Up in Evergreen, rumors of Trey Parker are exaggerated, but not greatly. The co-creator of South Park grew up here, went to high school here, made home movies here. And now that his demented characters--from a singing "Christmas Poo" to Starvin' Marvin, the mail-order refugee--have gone mainstream, everyone is sure they know who inspired the droning guidance counselor and the insipid pastor. Personally, I always wonder when I will run into Chef, now played by Isaac Hayes, whose human counterpart would be instantly recognizable in a lily-white town like this.
Our drugstore now features Cartman refrigerator magnets in the checkout line. A guy my husband volunteers with in the fire department insists he has all of Parker's pre-Hollywood oeuvre on tape (including that musical on Alfred Packer) but makes it available for viewing only by invitation. And I am always running into someone from Parker's graduating class at Evergreen High School who claims to have recognized his genius long before anyone else did.
Parker was here briefly last month to deliver the Evergreen High commencement speech, and reports of his wit and wisdom have been flying ever since. Here are some of the high points, as discussed at the health club, the Safeway and the skateboard park.
The week he returned to Evergreen, Parker was finishing up the movie version of his cartoon, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, which opened this week. The irony didn't escape him: Now a big-time Hollywood dude, he still had an oral presentation overdue to his alma mater, and he'd put off doing any research until the last minute. Not sure what advice to give the seniors, Parker called the two most influential people in his life: his mom and a Hollywood mogul who shall go unnamed.
Mom's advice was succinct: Tell them to go to college. Parker had managed to attend the University of Colorado for three years (and make the Packer movie) before he was kicked out. One of the skills he learned at CU--lighting farts--is still germane. Did this mean Mom was wrong? No, he finally decided, because his classmates who were "just going to take a year off" were still doing nothing with their lives. So, yeah, he told the seniors: Go to college.
The mogul had suggested that Parker talk about making tons of money, as recent graduates would need to acquire a lot of cushy, expensive stuff in order to be happy. This hardly guaranteed a quality life, Parker cautioned the grads, but it was indeed nice to have. (In fact, he'd just written a big check for a new car.)
Growing philosophical, Parker advised depressed seniors to get over it, even if what they were depressed about was a Huge World Problem. You can't save the rainforest if you're depressed--you can't be creative enough to work up a solution. In fact, he told them, no matter what you do, you must be as creative as you can be.
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People are still talking about the speech. The seniors were psyched, the parents pleasantly surprised. Even a locally famous June Cleaveresque mom--known, if you can imagine, for her pot roast recipe--had to admit that his message was one she'd want her teenagers to follow. She nitpicked, but not with her usual gusto. "I didn't like his shirt," she told a neighbor. "I think a collared shirt would have been a better choice."
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, directed by Trey Parker; produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.