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How South Park's Creators Utilize Stress During The Creative Process

"South Park," arguably one of the best and certainly one of the longest-running animated series of all time, has created a legacy with its scathing cultural satire. After running for over two dozen seasons, fans have wondered how the creators and writers of the show keep things fresh and interesting after all these years. The creators have one simple answer: stress.

"South Park" is not made like typical animated shows, which sometimes take years to be completed. The creative team keeps things fresh and topical by writing, producing, and animating the shows every week with six days to air (via Fortune Magazine). The breakneck production is managed down to the minute. The team begins work on a new installment after the previous one airs and works all week long to deliver an episode to Comedy Central right before its scheduled premiere date. 

Lest you think they are simply waiting until the last minute to finish their episodes, this ultra-tight turnaround is actually so they can keep up on current events and comment on what's in the cultural zeitgeist. It is the magic that has kept the show going for over two decades, but that doesn't mean it isn't hard work.

The creators claim that the stress of making an episode keeps things moving

In an interview with The Feed, "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker talked about the pressure of creating an episode with six days to air. Parker said one thing they note when starting on a week's episode, "You're not as far ahead as you think you are." Parker and Stone said the stress of their cramped timeline is one of their main motivators for getting an episode ready for TV.

Parker said that the pressure may not help comedy per se, but it does eliminate any and all writer's block for the creative team. At the same time, they're never wanting to repeat themselves or copy any other show, so since they hold themselves to a higher standard, the shows become more stressful for the writers. With a ticking clock, there's no time for anyone to overthink anything as well. What may not seem funny at the time just has to go to air because there's no time to change it on their quick turnaround schedule. Sometimes, that really works in the show's favor.

For all the stress and razor-thin deadlines, however, Stone and Parker told Marc Fennell of The Feed that they had only missed turning in an episode once and that was because of a major power outage. That's not a bad record for one of the longest-running animated shows around.