likely isn’t gonna fund terrorism, but, well son, pot makes you feel fine with being bored, and it’s when you’re bored that you should be learning some new skill or discovering some new science or being creative. If you smoke pot you may grow up to find out that you aren’t good at anything.”
(Randy would later contradict all of his good advice in the third episode of season 14, which we’ll get to shortly.)
Hippies Take Over South Park (Season 9, Ep. 2)
To Cartman’s irritation, South Park becomes “infested” with hippies. Although he tries to warn the town that hippie stoners will take over and eventually plan a music festival that will decimate the area, nobody listens to him. Instead, the other boys become hippies to fight back against corporations, but eventually they get tired of non-stop hippie tunes and ask the stoners if they ever do anything other than listening to music and getting high all the time. Cartman and a few South Park adults save the boys from the music festival by drilling up into the grounds using the “Hippie Digger,” and Cartman is able to disperse the crowd by playing death metal.
Standout Quote: “Maybe instead of complaining about corporations being selfish, we should look at ourselves. I mean, is there anything more selfish than doing nothing but getting high and listening to music all day long?” – Stan
Fun Fact: This is the last episode featuring newly recorded dialog for the character Chef, as his voice actor, the late musician Isaac Hayes, Jr., parted ways with the show in 2006. Reasons for his departure are unclear—a statement issued in his name communicated that he wanted out of his contract because the show made fun of Scientology, but Fox News reported that Hayes did not actually write that statement. In 2007, Hayes said in an interview that he left because he wasn’t being paid enough. Chef’s last appearance in a South Park episode was in season 10, episode 1, which featured sound clips from past episodes stitched together to form the character’s dialogue.
Towelie Pretends to Be Human to Promote His Memoir (Season 10, Ep. 5)
Mirroring what happened to the author James Frey and his controversial memoir, A Million Little Pieces, Towelie writes a memoir called A Million Little Fibers that’s rejected because “people aren’t interested in the autobiographies of towels.” Undeterred, Towelie pretends to be human and his book is published. He lands a spot on The Oprah Winfrey Show, but her vagina and anus rat him out to Geraldo Rivera, sparking a huge controversy. Eventually, however, Towelie saves a group of people being held hostage by Oprah’s minge and is forgiven for being dishonest to the public.
Standout Quote: “I learned that I shouldn’t get high to come up with ideas. I should come up with ideas and then get high, to reward myself.” – Towelie
Fun Fact: This is only the second time in the show’s run up to this point where none of the four main boys appear in the episode (the first time was season four, episode 14, titled “Pip.”)
Randy Becomes a Medical Marijuana Patient (Season 14, Ep. 3)
In “Medicinal Fried Chicken,” which is easily one of the best episode titles ever, medical marijuana dispensaries come to South Park while fast food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods are forced to close due to new state laws. Cartman’s go-to KFC location turns into a dispensary, and he builds an illegal fried chicken empire to smuggle food in and out of the city. Unfortunately, he gets addicted to his own product and runs afoul (afowl?) of Colonel Sanders, who puts a hit out on Cartman.
Meanwhile, Randy, in an effort to get a valid medical marijuana authorization, irradiates his groin area using the microwave and gives himself testicular cancer. He and his friends all become medical marijuana patients, and their testicles grow so large they have to carry them around via wheelbarrows. Eventually, they’re able to use their nards as a hippity hop to bounce around town.
The doctor treating Randy and his friends mistakenly correlates the closure of fast food chains as the cause of the drastic spike in testicular cancer diagnoses, so Colorado bans cannabis and re-opens KFC as “Medicinal Fried Chicken.” Randy has his cancerous testicles removed and replaced with prosthetics, and he turns his leftover skin into a “scrotum coat” for his wife, Sharon.
Standout Quote: “Well, like, what forms of cancer induce in time for the Ziggy Marley concert next Saturday in Denver?” – Randy
Fun Fact: Cartman’s story arc mirrors that of Tony Montana in Scarface. Also, the KFC-turned-MMJ-dispensary mirrored an actual dispensary operating out of an old Kentucky Fried Chicken in Los Angeles called Kind for Cures (abbreviated “K.F.C.” on its signage, of course).
The Boys Stage an Intervention for Towelie (Season 14, Ep. 7)
This episode has more to do with Towelie’s spiraling drug problems than cannabis, but every Towelie episode is a gem, in my opinion. Parodying the reality series Intervention, this episode is structured like the A&E show and chronicles the boys’ efforts to get Towelie to kick his escalating drug addiction. They get him a job at a summer camp for children with physical and mental disabilities, but Towelie is fired when his drug use and destructive behavior persists. Eventually, Butters gets Towelie to go to rehab after he brings Towelie’s son “Washcloth” in to show him that he needs to get his life in order. (The rest of the episode centers on the summer camp, Lake Tardicaca, and the Looney Tunes-inspired one-sided rivalry between the shifty bully Nathan and a clueless Jimmy.)
Standout Quote: “You can all suck it! You’re all, you’re all a bunch of towels, that’s what you are!” – Towelie
Fun Fact: The episode features a version of “Are You Ready for the Summer?“, the theme song from the classic summer camp comedy Meatballs.