South Park: The Only Time Kenny's Death Matters For Continuity

Of the four main characters in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "South Park," it's safe to say that fourth grader Kenny McCormick (Stone) always gets the short end of the stick. Not only was he born into poverty, courtesy of his drug-addict parents, but he's also the centerpiece of an iconic "South Park" running gag – which involves Kenny dying in tragic ways and then reappearing the next episode without any explanation.

Kenny has died more than 120 times since the series first began. Though his friends Stan Marsh and Kyle Broflovski (Parker and Stone, respectively) will often mourn him in the moment, these deaths usually have no impact on the continuity of the series. Even the "South Park; Post Covid" television specials, which revolve entirely around Kenny's death and the instructions he left behind, wrap up with Kenny alive and well and ready for the next episode.

Only once did Kenny's death truly matter for continuity in the series: in the Season 5 episode "Kenny Dies," where killed Kenny "for good." Following this episode (in which Kenny dies of a fatal and incurable disease), Kenny remained dead for an entire season, with many characters and story arcs referencing his "permanent" death throughout Season 6, and Kenny himself being primarily replaced by Butters Stotch (Stone). This remains the only time in "South Park" history that Kenny's death has genuinely mattered for continuity, and it only happened because the showrunners themselves were sick of the ongoing gag.

Parker and Stone were sick and tired of killing off Kenny every episode

In the "South Park" Season 5 DVD commentary, Trey Parker and Matt Stone admitted that they only killed Kenny McCormick because they had grown bored of his running death gag — and having the major "South Park" character die helped spawn plenty of new storylines for the show.

"We were basically sick of killing Kenny right, so we were like 'let's have him die and he'll be gone forever," explained Parker, "Cuz he's really just a prop anyway... and we kill him every episode." Parker and Stone went on to say that Kenny staying dead gave them an enormous amount of great material to work with. Although they ultimately brought him back in the Season 6 episode "Red Sleigh Down," it doesn't seem like the two regret killing him off for an entire year.

Since this "permanent" exit from the series, Kenny's deaths have since become much more infrequent –- and the showrunners have even gone out of their way to explain his unnatural resurrections through the Season 14 "Coon and Friends" arc, in which it's revealed that his parents inadvertently cursed him by pledging allegiance to Cthulu. However, in terms of continuity, it's safe to say that Kenny's Season 5 death was the most important moment in the character's history –- as afterward, he was no longer used as simply a throwaway object, and his deaths have since been used for story purposes rather than just for the sake of a cheap laugh.