This Is What Trey Parker Had to Say When He Gave the Commencement Speech at His Old High School

Most graduation ceremonies don’t have fart jokes
This Is What Trey Parker Had to Say When He Gave the Commencement Speech at His Old High School

When it first came out, South Park took a lot of heat for warping the minds of America’s youth. Teachers banned T-shirts depicting the show’s characters, Christian organizations vowed to “protect our youth from vile trash like South Park and a school in England sent out a newsletter to parents specifically warning them that the cartoon contains obscenities, swearing, lavatorial actions and filth of a most unsavoury nature.”

So it’s a little surprising that, back in 1999, South Park co-creator Trey Parker was asked to give the commencement speech at his old high school in Evergreen, Colorado

Looking back at the speech, which was recorded for posterity on a shitty ‘90s camcorder and eventually uploaded to YouTube, Parker actually did a nice job combining the jokes (and amusing voices) that teenagers undoubtedly would have been expecting, while also endeavoring to offer genuine advice to the graduates. 

Parker began by uttering, “What am I supposed to tell you?” and remarking that whoever booked him to give the speech was probably someone who “hadn’t seen South Park.” He also remarked on the odd situation he had found himself in, working on a final cut of a “major motion picture” (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut) while “still having a paper due for my high school.”

Parker then revealed that the school had asked him to offer some “insight on your success and how you achieved it” during the speech. So he told students, “You cut little things out of construction paper, and you show it to George Clooney, and you get $10 million. Thank you.”

More seriously, he added, “The point is, nobody can tell you how to be successful. What worked for me won’t work for you because you’re all going to do something completely different from South Park. Thank God… it’s those few who figure out a new way to do something that really succeed.”

He also told the kids that they should go to college, purely at the insistence of his mother, before adding, “I actually got kicked out of college.” But he did point out that college is where he met his future partner Matt Stone, found Buddhism and “discovered that you can light farts on fire.” 

Toward the end of the speech, Parker stressed the importance of optimism: “We are the only animal capable of senseless killing, but we’re also the only animal capable of senseless loving. I know this sounds totally cheesy, but we have to start believing in our whole species again, because if we don’t believe in our species then we’ve got nothing. Sure there are bad things in the world like homelessness, and Barbra Streisand, and Jar Jar, but we are all trying to fix them.”

Although he did try to argue that we “all have to stop putting the focus on mankind’s fault,” adding, “you can still fix the world without being a cynical hippie activist doing a bunch of negative crap.” Which in retrospect, is maybe not the best advice, considering that “mankind” definitely is at fault for a number of calamitous horrors that necessitate being called out. Of course, this was more than two decades ago, and Parker may regret some of these comments today, the way he obviously regretted ManBearPig.

Still, his larger point about optimism was a good one. It was a solid, surprisingly earnest speech. And, at the very least, Parker didn’t waste the graduates’ time with apologies for past bee fetish content.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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