The 100 Greatest ‘South Park’ Characters

From singing pieces of poop to basket-weaving monsters with Patrick Duffy for a leg, these are the 100 most important residents of that quiet little redneck, podunk, white-trash mountain town
The 100 Greatest ‘South Park’ Characters

For more than a quarter century now, South Park has left a mark on the cultural conversation — starting with its very first episode, “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe,” and continuing right on through its more recent COVID specials.

While the show began with a focus on four kids and their good-hearted school cafeteria worker, it has expanded to literally hundreds of characters, including stoner towels, singing pieces of human shit and world-ending ManBearPigs. There’s also a starvin’ Marvin, an old Marvin, a kid named Clyde, a stuffed frog named Clyde and oh so many head-flapping Canadians

Narrowing the list to the 100 best characters was a monumental task, especially since there are shifting criteria for greatness on South Park. Some characters are great because they’re the stars, like the boys or Randy Marsh. Others are great because they’ve been reliable side characters, like Tolkien, Tweek and Craig. Some make the list because they’re inexplicably huge online, while a few are here because they offer a twinge of nostalgia for the show’s highly irreverent early days. And then there’s Butters, who’s amazing in every conceivable way. 

To create this list, we assembled a team of writers who are dedicated fans of every era of South Park, as well as a number of representatives from the show’s extensive fan community. Some of the choices may rank higher than you’d expect — like Big Gay Al — even if others didn’t make the cut at all (sorry, Ugly Bob and Ms. Choksondik). We did our best though. So, without further ado, here they are, as the theme song says, the “friendly faces everywhere, humble folks without temptation,” most of which are anything but.

Pip Pirrip

Pip sucked. Based on a character by the same name from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, the little British orphan was the show’s first punching bag. In the original, unaired pilot of South Park, Cartman told him, “Go away, Pip, nobody likes you,” and Cartman was right on the money. Even the generally altruistic Chef picked on Pip, refusing to give him a helmet during football practice. The hatred of Pip also extends to the South Park fandom, which was cemented by the fan-trolling Season Four episode “Pip,” where the show retold Great Expectations for an agonizing 22 minutes. Pip sucked so much that he eventually faded from view before being killed off during Season 14, when he was squished by a returning Mecha-Streisand. — Brian VanHooker, Senior Features Writer 

Scott Malkinson

Since Pip’s demise, the lamest kid at South Park Elementary has been Scott Malkinson, who speaks with a lisp and, if you didn’t know, has diabetes. The point of Scott Malkinson is to be lame and annoying, which he does quite well, but he also manages to be cute and beloved by the fans, which is why he slightly outranks his predecessor. — Norah, artist and viral South Park SuperFan

Mr. Twig

For much of Season Two, Mr. Hat was absent from Mr. Garrison’s hand and the pathetic Mr. Twig took his place. A twig wearing a T-shirt, Mr. Twig suffered from a hilarious lack of creativity, both from South Park’s creators and Mr. Garrison himself. Thankfully, after a few episodes, Mr. Twig was killed off in favor of a returning Mr. Hat, but he certainly blew while he lasted. — Brian VanHooker

Kyle Schwartz

The whiny, neurotic, nebbish cousin of Kyle Broflovski is so annoying that he’s begging to get his ass kicked. Nobody likes him, but like Pip, Scott Malkinson and Mr. Twig, he’s a character we love to hate. — Melanie Christensen, South Park superfan, fan artist and moderator of the Facebook group South Park Fans Only World Wide

Gorak aka Steve aka Larry

At number 96, we have the frozen monstrosity from 1996 known as Steve/Gorac (Stan and Kyle can’t agree on what to call their discovery, who’s actually named Larry). The Season Two episode “Prehistoric Ice Man” was all about a man who’d been frozen for just 32 months and awakened in 1998. It was an absurd premise to hang an entire episode on, but it highlighted how much of the 1990s already seemed freakishly dated by 1998 — from Steve/Gorac’s Eddie Bauer shirt to his abjectly terrible soul patch. The only way to keep him comfortable was in a specially-designed cell with the grating sounds of Swedish Europop group Ace of Base cranked 24/7. The joke never became stale because Steve/Gorac was a tragic figure. His wife, we learned, had moved on with another man, and Gorac really did become frightened and confused by the modern world, ultimately fleeing to the retrograde comforts of Des Moines, Iowa. JM McNab, contributing writer


Thanks to this ski-instructor’s one-and-done appearance in Season Six, “You’re gonna have a bad time” has become a huge South Park meme. While his sole appearance as a super cool ski instructor was funny, it’s hard to say exactly why he caught on other than to shrug one’s shoulders and say, “That’s the internet.” Regardless of his minimal impact on the show, he’s one of those characters — like Mr. Adler and Mr. Big Record Producer — who make this list almost entirely because of their online presence. — Melanie Christensen

Damien Thorn

He was only in one episode all the way back in Season One, but the South Park fandom still has a soft spot for Damien, as he’s frequently featured in fan art, particularly where he’s being “shipped” with his only friend, Pip. The rageful son of the devil who was picked on by the other kids made his evil presence felt in his titular episode, but given how many times Satan has been on South Park, it’s strange that he’s never really come back. It’s almost like they forgot about him. — Norah

Charles Manson

Take a bit of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, mixed with A Charlie Brown Christmas and add in one of the most despised people in history and you’ve got the Season Two episode “Merry Christmas Charlie Manson!” The episode featured a hilariously subversive redemption arc for Manson, who escaped from prison and discovered the spirit of Christmas — he even got his famous forehead swastika tattoo swapped out for a smiley face. While the Mr. Hankey-themed episodes are usually considered the show’s best in the holiday category, “Merry Christmas Charlie Manson!” was a great, early example of South Park pushing the limits of what it could get away with. — Brian VanHooker

Strong Woman

The addition of Strong Woman to South Park’s recurring political-correctness plots has helped elevate the satirization of social justice issues by having her tackle PC Principal’s convictions from a different point-of-view. While the “Board Girls” episode — where Strong Woman’s ex-boyfriend turned trans solely for revenge — was most definitely transphobic, Strong Woman is among the few adults in South Park who questions her own bias and hypocrisies. Can a woman be fiercely independent and still sleep with her boss? Should one tolerate a harasser simply for the sake of political correctness? Should anyone ever watch Disney’s Mulan again? All of these questions we got to explore through the likes of Strong Woman, even when these arguments sometimes suffer from a lack of nuance in the show itself. — Zanandi Botes, contributing writer 


Who knows what creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were thinking when they whipped up the plot of “Free Willzyx”? Allegedly, they were way behind on a deadline when they fixated on an image of a dead orca on the moon, then decided to work backwards. The result is Free Willy on several tabs of acid: The boys went to the aquarium and were pranked into thinking the orca could talk to them (it was just an attendant on a mic). They listened raptly as Willzyx “told” them he must return to the moon, then they embarked on a mission to rescue the majestic orca and put him on a rocket. Turns out, orcas don’t really live in space — but the image of Willzyx asphyxiated and lifeless on the moon is one of the most iconic endings of a South Park episode, ever. — Eddie Kim, freelance writer for Slate, VICE and SFGate

Johnnie Cochran

Ladies and gentlemen of the supposed jury, I’d like you to consider South Park’s interpretation of Johnnie Cochran. One of the many gifts given to us in the all-time classic “Chef Aid” episode, Cochran’s appearance entrenched South Park’s legacy in a wholly unexpected place: our own justice system. In the episode, Cochran’s “Chewbacca Defense,” is essentially a red herring meant to confuse a jury. In the 25 years since, the term “The Chewbacca Defense” has been adopted by law practitioners to dismiss a lawyer’s defense strategy as being disruptively nonsensical. It does Not. Make. Sense. No further questions. — Chaz Kangas, on-air radio personality for The Current 89.3 (KCMP), freelance writer for The L.A. Times and BringMeTheNews

Stuart and Karen McCormick

When sober, Kenny’s parents are generally loving and caring, but most of the time they’re seen as a drunken white trash stereotype. While they’ve provided some solid laughs and given us an insight into Kenny’s home life, they lack the depth of the Marshes, Brovflovskis and even Cartman’s mom. Perhaps their most interesting detail was never fully explored — that their involvement in the Cult of Cthulhu is the reason for Kenny’s ability to come back from the dead. — Steve Q, freelance Writer for Cracked

The Whites

When President Garrison was hiding in South Park, scaring children and devouring pets, the White family stood by him. Even after Garrison’s presidency, Bob White vowed solidarity with Garrison and revealed that he was now a part of QAnon. While Bob White regularly claims that the Whites have “been here since the beginning,” they really began appearing in South Park in 2017 as a stand-in for alt-right viewpoints. Over the past few seasons, they’ve made their presence felt on the show, and given the present state of politics, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a lot more of them. — Brian VanHooker

Cesar Millan

Featured as a one-off character in the Season 10 episode “Tsst,” Cesar Millan was Liane Cartman’s last resort at getting her misbehaving, manipulative son to be a good boy. Sure, the mother of the biggest brat in television history made one questionable choice after another and probably shouldn’t have leaned so hard into reality show experts, but it truly was a gift watching a dog whisperer pinch Eric Cartman every time the bully kid acted like an obstreperous little snot. Bad Cartman! — Zanandi Botes

Mingey and Gary

Ah yes, Mingey and Gary, Oprah’s sentient crotch and butthole (respectively) that turned on her because the two of them felt that she was being more obsessed with her career than the needs of her own body. This hilarious Aussie/British duo conspired to get Oprah fired, but their plan ultimately failed and Mingey went rogue, pulling out a gun and holding Oprah and her fans hostage while Gary begged, “Not like this, Mingey. Not like this!” It all ended with Gary getting shot by a cop, and Mingey taking himself out in grief. It was… a lot. — Zanandi Botes

The ‘Family Guy’ Writers

Some of the funniest South Park jokes occurred when the show’s creators had a conspicuously personal ax to grind, like in the controversial, now un-streamable two-part episode “Cartoon Wars,” which went to great lengths to distance South Park from the humor of Family Guy (which Cartman sums up as “one random, interchangeable joke after another”). The episode ultimately revealed that the FOX series is written, not by human beings, but by specialized manatees in a giant tank. Yup, the exploits of the Griffin family, it turns out, are secretly penned by Gretchen and Flubber from the Gulf of Mexico, and Tigger, Pete and Lucy from the Caribbean Sea. These magnificent animals nudge “idea balls,” containing verbs, nouns and pop-culture references, into the “joke combine,” thus creating Family Guy scripts. It’s impressive that the punchline to one of the show’s harshest burns involved a quintet of adorable sea creatures. — JM McNab

Mr. Kitty

Mr. Kitty is just Mr. Kitty. The sweet little cat served as a vehicle for many of Cartman’s earliest laughs, like “No kitty, this is my pot pie!” and “Mom, kitty’s being a dildo!” Interestingly, during the Season 12 episode “Major Boobage,” where everyone’s getting high off cat urine, Cartman sets up a cat sanctuary in his attic, which suggest that cats — and Mr. Kitty in particular — are the only thing the soft-bellied boy has a soft-spot for. — Norah

Nurse Gollum

The fifth episode of South Park was “Conjoined Fetus Lady,” which featured a pretty nurse who just happened to have a fetus on her head. For the kids of South Park, they were freaked out by it, but the parents were arguably worse, as they went out their way to prove how much they accepted her, going so far as to hold a parade for her and wear headbands with fake fetuses on their heads, all of which the nurse found wildly offensive. It was an early example of just how crazy the town can get. 

The role was also one of many filled by Mary Kay Bergman, who played all of the major female roles for the first two seasons and the South Park film. Bergman was a big part of the show, and when she took her own life in 1999, it took a number of people to fill her shoes. Some characters, like Nurse Gollum, were lost almost entirely, but their unforgettable presence in those early episodes stands as a tribute to her tremendous talent. — Amy Bergeron, South Park superfan

Thomas and Nellie McElroy

Everybody loves Chef’s parents. They only appeared twice, but their hilarious story about seeing the Loch Ness Monster, who stared down at them with red eyes and asked “I need about tree fiddy,” was enough to cement them in South Park history. While “tree fiddy” is a big meme, Chef’s parents were more than just a catchphrase. They were also extremely likable, and the stories they told were hilariously written and performed. While Chef is long gone, South Park fans are still waiting for a spin-off starring his parents. — Melanie Christensen

Heidi Turner

Heidi was a background character for pretty much the entire run of the show until Season 20, where she began a two-season arc as Cartman’s girlfriend. In a great commentary on unhealthy relationships, Heidi goes from a caring, thoughtful person to an angry, overweight asshole, just like Cartman. It was something completely new for a Cartman story, which is especially impressive 20 seasons in. Heidi’s also really smart and funny — get over it. — Norah

The Crab People

Debuting in a surprise twist in the fan favorite 2003 episode “South Park Is Gay,” Crab People were revealed to be the nefarious subterranean menace behind the then-popular metrosexual movement, believing that if all of the planet’s men were emasculated enough then they, an admittedly fragile species, could rise to power on the surface. According to Matt Stone, Crab People was “the worst idea that we’ve ever had put into action.” Initially meant as a placeholder in the writers’ room, the writers were allegedly split 50/50 as to whether it was a good idea, but they went with it. It’s one of the series’ most infamous backstage legends and has led to Crab People becoming a meme for a wholly unexpected storyline twist that feels transparently like a last resort idea. — Chaz Kangas

Dr. Mephesto and Kevin

A key fixture in early seasons, Dr. Mephesto and his sidekick/son Kevin (the product of a genetic experiment involving Michael Jackson’s frozen sperm, if we’re to believe the Primus song) clearly began as a parody of the misbegotten 1996 Marlon Brando vehicle The Island of Doctor Moreau — but with way more asses. What easily could have been just a one-off character, dunking on a movie most people had already forgotten about by the time South Park premiered, Dr. Mephesto quickly became important to the show, figuring into significant storylines, such as the infamous revelation of Cartman’s father’s identity. Mephesto mostly faded into the background as the show progressed, but he’s popped up occasionally since. Most recently, he was the focus of an ass-filled mission in the South Park: The Fractured But Whole video game. — JM McNab


Gobbles! — Melanie Christensen


Without George Clooney, South Park may never have existed. Clooney famously fell in love with the video Christmas card The Spirit of Christmas and passed it around to friends in Hollywood, which eventually led to interest from FOX and, when that fell through, Comedy Central. The idea that Trey Parker and Matt Stone would return the favor by having him “bark” as a gay dog in the show’s fourth episode is a great, early example of South Park trolling its own audience. Logan Trent, Senior Editor

Mickey Mouse

All kinds of villains have terrorized South Park, but nobody compares to the Lovecraftian terror of Mickey Mouse, the CEO of Walt Disney Company and an entertainment luminary who is secretly an abuser with a penchant for egregious violence. Mickey takes pleasure in corrupting little girls with sexual content and beating the living shit out of Joe Jonas. He is responsible for the murder of Winnie the Pooh. He has a habit for fucking Chinese bats and pangolins in back alleys. He can evolve into a giant, floating version of himself that shoots fire. Mickey is the danger — he is the one who knocks. — Eddie Kim

Ms. Crabtree

“She was considered an ancillary character, one the fans wouldn’t miss much.” Those were the words Officer Mitch Murphy said when Ms. Crabtree’s body was discovered after being murdered by a South Park serial killer. While that description is generally correct, the insanely mean school bus driver did provide some of the show’s earliest laughs by screaming at the kids for their foul language. And let’s not forget that she once killed Kenny when he crawled into her vagina and stayed there for six hours. — Steve Q


Technically, “Frosty” — the Terminator-eyed, tentacled killer snowman — doesn’t appear in a single episode of South Park. He only shows up in Jesus vs Frosty, the 8mm short film that Trey Parker and Matt Stone made back when they were college students in 1992, but Frosty’s role is an important one. He’s essentially the very first South Park antagonist, the source of conflict in the foundational text of the series. It’s Frosty who first kills Kenny — who, oddly, resembled Cartman at the time — and presents the earliest obstacle for the gang to work together to overcome. Frosty was also, essentially, the franchise’s first attempt to monstrify a famous pop-culture figure, which obviously became one of the core elements of the series. — JM McNab

Bradley Biggle aka Mintberry Crunch

A substantial contingent of the South Park fanbase considers the show’s best episodes to be the ones where the boys really do behave like children. So goes the memorable “Coon and Friends” storyline that captured how it felt to be a fourth grader creating your own nonsensical superhero. This gave us Mintberry Crunch, the epitome of the puzzling child-created hero character whose superpowers consisted of being half-man half-berry with a refreshing mint flavor that heroically brings the crunch. Mintberry Crunch also brought one of the show’s all-time great audience subversions by building toward a resolution in a multi-episode arc where the mystery of Kenny’s ability to die and be resurrected was to be explained, only to instead give us the intergalactic origins of Mintberry Crunch. Only in South Park, true believer. Only in South Park. — Chaz Kangas

The Visitors

Perhaps the most frequent supporting characters on the show, the aliens known as “The Visitors” have been a part of South Park since the premiere episode “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe.” Since then, images of the Visitors were hidden in the background across the show’s first 15 seasons. Around the time of South Park’s beginning, television specials on aliens were portrayed as deadly serious — South Park turning this trope on its ear by making aliens that communicate through “moo-ing” was an omen of what landmark silliness was to come. — Chaz Kangas

Bat Dad

Anyone who has either played or attended a youth sport in their life has met a “Bat Dad.” The giant, half-naked moron in a Batman costume in Season Nine’s “The Losing Edge” sums up this archetype perfectly, and without him, we may never have seen Randy Marsh’s potential as a bona-fide star of South Park. — Logan Trent

Dr. Doctor

Even though none other than George Clooney played him in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Dr. Doctor is so forgettable that even Trey Parker and Matt Stone can’t seem to remember his name. He’s usually named “Dr. Doctor,” but he’s also been called “Dr. Horatio Gauche” and “Dr. Kels.” Despite this, the character has done a great deal of heavy lifting over the years. He presided over Cartman’s paternity test, and years later, he diagnosed the boy with gingervitus. He treated Randy’s constipation and cared for him after he “got served.” And, of course, Dr. Doctor presided over a number of Kenny’s deaths, the best of which was in Bigger, Longer & Uncut, when he told the boy, “Son, we accidentally replaced your heart with a baked potato. You have about three seconds to live.” — Brian VanHooker

Sexual Harassment Panda

Back in 1999, Parker and Stone decided to tackle sexual harassment while also, strangely parodying the real-life Coast Guard Panda. Peetie the Sexual Harassment Panda visits South Park Elementary to teach kids about sexual harassment, even though Pandas have as little to do with unwanted sexual advances than they do with boat safety. Since he first sang his way into the South Park universe — and into our hearts — the Panda mascot has dominated the internet and pop-culture merch by way of GIFs, memes and knockoff T-shirts with his fluffy face stuck on it. The character has an avid fanbase, and many have expressed a sense of genuine confusion as to why the big bear was never returned to the halls of South Park Elementary. — Zanandi Botes

Father Maxi

Few shows have been as openly critical of the Catholic Church as South Park. From the church’s long-standing hypocrisies to the controversies of the day, South Park’s bold satire has had few peers in the realm of mainstream comedy, which is what makes the contrast of Father Maxi so compelling within the show. A genuine believer who exercises the tenets of Jesus Christ with compassion, Maxi has often been the first and most vocal within the church for calling out un-Christ-like behavior. One of the show’s most conflicted and complex characters, Father Maxi also captures the town’s abundant love and devotion for the Denver Broncos. — Chaz Kangas

Mr. Big Record Producer

A one-and-done character who is a favorite among fans, Mr. Big Record Producer is one of those townspeople whose appearance in the “Chef Aid” episode acts as something of a time capsule of the show’s initial phenomenon during the late 1990s, as South Park exploded at the same time that the music industry reached its highest heights. While the archetype of the evil music industry suit has existed for as long as the industry itself, Mr. Big Record Producer captured everything that was bad about the “get away with anything” business of the time. Buying himself out of trouble in nonsensical ways and following an overconfident, barely-comprehensible logic, Mr. Big Record Producer even worked as an audible character, being the string threaded through the 1998 Chef Aid album, and providing some of its most memorable quotes. In the quarter century since his sole appearance, his catchphrase “I am above the law” has remained a beloved meme, with the required GIF of him applying goop to his hair remaining a hilariously undercutting punctuation. — Chaz Kangas

Principal Victoria

Principal Victoria lasted 19 seasons before officially being fired and replaced by PC Principal. Sometimes more of a plot device than a fleshed-out character, she would swing from being a well-meaning authority figure to sometimes being involved in the town’s craziness, like when she helped to kidnap Randy and admitted to a murder. Arguably underutilized and then replaced with a better character, Principal Victoria’s biggest highlight in the series came when she explained her breast cancer survival story to Wendy Testaburger in relation to Wendy’s conflict with Eric Cartman. Victoria tells Wendy that she must “destroy that fat little lump,” subtly encouraging Wendy to beat the shit out of Cartman. Steve Q

Marvin Marsh

Marvin “Grandpa” Marsh truly feels that he has lived a full life, so much so that, for the first four seasons of South Park, he frequently tried to persuade his grandson and others to end his boring existence. Gramps eventually abandoned his suicidal tendencies and turned to causes he cared about. He’s been a lifelong member of the Hare Club for Men, who believe that the first Pope was a rabbit, he started a movement to protect elderly rights and their driver’s licenses, and Grandpa is currently the head bitch at Shady Acres, South Park’s retirement home. The old man has risen from the depths of despair to find new meaning in life, even if that meaning involved smuggling drugs as part of a nursing home coup. — Zanandi Botes

Mitch Conner aka Jennifer Lopez

In the Season Seven episode “Fat Butt and Pancake Head,” Cartman’s hand became famous as Jennifer Lopez, a pop sensation that rivaled the real J-Lo. By the end of the episode though, Cartman revealed that his talking hand was actually named Mitch Conner. Conner was a talented conman who managed to lure away J-Lo’s real-life love interest Ben Affleck and was featured as the main protagonist in the video game South Park: The Fractured But Whole. While the song “Tacos & Burritos” is a genuine South Park hit, perhaps the greatest contribution of Conner is that Cartman canonically gave Ben Affleck a hand job. — Steve Q

The Wall-Mart

The Wall-Mart knows what you need, it has what you need and guess what? It just went on sale! Shown in the legendary episode “Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes,” the Wall-Mart’s evil ability to close mom-and-pop stores made it one of the most menacing villains to ever grace the small mountain town. It was also a great example of the show’s ability to provide laughs while also making a thoughtful statement on American consumerism and how we treat our community’s local entrepreneurs in the face of one-stop-shop convenience. — Steve Q

Mr. Hat

Before coming to grips with his sexuality, Mr. Garrison’s frustrations all manifested themselves in the form of an adorable bearded puppet wearing a Dr. Suess hat. From telling Kyle, “You go to Hell! You go to Hell and you die!” to convincing Mr. Garrison to kill Kathie Lee Gifford to his boiling of Mr. Twig to reclaim the mantle of Garrison’s hand, Mr. Hat’s presence was a consistent source of dark humor in the show’s early days. — Brian VanHooker

Starvin' Marvin

Starvin’ Marvin is a great example of South Park’s early nonsensical style, but he’s also a budding bit of commentary about real-world events. Using this starving African boy who is surrounded by greedy, uncaring adults served to undercut our own priorities. While still hilariously offensive in its portrayal, Starvin’ Marvin was like the training wheels for Parker and Stone for saying something bigger about the world. — Melanie Christensen

Mayor McDaniels

Like Principal Victoria, the Mayor of South Park is often more of a plot device than a fleshed-out character. She has often factored into South Park’s stories as a fill-in-the-blank authority figure, which has sometimes caused her personality and motivations to suffer. That said, she’s offered up a lot of funny, horrible, politically-cynical things over the years, especially when it comes to the Town of South Park, which she considers to be a “podunk town” filled with “stupid hick, redneck, jobless, truck-driving idiots.” — Norah


Special consideration should be given to any character who inspired a full-blown ballad. Such is the case with Lemmiwinks, the non-verbal gerbil character who got Richard Gere-d up Mr. Slave’s butthole and went on a fantastic voyage through his colon. In one of the show’s most left-field B-stories, Lemmiwinks’ epic quest saw him aided by the spirits of dead animals and ultimately crowned “The Gerbil King.” Even the show’s staff — minus its creators — reportedly took issue with the Lemmiwinks storyline, but Parker and Stone persisted, and Lemmiwinks became an indelible piece of the show’s larger mythology. — JM McNab

Bebe Stevens

She isn’t involved all that frequently, but any plotline involving Bebe generally brings the show back to one of the greatest aspects of South Park: When they write the children as children. “Bebe’s Boobs Destroy Society” — where Bebe is the first girl in her grade to get breasts — genuinely spoke to the awkwardness of puberty. They also delved into stories about young love with her crush on Kyle and her relationship with Clyde. Stories like this are sometimes forgotten about in South Park — as there are no alien probes or weird government conspiracies — but whenever they return to them, it’s always welcome. — Logan Trent

Steven and Marsha Thompson

Sometimes, South Park is at its best when it’s unapologetically juvenile, and such was the case with the butt-faced Thompsons. Appearing in the episode “How to Eat with Your Butt,” the Thompsons were a couple afflicted with Torsonic Polarity Syndrome, which made their face appear to look like a butt. They came to South Park looking for their long lost son, and with the help of the South Park Milk Company, they found him. As it turned out, their son was none other than Ben Affleck, who would later go on to get a hand job from Eric Cartman. — Brian VanHooker

Santa Claus

Santa has been a consistent presence in the show throughout its entire run — whether it was dueling with Jesus, shotgunning Satanic critters or having his magical powers exploited by the NSA to spy on American citizens. Santa also got to star in his own epic, jingoistic wartime action movie parody Red Sleigh Down, and endorsed Randy Marsh’s “marijuana-free” Christmas-themed blow. Through it all, Santa has maintained his jolly, purehearted demeanor; as he always wants what’s best for the people of the world, even if that occasionally requires lethal force and doing rails of surprisingly clean coke — “Santa likey.” — JM McNab

Shelley Marsh

It’s easy to look at the eldest Marsh kid and dismiss her as just a bit character with a running gag (i.e., beating the crap out of Stan for no reason). But over the years, Shelley has evolved into a sympathetic character. She helped the boys take on tough kid Trent Boyett while also pushing them to admit to the crime that caused the conflict in the first place. She stood up for Larry Feegan, the chubby sheltered kid who learned to let go of his literal life jacket thanks to her support. And just like Sharon, she endured years of idiocy and egomaniacal scheming from her father, Randy. — Eddie Kim


In the early days of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone went hard on Barbra Streisand. The reasons for such are subject to debate online, ranging from her reported rudeness to Colorado locals to her real estate ventures in the state to her vow to boycott Colorado if they passed anti-gay laws in the 1990s. Whatever the reason, Parker and Stone expressed their pettiness in the form of sexist nose jokes that age pretty poorly. Regardless if it was warranted or not, Streisand was the first celebrity that South Park really stuck it to, setting the stage for countless others. Plus, it culminated in her becoming the giant robotic Mecha-Streisand who duked it out The Cure’s Robert Smith as a giant moth mutant, which continues to stand as one of the best fights in South Park history. — Zanandi Botes

Pink Christina Aguilera Monsters

When the children of South Park Elementary couldn’t make it through A Farewell to Arms without getting excruciatingly bored, a doctor decided that they all had ADD and prescribed them Ritalin. According to a South Park pharmacist, side effects of Ritalin included a slight lack of energy and hallucinating pink Christina Aguilera monsters, which taunted Eric Cartman several times in Season Four’s “Timmy 2000.” They’re never seen again after Cartman gets off Ritalin, and their presence is never sufficiently explained — they’re just part of the wonderful, inspired randomness of South Park. — Brian VanHooker

Mr. Adler

Shop teacher Mr. Adler first made his presence felt in Season Three’s “Tweek vs. Craig,” where he was haunted by the memory of his dead wife. While he’s stuck around in the background and had a line here and there in the years since, he’s never again had that big of a role. Regardless, his catchphrase “Stop screwing around!” is a strong meme to this day. — Amy Bergeron

The Goth Kids


The Goth Kids are a great example of South Park capturing something real about childhood. Every school has a clique of goth kids and South Park Elementary is no different. They’ve had their fair share of memorable moments too, like when they burned down the Hot Topic and all their strained efforts to explain the minute differences between goths, vampires and emo kids. Deon Williams, YouTuber and South Park fan

Sergeant Harrison Yates

Yates is introduced in full for the first time in the Season Eight episode “The Jeffersons,” in which he attempts to frame Michael Jackson for a simple reason: A wealthy Black man should not exist in South Park. Since then, Yates has repeatedly served as a send-up of police, characterized by his constantly incorrect assumptions, motives and conclusions. As dumb as Officer Barbrady but far more motivated, Yates never fails to clown himself, whether it was believing Cartman was a literal psychic (and arresting a slew of innocent people for it) or by taking undercover work so literally that he became a prostitute, took part in gangbangs and married his pimp. Then again, is there a single detective in America who would go to those lengths to arrest someone? — Eddie Kim

Tuong Lu Kim

At first glance, the inclusion of Kim on this list seems almost inherently offensive, given he is a racist stereotype that speaks with a cartoonish “Chinese” accent and has literal slants for eyes. But the bit came to its glorious conclusion in Season 15’s “City Sushi,” when it was revealed that Kim is actually a white man with a personality disorder, pretending to be Chinese. It is one of the finest examples of Parker and Stone’s flair for retconning and subverting characters in hilarious but critical ways. The twist added depth to South Park’s pointed satire of whiteness, ignorance and sheltered minds, but it also gave new value to a character that could’ve died out a long time ago. — Eddie Kim

Brian Boitano

“What would Brian Boitano do?” This absurd non-sequitur served as an introduction to Boitano in Parker and Stone’s proto-South Park short The Spirit of Christmas, in which the figure-skating star was bafflingly admired by the boys, far more than Santa Claus or Jesus Christ. In addition to being the very first celebrity to randomly pop up in the South Park-verse, Boitano’s mythical greatness (including fighting grizzly bears and battling futuristic robots) became the show-stopping musical rallying cry that inspired the kids to fight back against their parents in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. — JM McNab

The Old Farmer

In 1989, Pet Sematary hit theaters. The film was a ho-hum horror movie based on a Stephen King novel, but it had a standout performance by Fred Gwynne — best known as Herman Munster — as Jud Crandall, an old farmer with a thick Maine accent, who knew about the evil powers of the Pet Sematary and who warned his grieving neighbor, “Sometimes, dead is better.” Somehow, Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided that this character, virtually unchanged, belonged in South Park for Season Five’s “Butters’ Very Own Episode,” and they liked him so much they brought him back again and again. While South Park has long been about skewering what’s in the news, it’s random characters like the Old Farmer that make up the beautiful potpourri that is the show. — Brian VanHooker

Saddam Hussein

The evil, abusive, sexually adventurous caricature of Saddam Hussein was a major villain in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut as well as in several episodes. He was also Satan’s on-again-off-again boyfriend for many years. For those reasons alone, he’s an important South Park character, but he’s also an example of the show being a bit lazy in the area of representation. In real life, Hussein was, of course, a monster and because of that, him being lampooned on South Park is absolutely fine, but he’s also, to this very day, South Park’s sole example of Middle-Eastern representation. For a show that seeks to be smarter than that, this should have been corrected by now. — Logan Trent

Stephen and Linda Stotch

Butters’ parents are a great example of the wholesome, religious family with a deep-dark secret. Stephen Stotch is an ultra-strict father who grounds Butters for the smallest of infractions — they even grounded him for being missing — while his wife is the cowering enabler, allowing him to control his household with an iron fist. In “Butters' Very Own Episode” it’s revealed that Stephen Stotch is actually a closeted gay man who regularly cheats on his wife in bath houses and the like. It’s clearly an abusive household, but all the same, it’s hard not to find Stephen Stotch’s constant beratement of Butters to be absolutely hilarious. — Deon Williams


South Park’s depiction of Xenu was the point of no return for Scientology. Up until 2005’s Scientology episode “Trapped in the Closet,” the public may have thought Scientology was a little strange, but they didn’t really know what it was. But when South Park revealed Xenu, evil dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, as an 1980s-era cartoon villain with the simple caption “THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE,” the genie of their belief system was forever out of the bottle. It was the rare example of South Park not just commenting on the world, but literally educating the public and the perfect example as to why they rightfully earned the Peabody they received in 2006. — Logan Trent

Mel Gibson

The absolutely Looney Tunes craziness of Mel Gibson on South Park — where he’s playing banjo in his underwear and bouncing around like Daffy Duck — was a great way to call out the actor/director on his batshit-crazy anti-Semitism. But what was special about Gibson’s appearances was an attempt by Parker and Stone to tackle the complex issue of separating the art from the artist. While Gibson was a madman in both of his big appearances on the show, he’s also recognized as being a talented filmmaker in the “Imaginationland” episode, where an Army general remarked, “Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the son of a bitch knows story structure!" — Logan Trent

Evil Cartman

We can’t help but have a soft spot in our hearts for the “evil” parallel universe-dwelling version of Cartman, who showed up in Season Two’s “Spookyfish” sporting a Luke Perry-esque goatee and acting surprisingly… nice? The conceit that the Bizarro Cartman is warm and friendly is funny enough, but the idea that even children in the evil alternate reality randomly have goatees — à la Mirror Universe Spock in the original Star Trek series, a reference that likely sailed over the heads of 15-year-olds in 1998 — is absolutely hilarious. Plus, Evil Cartman also sang that unforgettable song “My Best Friends.” We love you, Evil Cartman. — JM McNab

Kanye West

Like Mel Gibson, South Park’s attacks on Kanye West are an example of them going back to a celebrity twice and nailing it both times. Long before West’s recent anti-Semitic meltdown, South Park skewered him as an idiotic egomaniac whose monumental ego drove him out of his mind. It began with a joke about fish sticks created by Jimmy: “Do you like fish sticks?” “Yes” “Then what are you? A gay fish?” But Kanye was so devoid of a sense of humor that he could not get the joke. Eventually, Kanye took the gag so literally that he transformed himself into a homosexual Aquaman and went to go live in the ocean, which kind of sounds like something the real Kanye is crazy enough to do. — Logan Trent

Clyde Donovan

Clyde is that one kid in a friend group who is always a flip-flopper. His personality is inconsistent, from being an emotional kid who is quick to cry in some episodes, to being a cynical jerk who lets A.I. answer the texts to his girlfriend Bebe — you never know what you’re going to get from Clyde. Maybe the best example is during the future COVID specials, when Clyde is the frustrating anti-vaxxer, screwing up everything for everyone else. — Deon Williams

Sharon Marsh

So many great comedic duos are built on the chemistry of a slapstick figure and the straight man, and so it is with Randy and Sharon, who have provided some of the goofiest and most affecting emotion over the course of the series. Sharon has always been an excellent voice of reason — certainly for Randy, whether it was about his giant poops or shilling dank bud — but also for South Park as a whole (recall, for example, her being the only one to be horrified by a school shooting that the entire town seems “meh” about). Sharon’s stoic presence (aided by lessons from a Shake Weight) was crucial in making so many plots, from divorce to failed Blockbuster ownership, as funny as they were. — Eddie Kim

Mr. Slave

Mr. Slave was always too good for Mr. Garrison. The leather-clad daddy is a thoughtful person who cares about the kids of South Park, while also being an unapologetic whore in the bedroom. He’s a great example of South Park’s ability to meld stereotypes with inexplicable positivity. Season Eight’s “Whore Off” with Paris Hilton — where he inserted the reality star into his ass — also makes for one of the show’s most enduring mysteries: Is Paris Hilton still with Mr. Slave? — Melanie Christensen


Debuting in the second episode of South Park, Scuzzlebutt is a monster that roams the mountains of Colorado who immediately jumped into the hearts of South Park fans due to his random extremities — a piece of celery for an arm and TV’s Patrick Duffy as his left leg. He also possesses the incredibly useful ability to weave baskets, which came in handy in his debut as he saved the boys from death by molten lava. The true definition of a gentle giant, Scuzzlebutt is an enduring symbol of the show’s irreverent early days. — Steve Q

Woodland Critters

Squirrely the Squirrel, Rabbity the Rabbit, Beavery the Beaver, Beary the Bear, Porcupiney the Porcupine, Skunky the Skunk, Foxxy the Fox, Deery the Deer, Woodpeckery the Woodpecker, Mousey the Mouse and Chickadeey the Chickadee met Stan in Season Eight’s “Woodland Critter Christmas.” While seemingly innocent animals needing to build a manger, they were, in fact, awaiting the birth of the Antichrist, and they needed to sacrifice an unbaptized child, which they insisted be Kyle. In the end, we found out that the Woodland Critters were all a product of Eric Cartman’s mind as the episode was chronicling a story he was telling to his class, specifically designed to ridicule Kyle for being Jewish. The story made for an unforgettable Christmas episode and offered another peek into the warped psyche of Eric Cartman. — Amy Bergeron

The Underpants Gnomes

The Underpants Gnomes had a catchy little tune — “Time to go to work, Work all day, Search for underpants hey! We won’t stop until we have underpants! Yum yum yummy yum yay!” — and they were hilarious in how crazy they drove poor Tweek, but it’s their steady online presence that puts them in the Top 100. Whether it’s a failed startup or the tanking of Bitcoin, any failed business venture can be sure to see a Underpants Gnomes meme tweeted about it saying “Phase One: Collect Underpants, Phase Two: ?, Phase Three: Profit.” — Melanie Christensen

Jenkins aka The Griefer

Season 10’s “Make Love, Not Warcraft” is an excellent example of South Park fully understanding what it is they’re satirizing. Other shows have parodied video games with characters holding the controllers wrong or mashing buttons nonsensically, but South Park worked with the developers of Warcraft to make this episode work. The whole story paid off beautifully with the reveal of Jenkins as the Griefer, who had been terrorizing the boys online for the entire episode. While he didn’t utter a word, Jenkins was the perfect, supremely memeable representation of a true online troll. — Logan Trent

Officer Barbrady

Yes, Barbrady is a putz. For starters, he got outsmarted by Sharon Marsh in Season One, ending up hog-tied and pantless in the basement while investigating a series of murders “committed” by Stan. It didn’t get much better from there, as Barbrady’s policing in the series consisted mostly of him oafing around, aggressing random people, accidentally running over Kenny and shooting bystanders. Yet somehow, as seen in the episode “Chickenlover,” his presence was key to maintaining the peace in South Park. Does this mean he was unfairly fired from the police force in Season 19? Maybe. Is he willing to become a sex worker and take part in gangbangs to solve a crime, though? Maybe not! — Eddie Kim


As the former ruler of Hell who ascended to Heaven in Season 18 after being killed by ManBearPig, Satan was a complex character who acted all evil but was, surprisingly, a real sensitive and compassionate fella. The openly gay Prince of Darkness had a string of lovers — including the incredibly abusive Saddam Hussein — and was quite the singer. Satan also had a strange connection with Kenny throughout the show. In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, he took Kenny’s advice on how to escape the clutches of Saddam and returned the favor by granting Kenny a wish. The two of them also fought each other during the great Heaven versus Hell battle during Season Nine, which Satan could’ve won if he spent more time playing PlayStation. — Zanandi Botes

Craig Tucker

A largely underused character, Craig had some solid laughs when his tiny little hand would flip people off in his earliest episodes. A largely cynical, sarcastic kid, we only see him start to care about someone when he’s coupled with Tweek in Season 19’s “Tweek x Craig,” making him and Tweek the first openly gay kids in the show. 

That episode began with Tweek and Craig being shipped together in artwork made by the schoolgirls of South Park, which has been something going on in the real-life South Park fandom since Season Three’s “Tweek vs. Craig” where the two boys were tricked into fighting each other. Parker and Stone eventually reacted to the shipping phenomenon by pairing them up in the show, which has served to deepen both characters and portray a really healthy, supportive gay relationship. — Norah 

Tweek Tweak

The jittery, nervous wreck of a character that is Tweek has had a number of fantastic episodes. From the Underpants Gnomes episode to the arc where he filled in for Kenny, to the episode where his dad was resisting selling his coffee shop to Starbucks, Tweek’s uncontrollable anxiety has always delivered the funny. Much later, in the 2014 game South Park: The Stick of Truth, we found out that the source of Tweek’s twitchiness was the fact that his parents have laced his coffee with meth, which is probably bad parenting, but it’s made for a truly classic South Park character. — Norah 


Remember the Memberberries? Those tiny purple chewies — who fed off people’s general weakness for nostalgia — were one of the show’s better ideas, representing the astonishingly flawed notion that the past was somehow better, and that regression instead of progression should be desired by one and all. It’s no surprise that these sour grapes became an instant meme once their first episode aired in September 2016. They were something different, and immediately struck a chord with viewers thanks to their extreme (and evergreen) relevancy. They even delved into the darker side of online fandom when the adorable pop-culture fans were eventually revealed to be racist, homophobic propagandists waxing lyrical about the Reagan era when “there weren’t so many Mexicans.” The Memberberries will always represent pop-culture bigots who troll all things different, and illustrate the foolishness of constantly wanting to recycle the past. — Zanandi Botes

Scott Tenorman

South Park has done a lot of fucked-up shit over the years, but the fate of Scott Tenorman in Season Five’s “Scott Tenorman Must Die” remains its single-most horrific moment. Vowing revenge against the bully who sold him pubes, Cartman concocted a plan where Scott Tenorman’s parents were killed and made into chili, which Scott then ate in a chili-tasting competition. “Scott Tenorman Must Die” seemed to represent a turning point in the show where Trey Parker and Matt Stone realized they really can get away with anything (save for showing the image of Muhammad, that is). Scott Tenorman’s story was only enhanced a decade later, when it was revealed that Scott Tenorman was Cartman’s half brother and that Cartman had killed his own father and made him into chili. — Brian VanHooker

Jimbo Kern and Ned Gerblanski

While not always a duo, Jimbo and Ned’s best work has always been together. Before even the kids’ parents were fully introduced, Stan’s Uncle Jimbo and his buddy Ned offered a look at how nutty South Park’s adults can be with their trigger-happy hunting practices and their unforgettable catchphrase “It’s comin’ right for us!” The show has changed a lot since its second episode, but those early days loom large in the hearts of fans. — Norah 

Liane Cartman

The rock to our favorite big-boned boy, Liane Cartman is a single mother, a real estate agent and South Park’s dirtiest slut. While not as loud as parents like Randy Marsh or Sheila Broflovski, Liane Cartman’s struggles with her son have provided for a number of the show’s best stories, like the “Who is Eric Cartman’s father?” arc, the Cesar Millan episode and the recent real estate storyline. She’s oftentimes an enabler for her son, but you can’t help but feel some level of compassion for anyone who has to live with Eric Cartman. — Steve Q

Al Gore and ManBearPig

ManBearPig is Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s single greatest example of admitting they were wrong. Back in Season 10, a goofy, “Super Cereal” Al Gore came to South Park to warn the town about ManBearPig, which was South Park’s stand-in for climate change. The whole episode was all about how phony global warming was, and ManBearPig himself never appeared. In Season 22, the creators had clearly come around to the negative effects of climate change, because they dedicated two huge episodes to ManBearPig’s actual existence where the boys apologized to the former vice president for doubting him. South Park has pushed the envelope and made strong stances since day one, and they haven’t always been right, but ManBearPig proves that they’re willing to admit when they got it wrong. Excelsior! — Melanie Christensen

Jimmy Valmer

Jimmy’s another positive character everyone seems to love. His catchphrases of “What a terrific audience” and “Have you seen this? Have you heard about this?” are a great send-up of stand-up comedy, and even though all of his jokes are lame and terrible, there’s still something endearing about him. Because of Jimmy’s disability, Parker and Stone make sure that no one mocks Jimmy and that he’s well-liked, and this seems to have carried over to the South Park fandom. — Melanie Christensen

Les Claypool

The real-life lead singer of PRIMUS is one of the most badass bass players to ever walk the face of the earth and his animated counterpart is one of the most important parts of South Park’s success. Claypool was the writer and composer of the South Park theme song and was also a critical piece of the “Chef Aid” festival. While he was last seen in the intro back in Season Four, Claypool is still the first voice you hear in every episode of South Park, and in an era where the “skip intro” button has largely killed the art of the opening theme, the South Park theme’s staying power is truly significant. — Steve Q

Darryl Weathers

Darryl — the man who made “They took our jobs!” a South Park catchphrase — is a modern-day Renaissance man: He lost his job to a bunch of intergalactic Goobacks, then strategized a global male orgy in order to save derrr jerbbbbs. He also started protests against Amazon’s Alexa, rightfully claiming A.I. would destroy union jobs. Okay, so maybe his outrage over the state of globalized labor markets is rooted in a little old-fashioned racism, but hey, at least Darryl knows the value of mental health days and demands a living wage (and left when Cartman failed to offer either for DikinBaus employees). Maybe one day he’ll finally be able to find the right career — perhaps as a labor organizer? — Eddie Kim

Gerald Broflovski

If not for Season 20’s trolling storyline, Gerald Broflovski would likely have been much lower on this list. For the first 19 seasons of the show, Kyle’s dad was a somewhat arrogant lawyer who would occasionally give into flights of fancy — like when he became a dolphin — but only became a part of the plot when a fill-in-the-blank lawyer was required. But in Season 20, it was revealed that Gerald was a vicious, hateful online troll named “Skankhunt42.” Whereas The Griefer was a caricature of a troll, Gerald’s surprisingly deep storyline explained how a seemingly “normal” person might get sucked into online negativity. The twist that Gerald was Skankhunt42 was genuinely shocking and served to make him a far more interesting character. — Brian VanHooker

Ike Broflovski

Before even “Oh my God, they killed Kenny” took off as a running gag, “Kick the baby” was the takeaway line from South Park’s pilot, which Kyle shouted before kicking his baby brother through a window or into a bunch of mailboxes. Kyle’s relationship with Ike has become much more caring since, but “Kick the baby” was a wonderful way to showcase the crudity of the show’s animation style. Even in the simplistic style of say, The Simpsons, kicking a baby would look absolutely horrific, but in South Park’s construction paper artwork, baby Ike was just an egg-shaped head atop a square little body — inflicting violence upon his flappy little head was utterly harmless. Ike has also become substantial over the years, with a good, hearty episode centered around him every few seasons. Be it about the Canadian royal family or taking hormones, Ike has become a full-fledged, proud Canadian character. — Brian VanHooker

Sheila Broflovski

Contrary to Cartman’s musical slander — "Kyle’s Mom’s a Bitch" — Kyle’s mom is great. Sheila Broflovski filled a key role in the first three seasons of the show by acting as a stand-in for South Park’s real-life parental backlash. That role was expanded for the movie, in which Sheila was essentially the central antagonist. She even got to sing the film’s stand-out tune, the Oscar-nominated “Blame Canada.” Importantly, Sheila never became a full-on villain, nor was she a shallow Jewish mother stereotype devoid of nuance or humanity. Sheila was always Kyle’s mom, trying to do what she thought was best for her children (even if it meant kickstarting a war and ushering in armageddon). A big part of what made Sheila’s soulfulness tick in those early years was the performance by Mary Kay Bergman. While Mrs. Broflovski continued as a character after Bergman’s death, she sadly hasn’t commanded the show’s attention the way she used to (aside from the occasional fecal transplant). — JM McNab

Jesus Christ

Since the very first manifestation of the show, entitled The Spirit of Christmas, Jesus has always been a part of the makeup of South Park. Jesus hosted his own cable access show called Jesus and Pals where he regularly demonstrated the power of Christianity through his many miracles. He also fought Santa, Satan and an evil Frosty, as well as terrorists and priests of his own religion, making him one of the show’s most badass yet compassionate characters — the kind of juxtaposition one can only find on South Park. — Steve Q


Timmy is perhaps the best example of how South Park can be offensive and inspiring all at once. On one hand, Timmy reinforces a number of stereotypes about disabled people. On the other hand, Parker and Stone fought to keep him in the show and went to great lengths to make sure he was never the butt of the joke, that he was well-liked and that none of the other kids made fun of him, Cartman included. Whether or not Timmy is a positive character is hard to say, but he certainly is beloved as “Timmy!” became the show’s biggest rallying cry after “Oh my God, they killed Kenny!” — Brian VanHooker

Tolkien Black aka Token

Tolkien began as a joke. The gag was making fun of Black tokenism by naming the only Black kid in school “Token Black.” Eventually, the background character was elevated to make political points regarding race, be it about police brutality, gentrification or hate crimes. While it took a long time, now Tolkien is a full-fledged character, who likes to chill with Stan and play Warhammer, pretend he’s a superhero or do other things that kids actually do. It’s some of the best character development in the history of the show, and his evolution was properly acknowledged in Season 25, when they “revealed” his name was “Tolkien” all along (it wasn’t, but they hilariously pretended it was). 

He’s also one of the few “normal” people in South Park who never gets too crazy. South Park also deserves a bit of credit for his casting. In a show where Trey Parker and Matt Stone do nearly every voice, Tolkien has been voiced by Black producer Adrien Beard since 2000, which is especially impressive since shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy are only just figuring this out. — Deon Williams

Terrance and Phillip

When Terrance and Phillip debuted in South Park’s sixth episode, they were Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s response to the show’s earliest criticisms. Genuinely believing that they were going to be canceled, the creators struck back at claims that South Park was “just fart jokes” by making a show-within-a-show that was truly “just fart jokes.” As beloved as Itchy and Scratchy are on The Simpsons, Terrance and Phillip’s in-show comedy has been an effective stand-in for multiple media controversies over the past 25 years. While their full-length episode “Not Without My Anus” was among the worst received in the series’ history — the bait-and-switch of revealing Cartman’s father will do that — “Canada’s hottest action stars” redeemed themselves with the fanbase after an unforgettable performance in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The two have reappeared many times since, still flatulent after all these years. — Chaz Kangas

Wendy Testaburger

Wendy always deserved better than South Park, whether it’s the happenings of the town or the IRL hate she receives from the fandom. Over the seasons, Wendy has evolved from a cutesy gag (making Stan throw up out of puppy-love nerves) into one of the genuine moral centers of the town. Maybe she’s a little uptight at times, but there’s little question of Wendy’s heart. She fights for breast cancer, Syrian refugees and endangered dolphins. She helps Tweek reunite with Craig after their dramatic “breakup.” She fights for Stan, even after so many instances of him letting her down, and she beat the shit out of Cartman, joining a short but important list of people who have kicked his ass for good cause. — Eddie Kim


Created to satirize the show’s own merchandising craze, Towelie has ironically been merching up homes across America since his introduction back in 2001. On the commentary track of the walking, talking stoner rag’s titular episode, Parker and Stone said that the piece of cloth was meant to be nothing more than a vehicle for spouting catchphrases “and merchandise the hell out of.” The 17-in-towel-years-old pothead, however, has certainly become more significant than that as he has saved the boys’ lives, lectured Randy on the importance of cultivating homegrown weed and sobered up in an effort to be a good dad to his son, Washcloth. Towelie has also become a 4/20 mascot and had his dopey eyes smacked onto a pair of Adidas in 2021. The “worst character ever,” according to his fellow South Park residents, has turned out to be anything but, and he’s taught us all the importance of always bringing a towel. — Zanandi Botes


Voiced by Oscar winner Isaac Hayes, Chef was an essential part of South Park’s first decade. The novel approach of the smartest person in town being the only Black man, who also is portrayed as an irresistible love machine and a paragon of virtue, there was nobody like Chef on television. In addition to reintroducing Hayes to a new generation, Chef’s genuinely great songs — all written and arranged by Trey Parker — have remained some of the series’ greatest-lasting legacies. “Chocolate Salty Balls,” “Hot Lava,” “No Substitute” — every listen is like Salisbury steak for your ears. 

Somewhere, there exists an alternate universe where Chef may have topped this very list, had it not been for his unceremonious exit from the show thanks to the aforementioned 2005 Scientology episode. In the years since Hayes’ death, his family has said his reasons for departing in 2006 may have not reflected his true feelings, but that he truly loved doing the show. While the argument could be made that the show had already evolved beyond the need for Chef as a character, Hayes’ history as a musician and an actor had always been one of inspired reinvention, which makes us wonder what final Chef adventures we could have gotten before Hayes’ unexpectedly died in 2008. — Chaz Kangas

Mr. Mackey

Based on a real teacher Trey Parker had in high school, Mr. Mackey has proven to have more staying power than other school-based characters like Chef and Principal Victoria. The anxious Mr. Mackey is caring toward the children of South Park Elementary, but he’s also not one to be trifled with as he’s been known to let some rage out at things like electric scooters and kids ditching school plays about dental hygiene. Over 26 seasons, Mr. Mackey has loved several women, has genuinely provided life guidance to countless South Park residents and once accidentally distributed marijuana to a classroom full of children. He’s also gifted the show with one of its most enduring catchphrases, “M’kay.” — Steve Q

Big Gay Al

Like Timmy, Big Gay Al does reinforce some stereotypes, but he’s also the kindest, most considerate, well-adjusted character ever to appear in the show. This is especially impressive when you consider that Big Gay Al first appeared in an age where Will & Grace was considered edgy. While Trey Parker and Matt Stone have made some missteps when it comes to sexuality over the years, Big Gay Al was always an incredibly positive influence on the show meant to open the minds of South Park’s residents and South Park’s audience. Simply put, Big Gay Al is super, thanks for asking! — Brian VanHooker

PC Principal

At first glance, PC Principal seems like a straightforward ripping of “PC culture” and “wokeness.” As one fan writes on Reddit, “He’s a frat bro that acts like a crazy left-wing SJW liberal.” That may be so, but Peter Charles is more than a caricature, and has developed into a uniquely ethical force for a town that largely lacks any moral compass at all. He’s enthusiastic about sexual consent, advocates for women, fires Mr. Garrison for being vehemently racist, protects the schoolkids’ right to protest and is a genuinely good family man to Strong Woman and their babies. Also, he joins Wendy on the list of people who have beat the piss out of Cartman (in this case, for microaggressions against women and Italian Americans). If that’s the hilarious balance of being a “crazy SJW,” well, maybe a bit of PC is good for South Park after all. — Eddie Kim

Mr. Hankey

Now a genuine Christmas icon and one of the franchise’s definitive characters, it’s wild that Mr. Hankey made it to television at all, but he somehow managed to plop himself into the hearts and bowels of millions for over a quarter-century, to the point where Mr. Hankey Christmas ornaments are commonplace among even casual South Park fans. Later seasons would introduce Mr. Hankey’s family, many memorable cameos and his own album, Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, which was sold on every major store shelf and featured America’s favorite piece of human excrement smiling on the cover. — Chaz Kangas

Kenny McCormick

“Oh my God, they killed Kenny!” “You Bastards!” was the single biggest catchphrase from a show with hundreds of memorable lines and it catching on in the zeitgeist was critical to South Park’s early success. The same can be said for the gag of having Kenny die in every episode — it made South Park edgy to the point where angry parents argued that kids watching the show wouldn’t value their own lives if they watched Kenny dying every week. 

But, perhaps because Kenny was a joke first, he has sometimes been undervalued as a character (which is why he ranks notably lower than his three compatriots). When Kenny really died in Season Five, Trey Parker and Matt Stone truly didn’t know if they’d bring him back, but the fanbase demanded his return and soon he came back as a character who only dies once in a great while and sometimes has a really good story to tell, like his whole Mysterion arc and his battles with Satan. 

And despite his characteristic mumbling, Kenny’s character traits have cemented into something incredibly clear. While he’s the poorest kid in town — which sometimes means he’s left out of things — he’s also the one who values his friendships with Stan, Kyle and Cartman the most. This was made abundantly clear during the COVID stories, where the other boys treated him with kid gloves about their breakup and, later on, Future Kenny is the one trying to go back in time to fix their bro-ship. It’s not overstating things to say that Kenny is the glue of South Park’s foursome. — Logan Trent & Brian VanHooker

Mr. Garrison

Second only to Eric Cartman, Mr. Garrison has consistently been South Park’s most offensive character. From begging his dad to molest him to trying to pick up little boys online to going around the world to wish all faiths a “Merry Fucking Christmas,” the sexually-frustrated teacher has proven to be one of the show’s most durable, interesting and hysterical characters. Even in the face of some serious missteps with the character — like the transphobic Mrs. Garrison storyline and using him in place of President Trump, which got tired well before 2021 —  Mr. Garrison somehow always ends up back in front of that classroom talking in excruciating detail about his personal relationships, quizzing the kids on old TV shows and ranting about whatever ethnic group he happens to dislike that week. — Brian VanHooker

Leopold “Butters” Stotch

Loosely based on the show’s producer, Eric Stough, Leopold “Butters” Stotch went from an unnamed background character to a leading star faster than you can say “Aw, hamburgers!” Thanks to his sweetness and extreme gullibility, Butters has been suckered into everything from Cartman’s diabolical schemes to the cult of NFTs. He’s also the main character in his own mobile game, had his own DVD box set called A Little Box of Butters and become a pretty big deal over on TikTok. Fans adore the scene-stealing childlike character, because the sweet, occasionally edgy boy is just so damn easy to root for. Even his alter ego, Professor Chaos, might just be the cutest supervillain the show has ever had. — Zanandi Botes

Randy Marsh

Beginning with Season Nine’s “The Losing Edge,” Randy went from another silly South Park parent to an unquestionable star of the show. Some of the online fandom has speculated that, as Trey Parker and Matt Stone have grown older, they’ve identified more with Randy’s adult perspective than they do with the kids, which has led to storylines like Tegridy Farms, where Randy has started to outrank all four of the main kids. 

To some, the show’s shift in perspective has been unwelcome, with fans revolting at every new Randy episode, but his promotion to a major cast member has allowed South Park to open up and explore new kinds of stories. Like, where would we be as a culture without GIFs of Randy bouncing on his giant, cancerous testicles? Or taking an eight-foot-tall shit? While South Park should never be all Randy, he’s given the show new life and extended it for seasons to come. — Norah

Kyle Broflovski


Matt Stone said during promotion of the show’s early seasons that Kyle was largely inspired by his own experiences. Proudly Jewish, any time an anti-Semitic comment surfaces in town, Kyle is the first one to fire back. His story in the series’ first official Christmas episode, 1997’s “Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo,” captured the Jewish experience of being a child around Christmas time in an emotionally raw way that you just didn’t see on television. Since then, he’s been someone who perfectly balances the love of family and friends with moments of succumbing to the temptations of grandstanding martyrdom. Arguably the town’s most relatable resident, Kyle’s presence on the show is the closest thing to how we’d imagine our time in that “pissant mountain town” would go. — Chaz Kangas

Stan Marsh

You just can’t have South Park without Stan Marsh. Sure, Stan doesn’t have a ton of flashy alter-egos or meme-worthy catchphrases, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s the beating heart of the series. While Stan and Kyle are a duo, more often than not, it’s Stan who has ended up grappling with the show’s most consequential issues, like standing up to the Church of Scientology, unraveling the 2008 Margarita machine-based financial crisis and battling his own horrific Facebook profile. And, unlike some other perpetually-youthful cartoon children, Stan has been allowed to express a certain capacity for growth, like in the weirdly affecting episode “You’re Getting Old,” in which Stan turns 10 and begins to see the world for what it is: literal shit. Trey Parker has said that South Park is really about “two boys trying to figure life out.” Without Stan, it would have been unwatchable chaos. — JM McNab

Eric Cartman

South Park may be about “two boys trying to figure life out,” but the rotund third boy in the foursome has always outshined the first two. Eric Cartman is a racist, sexist, egomaniacal anti-Semite who once tricked a boy into eating his own parents. Yet, no matter how bad he gets, the fans and South Park creators always want more.

Cartman has the most memes, the most merchandise, the most catchphrases and, after 26 seasons, he’s still hella funny. Moreover, Cartman represents all that is offensive, hilarious and wonderful about the show. As far as the public-at-large is concerned, Cartman is South Park — that’s why nothing else could sit atop this list but the fat ass of Eric Cartman. — Brian VanHooker

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