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25 Popular South Park Characters Ranked Worst To Best

"South Park" has had an extraordinary journey over its quarter-century on the air. Its beginnings are incredibly humble, and the show started as an animated short in the early '90s before making its way to television in 1997. Since then, the show transitioned from a rebellious animated show that took great pleasure in mocking anyone and everyone into a global phenomenon that still maintains the same ethos. Who could have ever imagined that the little show's creators would eventually sign an eye-watering $900 million deal that ensures the series will go to at least a 30th season and 14(!) original "South Park" movies will be created?

Fans seem to obsess over every detail of the show, creating some truly elaborate fan theories that nod to how ridiculous the show happens to be. What really keeps fans coming back to each episode of the show, though, is its fascinating, bizarre, and hilarious cast of characters. There have been countless characters who have appeared on the show, whether it's for a brief moment or in just about every single episode. With that in mind, we've decided to come up with an answer to your burning question: Who is the greatest character in the show? We've put together a list to answer that very question.

25. Timmy Burch

Great television show characters are often remembered for what they say. A clever catchphrase can generate laughs and create lasting memories, and though "South Park" characters have catchphrases, Timmy is a unique case because his catchphrase is the only word he says — his own name, "Timmy!" He does very infrequently say something else: In his first major episode, Season 4's "Timmy 2000," he becomes a singer for a rock band, and as well as singing his name, he also sings "living a lie." Still, 99% of the time, he only says his name.

Timmy is one of the more compelling characters in "South Park" and is not limited by his ability to only say his name. He's wheelchair-bound, but that never serves as an obstacle for his impressive adventures. Notably, Timmy has a fun relationship with Jimmy, another child with disabilities at South Park Elementary. The two start as enemies, and in Season 5's "Cripple Fight," Timmy's overwhelming jealousy leads him to scheme up Jimmy's demise, but the two eventually reach an agreement and become close friends. He's also something of an entrepreneur, as showcased in the hilarious Season 18 episode "Handicar," in which Timmy creates a ridesharing service that becomes hugely popular in town, drawing the ire of the local taxicab drivers.

24. Chef

The chef at the school cafeteria, Chef, can always be relied on for cooking up food for the school as well as sex advice for the children. Chef, however, is proof that not all adults give great advice, as his explanations to the kids at school usually end up in songs and stories about sex. This includes the legendary track "Chocolate Salty Balls (P.S. I Love You)" from Season 2, which still stands as one of the finest "South Park" innuendos. Chef is a reliably funny presence on the show that perfectly encapsulates the adults-only nature of the series.

Things took a turn behind-the-scenes when Chef's voice actor Isaac Hayes went against the show for its negative portrayal of Scientology. The crazy controversy resulted in Chef's last episode coming in the Season 10 premiere, "The Return of Chef." Chef leaves town to join the Super Adventure Club, and the episode gives Chef a particularly nasty death, getting viciously torn apart by animals while he defecates. The writers turning Chef into a pedophile and then slaughtering him wouldn't be the last time they'd directly respond to criticism in the show, but despite a grisly end, Chef is still one of the show's best characters.

23. Officer Barbrady

The police force often makes for easy fodder when it comes to comedy on television, and officers are regularly shown as incompetent and incapable, vastly preferring eating doughnuts to actually getting their job done. In the early seasons of "South Park," Officer Barbrady is the target of the show's lampooning of the police force. Barbrady seems to have the intelligence of a child and is even sent back to school by the mayor because he's illiterate. He seems completely and utterly incapable of doing just about anything, constantly bungling any and every case.

That said, despite regularly showcasing Barbrady's incompetence, the town can't seem to properly function without him. In the great Season 2 episode "Chickenlover," Barbrady retires, and the town soon launches into chaos, causing him to return and actually have to solve a difficult case. And while he may not be a very good police officer, Barbrady is actually one of the most kind-hearted people in "South Park" and one of the only adults to never be seen as any sort of deviant. He genuinely loves and cares for the people in town, and he's downright heartbreaking in Season 19's "Naughty Ninjas," where he gets fired for shooting a child playing as a ninja who he mistakes for a member of ISIS. Thankfully, Barbrady later gets reinstated, ensuring there'll be more of this wonderful character in the future.

22. Clyde Donovan

One of the many 4th-grade students at South Park Elementary, Clyde Donovan doesn't often get the chance to shine, but he regularly makes the most of his appearances. In Season 2's "Cartman's Funny Hate Crime 2000," he's declared the second fattest kid in class, replacing Cartman (who's been thrown into juvie) in the sled race, which leads to a hilarious Cartman impersonation.

Despite apparently being second fattest, Clyde is a promising athlete at school and is regularly seen playing sports, including soccer, baseball, basketball, and football. "South Park" often gets weird — very, very, weird — but when most of the boys get in on the adventure, Clyde is regularly disinterested in their antics. In the masterful "Make Love, Not Warcraft" from Season 10, the boys are passionately playing "Warcraft," but Clyde is too busy reading a Playboy magazine instead. He's also a pretty sensitive soul and regularly breaks out into tears. This happens in "Fatbeard" when he actually joins the boys on an adventure, only to discover that there aren't any lagoons and treasure to plunder, as was promised to him. Clyde's easy to empathize with, and when he experiences unspeakable tragedy when his mother dies as a result of him not putting down the toilet seat, it makes him more sympathetic than ever.

21. Gerald Broflovski

The father of Kyle and Ike Broflovski, Gerald is a pretty minor character for a great deal of the show. Sometimes, his fatherly advice goes wrong, like in Season 2's "Chickenpox," where he inadvertently convinces his son Kyle that poor people should be wiped out. Gerald is also no stranger to a cause, and in Season 10's "Smug Alert!", he becomes a driving force for hybrid cars. He ends up harassing everyone in town for not driving hybrids, even going so far as to move his family out to San Francisco (temporarily, of course). In Season 19's "You're Not Yelping," he becomes a delightfully annoying Yelp reviewer, taking great delight in writing outrageously long and arrogant reviews.

In Season 20, with the show fully serialized, Gerald becomes a major player for the first time, becoming the main villain for most of the season as a vicious internet troll, Skankhunt42. It's a surprising twist, but Gerald actually fits the villainous role well and is particularly frightening because he trolls not to get any sort of revenge or because he is angry, but because he simply finds it hilarious to bully people. The season also gives us Gerald's best moment on the show — a glorious strut through town to the song "Steal My Sunshine."

20. Heidi Turner

A perfect example of how the major shift in the later "South Park" seasons brought new characters into the forefront, Heidi Turner went from a background character who rarely said anything into a major and fascinating presence. Although she's one of the popular girls at school, she's largely inconsequential, and besides hosting the sleepover in the Butters-centric episode "Marjorine," she's rarely heard from.

That all changes in Season 20, when she basically ends her life — or, rather, she throws her phone into the river, which deactivates her social media presence and causes the school to throw a funeral for her Twitter. When Cartman's devices are destroyed, the two end up forming a bond because neither are on social media and eventually become boyfriend and girlfriend. This results in one of the more emotional and compelling storylines "South Park" has ever created, as Cartman and Heidi's romantic — and ultimately extremely toxic — relationship is a key part of Seasons 20 and 21 of the show.

Heidi goes through immense emotional and personal growth over her relationship with Cartman, going from a sweet, thoughtful (and according to Cartman, extremely funny) girl into a carbon copy of her boyfriend — aggressive, cruel, and vicious to everyone around her. Despite conniving and underhanded tactics from Cartman, Heidi ultimately chooses to put herself first and breaks up with him for good, becoming one of the show's most complex and insightful characters in the process.

19. Tolkien Black

A character that has been there from the very beginning, Tolkien Black is known as "Token" for the first 24 seasons of the show. In the ingenious Season 25 episode "The Big Fix," it's revealed that Token's name is actually Tolkien, as his parents named him after "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien. It's a delightfully absurd episode that comments on the meta-narrative of the show as well as the staggering ignorance of some of the characters (and perhaps even the writers themselves). Of course, a child would never be named Token, the episode wittily states, which probably explains why Tolkien Black is anything but a token character.

Despite the joke in his name, Tolkien has never been a stereotype. He is regularly stunned by the ignorance of his fellow classmates, who are all white, and none more so than Eric Cartman. The two find themselves regularly at odds, but unlike Cartman, Tolkien is far more grounded, and despite Cartman's constant efforts, he can never get the best of Tolkien. "South Park" has never been a show to shy away from controversy, and in Season 11's "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson," Tolkien is very much the voice of reason at school. When Stan tries to apologize and make excuses for his father's behavior on TV, Tolkien provides a vital opportunity for Stan to learn from his mistakes. But the show cleverly prevents Tolkien from explaining things to Stan and lets the latter come to his own conclusions.

18. Sheila Broflovsky

"Kyle's mom's a b****, she's a big fat b****, she's the biggest b**** in the whole wide world" — so goes the epic song from the movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut," sung gleefully by Cartman. He's referring, of course, to Sheila Broflovsky, mother of Kyle and Ike. Despite the cruel words, she's a genuinely caring and loving mother who adores her family and is always striving to make their lives better. Still, her passion can sometimes be a little misguided, and it results in her being a primary antagonist of the "South Park" movie, in which she leads a tirade against Canada to try and stop comedians Terrance and Phillip. It culminates in Sheila leading the brilliant song "Blame Canada," which actually got a well-deserved Oscar nomination for best original song.

While her causes often get the better of her, Sheila gets a bad rap for trying to protect her kids — she's often doing what most parents would do if they knew what their kids got up to. She may get a bit too aggressive and intense sometimes, but that doesn't make her any less of a good mother. She even gets the occasional chance to shine in a more positive light, like in Season 23's awesome "Turd Burglars," where she gets a fecal transplant and feels better than everyone, causing some serious jealousy from her close friends.

17. Liane Cartman

How exactly did Eric Cartman become such a manipulative monster? Perhaps there's no way of knowing for sure, but the answer may lie in his relationship with his mother, Liane. She's a single mom (the mystery of Cartman's dad was revealed in Season 14's "201") struggling to make ends meet, and she's regularly railroaded by her son's demands. While she initially resists his whims, she always gives in to him, and despite his frequently appalling behavior, Cartman always gets what he wants at home. In Season 15's "You're Getting Old," Liane gives Cartman a present for every gift Stan receives at his birthday party to stop him from getting jealous.

The most important episode in understanding Liane's relationship with her son in Season 10's "Tsst." Liane hires Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, to try to finally reign in her seemingly unstoppable child from dominating her life. Using the same tactics he uses on dogs, he manages to subdue Cartman, allowing Liane to finally get control over her son and have the opportunity to fix her son's behavior. But instead of following through with Millan's lessons, she goes back on what she's learned and once again starts to give her son whatever he wants. Sure, Liane stands up for herself a bit more after "Tsst," but it's abundantly clear that to Liane, her son's adoration is far more important than him actually being a good person.

16. Ike Broflovsky

It's time to "kick the baby!" Ike is the youngest recurring character on "South Park," and despite only being in kindergarten, he manages to get into some pretty surprising situations. Ike stands out because of his background: he's a Canadian adopted by the Broflovski's, which is why, like all Canadians, he has a flappy head. Despite living in America, he's deeply devoted to his home nation — in Season 15's "Royal Pudding," he joins the army of Canada to try and rescue the Canadian princess.

As a show that revels in tackling taboo subjects, Ike ends up having a romantic relationship with a teacher. In the outrageous Season 10 episode "Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy," Ike has a tryst with the new kindergarten teacher Ms. Stevenson, which results in her death as she kills herself and tries to take Ike with her. Although he doesn't talk a whole lot, Ike is often one of the funniest characters on "South Park" because his facial expressions and quiet nature often result in hilarious moments. He's very much a child and a lot less mature than his older brother, which is why when he gets angry or experiences sudden puberty in Season 17's "Taming Strange," a glorious time is had by all (except his older brother Kyle).

15. Tweek Tweak

"There's too much pressure" is the frequent rallying cry of Tweek Tweak, the 4th-grader who is certainly the single most anxious child in all of "South Park." He's anxious about pretty much everything, ranging from the inconsequential putting a carrot nose on a snowman to the far more dire death of teacher Mrs. Choksondik. The source of his anxiety and paranoia likely stems from the fact that his parents own Tweek Bros., the local coffeehouse, and regularly give their son coffee to help him calm down — to frequently disastrous results. He's constantly jittering thanks to the caffeine coursing through his veins, but he's also one of the sweetest and most innocent boys and South Park elementary.

In later seasons, Tweek comes out as gay (whether he likes it or not, it's a long story) and begins a relationship with classmate Craig Tucker in Season 19's "Tweek x Craig." The poor guy even gets into a scandal with North Korea when the American President constantly tweets that Tweek isn't scared of the enemy nation when in reality he couldn't possibly be more terrified, which leads to the terrific rallying cry song "Put it Down." A charming bundle of nerves, Tweek is one of the show's most endearing characters.

14. PC Principal

One of the newest additions to "South Park," PC Principal immediately changes the fabric of the show when he first appears as the school principal in Season 19's premiere episode, "Stunning and Brave." PC Principal begins the show's critique of politically correct culture, which has been a big part of the show since the character's introduction (though it has always been part of the way "South Park" does things). It would be easy to make PC Principal's character a one-note mockery of modern culture, but unsurprisingly, "South Park" lends plenty of dimension to the new principal of South Park Elementary.

When we first meet PC Principal, he's hyper-aggressive and doesn't hesitate to use pretty extreme violence to enforce his views. His biggest roadblock to imposing his views comes from the use of the r-word in the school newspaper, which leads to a conversation with newspaper editor Jimmy Valmer, who finally provides a challenge to PC's ideology. Sure, "South Park" has a lot of fun at the character's expense, but he's also given a lot more complexity when he meets Vice Principal Strong Woman, and the two begin a romantic relationship. PC Principal is complicated, but without him, the wonderful Season 19 — which properly serializes the show — wouldn't work.

13. Craig Tucker

The boy with the deepest timber in his voice, Craig Tucker's tone, distinctive blue hat, and yellow puff set him apart from the crowd. He has a serious passion for giving people the middle finger, which regularly gets him into trouble, and he seems to have no control over it — or maybe he really just likes flipping people off, who can say! In Season 3's "Tweek vs. Craig," it appears it comes from his family, who are all flipping each other off in the episode. He's the most deadpan kid at school, and his vocal inflection rarely shifts, even when he's angry or sad.

Craig is also something of a bad boy, regularly bullying kids and stirring up trouble, though in comparison to a kid like Cartman, he's practically an angel. He's also the leader of his own group of kids, who frequently rival Kyle, Stan, Kenny, and Cartman. In the classic Season 3 episode "Chinpokomon," Craig initially seems unimpressed that Kyle and friends are playing with ninja weapons. But it's not long before his own gang starts playing too, and the rival groups have an epic faceoff in Season 7's "South Park Is Gay." Craig is also one of two openly gay students at school and is in a relationship with Tweek. Despite his father initially being horrified by the discovery of his son's homosexuality, he eventually gets on board and embraces his son for who he is.

12. Towelie

"You wanna get high?" "South Park" has never been a show afraid to get downright weird and wild, and there are few better examples of this than Towelie — a talking towel who loves nothing more than to get high. Because it's "South Park," the kids don't seem particularly phased by a talking towel, while the adults in town are a lot more suspicious, resulting in some nonsensical and yet somehow convincing disguises. Despite constantly using drugs, he's remarkably calm and kind and is happy to offer advice, even while desperate for his next hit. When they do point out that he's a towel, he regularly snaps back with, "No, you're a towel." Towelie is emblematic of "South Park" at its craziest and most oddly endearing.

Despite being one of the show's most ridiculous characters, he's best in a supporting role. Notably, the Towelie-centric "A Million Little Fibers" from Season 10 is a bizarre and unsettling episode that was poorly received by fans. Despite disappearing from the show for quite some time, he now works with Randy Marsh on Tegridy Farms — a real full-circle moment for the weed-loving towel, who ends his long-term sobriety to work on a farm that creates the thing he loves most.

11. Sharon Marsh

Life can't be easy for Sharon Marsh. As Stan's mother, she's constantly bombarded by the outrageous adventures of her husband Randy, who's always getting the family into increasingly implausible shenanigans; her extremely angry daughter Shelly; and her son Stan, who gets into more hijinks than anyone else. Still, despite the incredibly overwhelming madness that could easily consume her, Sharon is incredibly strong-willed and principled and manages to remain steadfast through everything that goes on to her and around her.

Sharon is oft-overlooked, but without her, it's fair to say that Randy and Stan (and Shelly) wouldn't be anywhere near as interesting as they are. In the surprisingly emotional "You're Getting Old," one of the show's very best episodes, Sharon is the emotional throughline that makes everything so effective. She's often the straight-man role next to her family's nonsense, but Sharon deserves recognition for being one of the show's most important characters. Sometimes, she even gets an episode all about her, like the funny Season 14 "Crème Fraiche," where she starts using a shake weight, or the heavier Season 22 premiere "Dead Kids," where she is (rightfully) panicking over the onslaught of school shootings at South Park Elementary. Plus, without her, how would we get so many spectacular renditions of "Hey Sharon"?

10. Wendy Testaburger

One of the most underappreciated yet outstanding characters on the show, Wendy Testaburger is fantastic. While "South Park" is often far more concerned with the boys, the girls occasionally get their own chances to shine, but none more than Wendy. She's very mature and intelligent for her age and an empathetic and sensitive kid. She is often the voice of reason, which regularly finds her in direct opposition to Eric Cartman. In Season 12's "Breast Cancer Show Ever," Wendy's presentation on breast cancer awareness is aggressively mocked by Cartman, and he continues to bully her long after the class has ended. She snaps and challenges him to a fight after school. Despite Cartman's multiple attempts to get the fight called off, Wendy ends up beating the living snot out of Cartman, reaching a satisfying conclusion for her struggles (even though Cartman continues to rip on her as the series goes on).

Wendy also finds herself struggling with the societal pressure around growing up as a girl in contemporary society. In the outrageous Season 8 episode "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset," Wendy finds herself at odds with the rest of the girls at school, who become influenced by Paris Hilton's sex-tape scandal and try to become "stupid spoiled whores," much to Wendy's horror. In the crushingly relevant Season 17 episode "The Hobbit," Wendy despairs over the power photoshop has in making people — especially young girls — feel vulnerable about their bodies. Ultimately, it comes down to this: If you regularly find yourself opposing Eric Cartman, you're probably doing something right.

9. Mr. Mackey

Let's talk about one of the show's funniest characters, m'kay? The frequently exasperated school guidance counselor, Mr. Mackey, has become increasingly frustrated over the years at South Park Elementary. In early appearances, he feels pretty cool, calm, and collected, but it's not long before Mackey is visibly frustrated by everything around him. He's very distinctive with his tall, lanky stature and his enormous head that resembles a balloon, and most of his lines are punctured by the word "m'kay," which is used to terrific effect in the "South Park" movie song "It's Easy, M'Kay."

In Season 5's "Proper Condom Use" — in which Mackey dispels myths about sex for the kids at school — he finds himself falling for colleague Mrs. Choksondik, and the two pursue a sexual relationship (though she dies in a later episode). Mackey is easy to love because he has a genuine desire to help and make a difference in the children's lives, but the shenanigans at school make it increasingly difficult for him to do so. In Season 10's "Mystery of the Urinal Deuce," Mackey finds himself on a mission to discover who is responsible for pooping in a school urinal, which drives him crazy. He's perhaps most unhinged when trying to put on a school play about the being Tooth Decay in "Royal Pudding," and his passion for eradicating the disease comes directly at odds with the kids' inability to perform. Still, despite his occasional bursts of anger, Mr. Mackey just wants to help.

8. Mr. Garrison

One of the most controversial characters on the show, Mr. Garrison goes through an awful lot. He undergoes multiple sex-change operations and even ends up becoming President of the United States. Garrison is the 4th-grade teacher at South Park Elementary, and he's genuinely awful at his job, preferring to teach about pop culture moments (the Kardashian family, plotlines in "Game of Thrones," and more). He also struggles with understanding his sexual identity, which is the focus of episodes like "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina" and "Eek, A Penis!"

Garrison becomes quite radicalized in later seasons of the show, and his promise to "f*** them all to death" quickly leads to his surprise campaign (and even more surprising victory) as the President of the United States in a storyline that closely resembles and takes great pleasure in mocking the real-life campaign of Donald Trump. Garrison ultimately becomes a symbol of how easy it is to be radicalized in contemporary society and how difficult it is to escape that mindset, making him one of the more compelling characters in the show. He's also incredibly funny, and Garrison's desire to make people uncomfortable by brandishing offensive statements speaks well to the "make fun of everyone" mantra that has been at the core of "South Park" since the very beginning.

7. Kenny McCormick

Poor Kenny McCormick. In early episodes of "South Park," Kenny is killed off in dramatic fashion in just about every single episode in increasingly nonsensical ways, including being carried off by a dinosaur. He'd always return later, only to be killed time and time again. Kenny is very different from the rest of the kids at school, as he's the poorest kid and lives in a different part of town from everyone else. He also wears an orange jacket that obscures most of his face, causing his dialogue to be incomprehensible, though his friends have no difficulty understanding what he says. Kenny's face is revealed for the first time in "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut," which remains one of cinema's great face reveals. In Season 5's "Kenny Dies," Kenny actually dies and disappears from the show for quite a while, but when he returns, he is thankfully massacred on a far less frequent basis.

Kenny is actually incredibly caring, especially when it comes to his younger sister Karen. He occasionally adopts the superhero persona Mysterion to take care of his family and fight justice, which leads to some of the most heartfelt moments of the show between him and his sister. Despite us not being able to understand him, Kenny is the star of some of the show's very best episodes, including "Best Friends Forever," "The Poor Kid," and the majestically nonsensical "Major Boobage."

6. Jimmy Valmer

Jimmy Valmer (formerly Swanson) is one of the most delightfully optimistic characters on the show. His disability is hardly ever mocked, and it never stops him from achieving his goals. Jimmy is extremely passionate about comedy and dreams of being a big-time stand-up comedian, regularly performing for the students and adults in town. Even if nobody is laughing (or even present), he's still perfectly chipper, regularly saying, "Wow, what a terrific audience," after delivering a joke. He also decides to host the first annual Comedy Awards, which ends up enraging the entire country of Germany in Season 15's "Funnybot."

Like every kid who lives in South Park, he's no stranger to getting involved in ludicrous scenarios. In Season 8's "Up the Down Steroid," he becomes obsessed with weightlifting and starts using steroids to dominate the Special Olympics, regardless of who his obsession ends up hurting. In the delightfully bonkers "Fishsticks," Jimmy and Cartman end up creating a hilarious joke about fish sticks making you gay that ends up drawing the ire of rap legend Kanye West, who is unable to understand the joke. The season-long storyline in Season 19 proves that Jimmy is actually one of the smartest kids at school and understands the world of advertising and news better than just about anyone else on Earth. Jimmy's immense knowledge is further confirmed in Season 21's "Moss Piglets," when he and Timmy study water bears that may just have life-saving potential.

5. Stan Marsh

What would "South Park" be without both Stan Marsh and Kyle Broflovski? The two best friends are a vital part of almost every single "South Park" episode, with only a few exceptions. Yet while the two are intrinsically linked together, they are both very different characters, and Stan Marsh is without a doubt one of "South Park's" very best. He's a natural leader, regularly getting the kids together alongside Kyle to try and make a difference, though he's noticeably more apathetic than most kids. This is especially obvious in "You're Getting Old," in which Stan becomes increasingly disillusioned when he turns 10-years-old. Stan certainly feels the burden of the increasingly depressing world around him, which actually makes him one of the more empathetic characters on television.

Despite being a moral compass in the community, that doesn't stop Stan from making mistakes. In Season 11's "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson," he fails to properly understand the severity of his father's live television blunder, and in Season 25's "The Big Fix," he and his father Randy seem to be the only people in town who didn't realize Token's name was actually Tolkien. Like his friend Kyle, he regularly summarizes episodes with a thoughtful speech to a crowd, like in the phenomenal Season 9 episode "Trapped in the Closet," which has great fun mocking Scientology. Stan is a passionate guy who hates seeing people being taken advantage of — especially his grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer's. Indeed, in "Cash for Gold," Stan comes to his defense against television shopping channels.

4. Kyle Broflovski

Kyle Broflovski is one of the very best characters in "South Park" — and television in general. Kyle is fascinating because even though he always tries to abide by his moral code and do what he believes is right, it often results in him being a sort of villain. He's passionate and cares deeply about doing the right thing, but that doesn't mean he can't be infallible, and his hotheadedness gets him into some tricky situations. Thankfully, Kyle is sensitive, highly intelligent, and almost always realizes the errors of his own ways, which allows him to ultimately understand his mistakes. Kyle has enemies of his own and is constantly facing off with Cartman, which often results in epic fights and situations. He also absolutely can't stand his cousin — also named Kyle — who comes to visit in Season 5's "The Entity."

Similar to Stan, Kyle often concludes episodes with a speech that often starts with, "You know, I've learned something today." While it is genuinely really difficult to separate Kyle and Stan when it comes to deciding which of the boys is a better character, we have to give Kyle the edge as he stands up for what's right, all while being relentlessly bullied and teased from the wildly anti-Semitic Cartman. One thing is for sure: both Kyle and Stan are amongst TV's finest straight-men. Also, without Kyle, Cartman's complete immorality would likely go unchecked, making the show a lot less satisfying — and a lot more disturbing.

3. Randy Marsh

Go figure: the most immature parent in "South Park" is also a brilliant geologist. Randy has experienced a meteoric rise on the show, becoming more and more involved, and it's fair to say that Randy is now as integral to the show's success as the four main kids. The ultimate man child, Randy is constantly trying to reclaim his youth, which leads to an endless bevy of outrageous circumstances. Only on a show like "South Park" can Randy face-off with U2 frontman Bono while on a mission to produce the biggest crap and have everything still feel completely believable.

Beat for beat, Randy is definitely the second funniest character, and only our No. 1 pick is funnier. He gets crazily obsessed with things at the drop of a hat, which leads to some laugh-til-you-cry moments in episodes like "Broadway Bro Down," "Crème Fraiche," and "Margaritaville," where he leads the entire town into austerity while he continues to make outlandish purchases.

A lot of Randy's ridiculousness stems from a desire to be a good dad and impress his son Stan (and occasionally, he remembers his daughter, Shelly). He also tries to be a good husband, and his decision to move his family to Tegridy Farms comes from genuinely good intentions, even if the reality is distinctly less positive for the rest of his family. Randy is simultaneously intelligent and deeply ignorant, quick to make judgments, and despite his constant failings, really does care about his family and friends.

2. Butters Stotch

At times, everyone in "South Park" feels hardened by all of their experiences, and many kids at South Park Elementary run the risk of feeling disillusioned by the crushing disappointment of the world around them. This is decidedly not so for Butters Stotch, the single most naive, charming, and downright adorable kid in the entire town. Butters' naivety is a striking contrast to his friends, who regularly take advantage of his genuine childlike innocence in increasingly hilarious — and if you're Eric Cartman, increasingly disturbing — ways. At one point, Butters is a pretty minor supporting character in the show, but he has a major breakthrough with Season 5's "Butters' Very Own Episode," where he joyfully walks around, rather oblivious to the tremendous bleakness of the episode.

Butters' prominence has increased through the show's run, and he's now an absolutely vital presence in "South Park." He's without a doubt the character closest to resembling an actual child, and his singing of "Loo Loo Loo" to help bring him ease is very sweet. He's regularly taken advantage of by Cartman, particularly in the outstanding "Casa Bonita" in Season 7 and the equally brilliant "AWESOM-O" in Season 8, in which Butters actually has the upper hand over Cartman (even if he has no idea). In many ways, Butters has become the heart and soul of the current era of "South Park," and it's an absolute delight to watch this often unintentionally hysterical little boy take center stage.

1. Eric Cartman

Is Eric Cartman both the best — and the worst — character in television history? The argument could certainly be made successfully in either camp, and this endless stirrer of controversy is an easy choice for the very best character of "South Park." He is without a doubt the cruelest, nastiest, most vengeful character on the show, and he takes great pride in his sexism, racism, and antisemitism — he's more than willing to target any minority without a second of hesitation. "South Park" tows a very difficult line, but it manages to take an overweight, angry boy so full of hatred and give him a surprising amount of depth, all while mocking everything he does. This makes him one of television's most intriguing sociopaths.

Cartman is regularly at the forefront of some of the show's best episodes, including his brutal manipulation of Butters in "Casa Bonita," his complete inability to understand race relations in "World War Zimmerman," and when he comes face to face with his own ego in "The Death of Eric Cartman." So it should come as no surprise that the show's single greatest episode — Season 5's "Scott Tenorman Must Die" — centers around Cartman. In the episode, Cartman gets a taste of his own medicine when he is relentlessly bullied by older kid Scott Tenorman. Sick of being tormented, Cartman conceives an elaborate revenge scheme to get back at Scott. What he does is the most shocking moment in the entire history of "South Park" — Cartman kills Scott's parents, cooks them into chili, and feeds them to him. If the episode teaches us anything, it's that Cartman is capable of unspeakable horror, and you better respect his authori-tay.