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“TIME TO GET CEREAL!” – SOUTH PARK (2018) – SEASON 22 REVIEW

SOUTH PARK (2018) – SEASON 22 REVIEW

Directed by: Trey Parker
Produced by: South Park Studios
Written by: Trey Parker
No. of episodes: 10
Release Date: September 22 2018 – December 12 201
UK Release: Comedy Central

Trey Parker’s scandalous and scatological satire South Park shows no sign of slowing down in its mission of targeting the various sacred cows, media, celebrities, politicians and fads of society. The shenanigans of the small Colorado town reach their 22nd season, as the likes of: Cartman, Sharon, Randy, Kyle, Mr Mackey, PC Principal, Stan, Mr Hankey, Butters, Mrs Cartman etc. continue to be used as Parker’s conduits for comedy and social commentary.

Season 22 started slowly but ultimately proved a hit for me. Nonetheless the show is arguably a victim of its own formula and success. There are few surprises left as the show bases most episodes on satirising current events and the cultural zeitgeist. Plus, the characters are so well formed that we are rarely shocked by what they do. However, the writing, gag-rate and thought-provoking narratives prove the show is as strong as ever.

Arguably not as memorable as the incredible Season 19 (review here); there is a lot to recommend in Season 22! Below, I will now look at each episode in turn and consider their various merits.

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

EPISODE 1 – DEAD KIDS – Mark: 8 out of 11.

School shootings and the lack of reaction to them force Sharon Marsh to become apoplectic in her outrage. A solid episode which didn’t quite catch fire but had its moments; as Sharon’s PMT is ridiculed by Randy unfairly with Parker clearly stating gun crime something must be done about this horrendous stain on United States society.

EPISODE 2 – A BOY AND A PRIEST – Mark 8 out of 11.

Butters “befriends” Father Maxi as the Catholic Church once again try and cover up historical paedophilia. I was shocked but how unshocked I was by the episode yet it contains many great gags. Parker ensures we do not forget the horrific crimes committed by priests down the age; highlighting the hypocrisy that continues to be presented by the Catholic hierarchy.

EPISODE 3 – THE PROBLEM WITH A POO – Mark 8.5 out of 11.

Talking turd Mr Hankey was never my favourite character, but the show literally gets loads of “shit” jokes out of him. Here, Parker satirises celebrity Twitter scandals but more interestingly focusses on Vice Principal Strong Woman giving birth to five PC Babies! This precipitates a fantastic running joke throughout the series involving PC Babies crying persistently at mention of something that does not fit their progressive agenda.

EPISODE 4 – TEGRIDY FARM – Mark: 9 out of 11

The series really started hitting its stride as Parker snipes at the vaping craze and the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado. Typically, Randy Marsh driven episodes are almost often classics and here he becomes a hemp farmer. Similarly, Cartman has become a vape dealer and the two narrative strands combine to delightful effect.

EPISODE 5 – THE SCOOTS – Mark: 9 out of 11

This was another brilliant and funny episode. It combines elements of Hitchcock’s The Birds, with satirising of human beings’ obsession with smartphones and Halloween. I loved the way the episode built from Mr Mackey’s panic with the E-Scooters as they threaten to take over the town. As this is South Park it all soon descends into disaster and brilliant anarchic humour.

EPISODES 6 & 7 – TIME TO GET CEREAL / NO ONE GOT CEREAL – Mark: 9 out of 11

In this hilarious two-parter the kids’ old “friend” Al Gore comes out of retirement due to a monster killing citizens of South Park. It turns out it’s the analogous beast ‘ManBearPig’; a demonic animal part-pig-part-man-part-bear. If you didn’t know ‘ManBearPig’ is an absurd symbol for the Environment, and here Parker depicts Gore as not just a figure of fun but actually smugly correct in his global predictions. Meanwhile, the authorities – including the police – reject the existence of ‘ManBearPig’ and blame the kids for the murders. Satan makes an appearance too as the two-parter amusingly critiques: Climate Change deniers, inept policing and addiction to video-games such as Red Dead Redemption 2.

EPISODE 8 – BUDDHA BOX – Mark: 8 out of 11

Cartman’s anxiety leads him to wear a cardboard ‘Buddha Box’ over his head to isolate himself from society. Sending up further our obsession with mobile phones by eschewing meaningful human contact is always going to get laughs and Parker achieves that here. However, the PC Babies gags win the episode as taking the piss out of snowflake millennials continues to be hilarious.

EPISODES 9 & 10 – UNFULFILLED / BIKE PARADE – Mark: 10 out of 11

The highlight of the season was undoubtedly the episode called Unfulfilled. Here South Park pokes its parodic tentacles at Amazon, never losing its grasp. Amazon open a warehouse in South Park, and after an accident, the employees go on strike. This industrial action leads to Jeff Bezos himself coming to South Park; with Parker depicting him as a cold telekinetic alien. The episode and the follow-up Bike Parade show the various ways the people of South Park deal with the lack of fulfilment from the Amazon non-deliveries. Here Parker combines Marxist doctrine and consumer culture satire with absurd comedy and horror parody to amazing effect. These episodes once again show that South Park retains the balls and strength to make us laugh and think in equal measures.  

Overall mark: 8.5 out of 11.

“OH, JEEZ!” SOUTH PARK: SEASON 21 (2017) – TV REVIEW

SOUTH PARK: SEASON 21 (2017) – TV REVIEW

Directed by:                             Trey Parker

Produced by:                           South Park Studios

Written by:                               Trey Parker

No. of episodes:                     10

Release Date:                          September 13 – December 6, 2017

UK Release:                              Comedy Central

**CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS**

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In this stinking cesspool of a world run by greedy corporations, bringers-of-war and crazed megalomaniacs it’s important one finds some solace with which to hide from the slings and arrows of this venal society. Indeed, one has to keep an eye out from the barricades and parapets, holding out a shield to deflect, and mirror to reflect, the emotional barbs of every day existence. One such means of deflection is to laugh at the world and its leaders, gods, physicians, media outlets and political snake-oil salesmen, who twist and dance and continually sell us bullshit on a daily basis.

Television is a valuable tool with which to cocoon one’s heart and mind against the stream of negativity and injustice brought down up on us within the oppressive capitalist system. It gives us a chance to laugh and cry at the world through comedy and drama. One such longstanding shield against the tide of money and war is the always-relevant South Park. For twenty-one seasons it has now poked, prodded, electrified, boiled and defecated on the sacred cows of civilisation such as: religious figures, moronic yet dangerous politicians, gluttonous fats cats, media whores and narcissistic plastic celebrities.

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After the incredible satirical and narrative success of Season 19 (review here), where showrunner Trey Parker committed to a superlative serialization structure the bar was raised very high. Thus, Season 20 (review here), suffered in comparison as it over-egged the pudding somewhat with a convoluted multi-stranded plot dominated by internet cyber-trolling. Nonetheless, South Park, even firing at three-quarter’ capacity is funnier, on-point, and more scathing than any show out there.

As South Park is a phenomenal staple of my televisual calendar I was very happy when: Cartman, Stan, Randy, Cartman’s mum, Wendy, Butters, PC Principal, Kyle, President Garrison et al were back in Season 21 with satire of the highest order! Moreover, gone was the complex interlinking plots and in this run we experienced some wonderful stand-alone episodes which ran a zeitgeist hyper-link to many of the cultural, political and social events of 2017.

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The one thematic web which was woven through the ten shows was Cartman’s dysfunctional and destructive relationship with his girlfriend Heidi. This narrative found Heidi actually becoming a female Cartman much to the other kids’ horror. Here, the writing mined some familiar, almost soap-operatic, but mature story lines to much satisfaction overall; especially in episode 7, Doubling Down, and episode 8, Moss Piglets.

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Season 21 was, in keeping with the previous 20 seasons, crammed to the brim with references to media and socio-political culture, while also being fucking hilarious. The opening episode White People Renovating Houses poked humour at the latest Alexa culture and the hailstorm of “flipping” property shows. While Randy, the hare-brained addict, became obsessed with genetically re-correcting his heritage in the hilarious 3rd episode: Holiday Special.  

Of course the kids took centre stage in many of the shows, notably Franchise Prequel, where their superhero alter egos – scurrilously led by Cartman’s ‘Coon’ – attempt to get their own Netflix and movie franchise off the ground to rival Marvel and DC. Mark Zuckerberg makes an appearance as a goofy, geeky Scott Pilgrim-type-video-game-end-boss too. Here the seeming bottomless pit of money that is called Netflix is also amusingly slated; mainly due to apparently green-lighting any project irrespective of its’ quality.

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Trey Parker and his team took many swipes at the egregious political and, arguably hysterical social media “movements”. In episode 6, Sons of Witches the Harvey Weinstein “situation” was skewed, with all parties involved: men, women and social media keyboard warriors critiqued with much humour. Of course, based on the evidence presented in the media, Weinstein is a stain on humanity, a sexual animal exploiting his powerful position and money-balls! But Sons of Witches was keen to point out that while many men are dicks, they are not ALL bad witches so perhaps some calm and perspective is also required.

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While the final two episodes Super Hard PCness and Splatty Tomato ended with President Garrison gone into hiding due to the bombing of Canada, the episodes also had some fine gags on recent horror adaptations It (2017) and Stranger Things (2017). But my favourite episodes of the series were Put It Down, which put the boot into that moron in the White House and his inexplicably dumb twitter feed that spews out an inordinate amount of bile and idiocy. Finally, episode 5, Hummels & Heroin, brilliantly satirised prison movies by transplanting the genre tropes to an old people’s home; advocating ire for pharmaceutical companies pushing drugs on old people and damning poor medical practices.

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What makes South Park great and still valid is it does not takes sides. The liberal left and fascistic right are all shown to be, in certain circumstances, controlling and hysterical. Trey Parker and his team do not respect authority or celebrity or media fads or political correctness or social bandwagons; so long may their intelligent, crass, scurrilous, scatological, offensive, all-singing, all dancing satire continue! With Trump  in the White House some may say satire is dead but we need the South Park team alive to protect us from this slew of never-ending societal insanity and above all else: MAKE US LAUGH!

(Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

 

THE FRACTURED BUT TROLL! – SOUTH PARK – SEASON 20 REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

THE FRACTURED BUT TROLL!  SOUTH PARK – SEASON 20 REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

The latest season of South Park ended mid-December time and so I’m a bit tardy with the review. This is mainly because I decided to watch all ten episodes back-to-back over the Christmas holidays, and in some ways, this was a mistake. I say this because I think sometimes as viewers we have to take some criticism too. In hindsight I definitely should NOT have binge-watched this season as it was so complex and plot-heavy with many themes and interlinking plot strands. In fact, similarly to the more satisfactory Season 19, this season transcended the usual mix of puerile and satirical comedy it’s known for, to become something much more.

**SCREW YOU GUYS – THERE ARE SPOILERS!”

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TAKING PRESIDENTS!

Over ten episodes South Park once again became a huge mirror that reflected many of the events occurring in the USA and the world in general.  The biggest event was of course, the Presidential elections which saw Mr Garrison and Caitlyn Jenner representing the Trump/Republican side and Hilary Clinton, of course, representing the Democrats. Amusingly they were referred to as Douche and Turd Sandwich respectively; calling back the classic episode where Stan is banished for refusing to vote.

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Garrison soon realises he’s made a terrible mistake in running as he has NO policies and tries to extricate himself from the race. Thus, much of the comedy deriving from this narrative strand was brilliant and made me laugh throughout the season; especially during the episode Oh Jeez when Garrison won and went into full Trump mode. By the end of the season he’s shown to be a complete buffoon open to manipulation by Mr Slave and Kyle Broflovski when it comes down to the bombing of Denmark. But, hey, that’s a whole different story!

A TROLL IN THE PARK

The second major narrative line in this season was Gerald Broflovski (Kyle’s Dad) being revealed as an uber-Troll online called Skankhunt42. He begins by trolling his son’s school before moving onto cultural icons and then the whole of Denmark itself. Gerald, who usually represents the liberal side of the show, is seen becoming a vicious sneak who enjoys bullying for the humour. However, being the intellectual hypocrite he distances himself from the nerdy-no-life-outcasts he ultimately gets lumped in with.

Gerald’s actions eventually spiral totally out of control by the end and, while South Park itself has been a massive critic of celebrities and government figures in the past, it is quite justified in lampooning the cowardice of online trolls. These sad individuals hide under the bridges of social media feeding their tethered egos and weak personalities for the benefit of either humour, revenge or to obtain some idea of power.

In the episode The Damned, Gerald is literally pissed on by his wife in order to extricate himself from being rumbled as an online troll. That online bullies are shown to be mainly shut-in losers as opposed to Jocks, demonstrate that bullying can be done by anyone and needs to be pissed on from a great height. Lastly, the monstrous rise of Garrison to power also highlights the fact that hair-brained Trump has become the biggest troll in the world.

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ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA

The theme of hyperbolic social media behaviour was supported by the further strand of South Park Elementary School students committing “suicide” by leaving Twitter. A character named Heidi is even mourned by her class during the episode Skankhunt even though she is actually in the class!  Also, believing Cartman to be the troll ‘Skankhunt’ the kids gang up and ‘kill’ his electronic devices, burying them in an Evil-Dead-Cabin-in-the-Woods-horror-film-homage. The internet and social media is therefore cast as an extension of the playground; with kids and adults giving their social media live’s more importance than real life and move away from actual intimacy and human contact.

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Consequently, Cartman himself goes the other way and falls in love with Heidi and their relationship is quite touching over course of the season. It’s especially funny as it plays with the audience’s expectations and the other kids think it’s all part of some Cartman uber-plan. Indeed, Cartman’s arc in this season is interesting as it seems they tried to make him more sympathetic. At first his feminist leanings are part of some scheme to undermine the girls’ sit-down protests during the opening Member-Berries episode. But eventually it turns out he does find Amy Schumer’s “vagina” comedy actually funny.­ Alas, the storyline kind of runs out of steam by the episode 9, Not Funny.

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Gender politics and the boy-versus-girls dynamic further complicate the narrative when Butters leads a protest against the girls. Butters and the boys who have all been revenge-dumped by the girls because of ‘Skankhunt42’s vicious actions decide to protest too. So, they get their dicks out during the U.S. national anthem; which in itself satirized last year’s “sit-down” protests that occurred during U.S. college sporting events.  I myself was not as educated about these particular occurrences but as usual Parker and Stone went to ridiculous lengths to demonstrate that however noble the cause, once everyone jumps on the bandwagon the protests become diluted and lose their power. Moreover, such stands against authority can also be wiped by a simple rewrite of history or rebooting for the future.

‘MEMBER WHEN. . .

Rebooting the present or future was yet another thematic present within this packed season. The “Member-berries” introduced in the first episode are a super-food which while innocent at the start become evil-humanized-nostalgia-fruit hell-bent on ensuring humanity lives in the past and doesn’t move on with any new ideas. Indeed, in the final episode The End of Serialization the “Member-berries” even end up in the White House. While not always convinced by these turn of events I can see the satirical point being made that living in the past remembering: Star Wars, Chewbacca, Tie-Fighters, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon, Superman, Reagan, the 80s, sugar from your neighbour, feeling safe, Stormtroopers etc. can be culturally dangerous and lead to the excavation of archaic politics hence the rise of Trump and the perceived right-wing Brexit vote.

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Yet, nostalgia can also be a positive thing too and paradoxically I do at times hanker after the simpler, yet brilliantly effective South Park episodes which were perhaps more focussed and arguably funnier. But one cannot fault the programme makers for aiming higher than the usual shit you get on television. Plus, the “Member-berries” plot line did rightly put the boot into the ridiculous eulogizing of J.J. Abrams and The Force Awakens which definitely wasn’t as good as people made out. So, in that respect, the show made a very valid cultural point. But while going back can be a negative force it can also help us learn from our mistakes, however, given President-Trump’s about to enter the White House it seems humans just love making the same mistakes over and over again.

CONCLUSION. . .  FRACTURED BUT NEARLY WHOLE!

While Season 19 became arguably the most coherent, incisive, funny and complex narrative out of all Trey Parker’s and Matt Stone’s previous work, Season 20 had a lot to live up to. However although the riotous narrative strands represented a major strength I don’t feel, overall, this season had as many gags or classic episodes. I would say that it worked best as an accomplished serialized conceptual satire with a few piss and dick jokes as opposed to the fast-paced-gag-filled-stand-alone-episode format of the earlier seasons. Still, while it may not have had many stand-out classic episodes, Season 20 was still a blast of wonderful filthy satire and due to the complex density of the storylines will no doubt improve with further viewings.

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As I have attested on this blog many times, South Park is the greatest comedy of all time and shows no sign of losing its comedic and satirical power. The bar was raised SO high by Season 19 that perhaps ambition to beat that was always going to be tough. Still, I still respect Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s multi-skilled “authoritah” in using the inhabitants of South Park to rip into the world, media, politics, culture and religion with hilarious effect.

For your information you can also find the following on my blog:

Top 20 South Park TV/Film parodies can be found here:

https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/20-years-of-south-park-%C2%AD-twenty-great-tv-movie-based-parodies-by-paul-laight/

My review of Season 19 can be found here:

https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/check-your-privilege-south-park-season-19-review-by-paul-laight/

My favouritest ever episodes up to Season 17 can be found here:

https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/respect-my-authoritah-my-favourite-17-south-park-episodes-ever/

 

20 YEARS OF SOUTH PARK ­– TWENTY GREAT TV & MOVIE-BASED PARODIES! – BY PAUL LAIGHT

20 YEARS OF SOUTH PARK ­– TWENTY GREAT TV & MOVIE-BASED PARODIES! – BY PAUL LAIGHT

South Park, incredibly, has been going for 20 years now!  Yet, up until 2013 I had only watched a handful of episodes of the irreverent and scurrilous animated show. Since then, however, I have caught up and it has become one of my favourite ever TV programmes. As such any new season of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s potty-mouthed satire is usually a highlight of my cultural year.

South Park is more than just a crude animated show now; it is a socio-political tour-de-force which spikes sacred cultural cows and pokes fun at the ridiculous nature of the world; the rich and famous; and the political and religious and social leaders who profess to run the place. It also features some wonderful, bizarre and astute characters who are utilised to reflect society and our modern and post-modern times.

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South Park featured on my blog a few times. My review of Season 19 can be found here:

https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/check-your-privilege-south-park-season-19-review-by-paul-laight/

Plus, my favourite episodes up to Season 17 can also be found here:

https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/respect-my-authoritah-my-favourite-17-south-park-episodes-ever/

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Furthermore, to celebrate this legendary show I have listed twenty TV and movie inspired parodies that have featured over the years.

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

24The Snuke – Season 11

South Park rip into general racial intolerance and over-the-top attitudes to terrorism as Hillary Clinton is found to have a snuke in her snizz!

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 21st CENTURY Go God Go XII – Season 10

The ever-impatient Cartman somehow freezes himself and wakes up in 2546 as a war wages between two atheist factions including futuristic talking Otters.

DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTERMiss Teacher Bangs a Boy – Season 10

Cartman becomes a hall monitor and the authoritah goes to his head; meting out Dog-style justice with hilarious consequences!

GODZILLA Mecha-Streisand – Season 1 + Season 14

Evil Streisand gets roasted with SP turning the diva into a Mecha-Godzilla-like monster who tortures people with her singing and monstrous demands.

 

GAME OF THRONES Black Friday/Song of Ass & Fire/Titties & Dragons – Season 17

HBO’s classic show was brilliantly parodied over three wonderful episodes. Here they satirize Black Friday hysteria as Cartman plots to get ahead in the PS4/XBOX one console war.

INCEPTION Insheeption – Season 11

Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending heist thriller gets slammed for the pseudo-intellectual plot which involves: Stan’s hoarding problem and a dark event in Mr Mackey’s childhood.

 

JAMES CAMERON – Raising the Bar – Season 16

This episode won an Emmy as it brilliantly made fun of egomaniac filmmaker Cameron, and the trailer-trash child monstrosity Honey Boo-Boo!

JERSEY SHORE – It’s a Jersey Thing – Season 14

Narcissistic New Jersey reality show “contestants” get the South Park treatment which also reveals a darker side to Kyle’s background. “Snooki wants smoosh-smoosh!”

 

LORD OF THE RINGSThe Return of Lord of the Rings to the Two Towers – Season 6

The kids go on a quest to return a video but are pursued by dark factions when a porno gets given to them by mistake. Butters as Gollum is just one of the stand-out elements here!

MEL GIBSON/PASSION OF THE CHRISTThe Passion of the Jew – Season 8

Gibson gets roasted to hell in this episode with enough chutzpah to offend everyone. Cartman goes uber-Nazi as Kyle’s interest in Judaism is explored in a typically crazy way.

ROB SCHNEIDER – The Biggest Douche in the Universe – Season 6

Z-movie actor Rob Schneider gets ripped apart in this episode which also slams “psychic” douche John Edward.  “Rob Schneider is the carrot!”

RUSSELL CROWE – The New Terrance and Philip Trailer – Season 6

Antipodean acting heavyweight Russell Crowe is shown to be an aggressive and drunk rover travelling round the world drinking and fighting everyone.

SCARFACEMedicinal Fried Chicken – Season 14

Randy takes advantage of a cancer “loophole” to grow enormous balls so he can smoke marijuana; while Cartman gets high too – but on his own KFC supply.

THE SHINING – A Nightmare on Face Time – Season 16

Randy opens up a Blockbuster store without taking into account the new-fangled online streaming sites. It’s not long before he becomes a haunted man!

SUPERHERO FILMS/COMICS – The Coon Trilogy – Season 14

Cartman is the Coon as he and his “friends” Mysterion, Mint-Berry Crunch, Iron Maiden etc. battle crime, then each other in a parody of comic-book and super-hero films.

SUPERNANNY Tsst – Season 10

The plethora of reality shows involving kids and pets deservedly get a pasting as Cartman’s mum calls in all kinds of ‘experts’ to try and tame her out-of-control son.

THE TERMINATORTrapper Keeper – Season 4

Cartman’s Dawson’s Creek uber-school folder becomes sentient and turns him into a monstrous cybernetic organism that wreaks havoc on the town.

TOM CRUISE – Trapped in the Closet – Season 9

Tom Cruise and Scientology get the scathing boot stuck into them, in an episode which is rarely seen in the UK but can be found online somewhere in cyber-space.

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TRONYou Have 0 Friends – Season 14

Battling the banality of social media and techno-fears has rarely been so fun, as Stan, in Tron-style, is somehow dragged into Facebook when he tries to quit it.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT – Make Love, Not Warcraft – Season 10

In one of the best episodes ever the boys all fall foul of an online ‘Reaper’ on Warcraft and set about defeating him with the help of Bengay and “having NO life”!

 

 

 

 

BOOK OF MORMON – MUSICAL THEATRE REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

     BOOK OF MORMON – THEATRE REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**YO!  SPOILERS!”

“Hey – Paul!  Do you want to see Book of Mormon? It’s a musical!”

“Oh – I can’t stand musicals! Apart from Grease maybe. Or a Sondheim one I can’t remember the name of.”

“But it’s made by the guys who did South Park!”

“Really? I love South Park. How much are tickets?”

“HOW MUCH?!”

So on a cheaper Wednesday matinee showing myself and a friend ventured to the Prince of Wales Theatre to see Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s wonderfully irreverent and offensive (depending on your point-of-view) musical The Book Of Mormon. And a great time was had by all. It was funny, energetic and warm and of course very rude but strangely uplifting and like all great art (high or low) it got me thinking about my own values and spirituality.

I have never been what you would call a religious person.  I am not a believer or associate myself with a particular faith.  In fact since I was young I always held a staunch antagonism toward doctrines which remove free-thinking in the individual from birth.  Furthermore much of the world’s conflicts over history have been caused in the name of religion; that and greed and money and power.

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Having said that over the years my approach to religion has matured and I have become less didactic in my thoughts. Because you know what: religion or faith can be a positive thing and give people a true set of values with which to live their life. It’s not God’s fault that human beings use his or her name to commit acts of war and spread intolerance.  In fact, in recent times the move toward Atheistic and Scientific Fundamentalism (led by the Grand Wizard Richard Hawkins) itself has also caused intolerance to rear its ugly head too.

I prefer to believe in nothing; not a void as such but no particular deity or belief system. They provide great comfort for many but it’s not something I feel I need.  I believe in freedom of choice and speech and the basic human principle of just be tolerant of, and good to others.  Because as the song says: “Religion don’t kill people – humans do!”    Of course I just made that lyric up for humorous effect and that is precisely what occurs in the wonderful, hilarious and uplifting theatrical musical Book of Mormon.

The backstory tells us of Joseph Smith who “found” the sacred eponymous text on the gold plates of Nephi. After which he gave birth to a new religion in 1830 which went viral, spreading quicker than a dancing cat video on YouTube.   Flash forward loads of years and the Church of Latter Day Saints is one of the World’s largest cults; sorry, organised religions. And this is the starting point for the story.

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Our two main protagonists are Elder Price (Billy Harrigan Tighe) — a handsome, young go-getter — and Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) who is, of course, his nerdier, less confident and insecure counterpart.  Cunningham is also a compulsive liar which gives the story an essential characteristic and running theme. Together they are sent from the Missionary Training Centre in Utah to of all places, Uganda to spread the word of Mormon. But Uganda is a godless place full of famine, disease and war and hardship so religion is a hard thing to see to those with no hope.

Humour is mined from the clashes between the two wildly different cultures as the songs compare the upbeat door-knocking optimism of the Mormons with the downtrodden, hungry, maggot-balled, AIDS-ridden, clitoris-castrated Africans; who are war-lorded over by hilariously named General Butt-Fucking Naked. As with South Park the writers use all manner of stereotypes with which to cram as many offensive jokes in as possible.

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However, there is heart to the story too as it is revealed that Elder Cunningham has joined the Mormons to try and fit in and find his place in the world and most importantly: friends.  He is particularly taken with the preening narcissistic Elder Price despite the latter’s obvious discouragement and dislike of Cunningham. It’s no surprise then that while Price is clearly the more talented “salesperson” yet it is Cunningham who becomes a hit with the natives.  Having said that he does so having “made-up” loads of stories from the Book of Mormon incorporating tales from Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord Of The Rings.  From his distortions from the text plus bravery in standing up to the General Cunningham becomes a beacon of hope in the village.

Stories and faith are at the core of the satire here as Book of Mormon both lampoons and deep-down admires the Missionaries. While what Elder Cunningham says seems completely stupid and ridiculous it gives the villagers hope and faith for the future. Overall, the word of Joseph Smith is arguably “fictional” yet the message is a positive one with togetherness being the way forward.  The show asks us: if something gives hope in a hopeless world does it matter if it’s real or not?

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I have no frame of reference with regard to musicals. The only one I’ve seen outside the movies was Fame – The Musical starring ‘H’ from Steps.  But this was an absolute joy with an incredible cast and songs to boot.  My personal favourites were: Two By Two, Making Thing’s Up Again and Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.   The shifting of sets, movement and pace were fast yet controlled and the show was clearly the result of a culmination of an incredible amount of creativity, rehearsal and hard work.  As a dynamite new season of South Park currently runs on Comedy Central – I can certainly say Matt Stone and Trey Parker have another work of genius to add to their incredibly offensive yet hilarious CV.  Thank God, Allah, Ganesh, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Nephi, Joseph Smith et al  for them I say!

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