One of the biggest controversies in the history of the always-controversial ‘South Park’ has just taken a strange and sad twist.
It has long been believed that the late musician and actor Isaac Hayes - who voiced Chef in 135 episodes of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s cartoon series, plus spin-off movie ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut’ - quit the show in protest after an episode satirising Scientology, of which he was a follower.
However, in a new oral history of the series published by The Hollywood Reporter, his son Isaac Hayes III insists his father “did not quit ‘South Park’; someone quit ‘South Park for him.
“What happened was that in January 2006 my dad had a stroke and lost the ability to speak. He really didn’t have that much comprehension, and he had to relearn to play the piano and a lot of different things. He was in no position to resign under his own knowledge.
“At the time, everybody around my father was involved in Scientology — his assistants, the core group of people. So someone quit ‘South Park’ on Isaac Hayes’ behalf. We don’t know who.”
The 2005 ‘South Park’ episode ‘Trapped in the Closet’ sent up prominent Scientologists Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and went into detail on some of the religion’s more bizarre tenets involving ‘thetans’ and the evil alien Xenu: things which the Church of Scientology had long been guarded about.
A statement released in Hayes’s name in March 2006 stated “there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins… as a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”
However, Hayes III dismisses this. “My father was not that big of a hypocrite to be part of a show that would constantly poke fun at African-American people, Jewish people, gay people — and only quit when it comes to Scientology. He wouldn’t be that hypocritical.”
‘South Park’ co-creator Matt Stone notes that the statement “really sucked… it kind of called us bigots,” but Trey Parker adds they soon realised it was not Hayes’ doing, noting, “we knew in our hearts there was something way more rotten going on.”
Isaac Hayes died on 10 August 2008 from a recurrent stroke.
Picture Credit: Paramount/Comedy Central, WENN