We need to have a serious talk about cartoons.
It is long established by consensus that The Simpsons is the greatest animated TV comedy of all time -- and from roughly 1990 to 1997, this is inarguable. But in the subsequent 20 years, the groundbreaking genre of the animated sitcom has experimented and evolved, and is now something entirely different, for better or worse.
For me, it's the latter: animated sitcoms are much better now than they were two decades ago. But this could be said of many genres. What is also true is that The Simpsons only gets interesting these days when it taps the mojo of outsiders.
This brings us to South Park, which just entered its 20th season. Quickly after premiering on Comedy Central in 1997 -- coincidently, around the same time The Simpsons began to drift away from its sitcom-with-a-twist roots -- South Park gave a generation with an insatiable hunger for fresh catchphrases such zingers as "Respect mah authoritah" and "Oh my God, they killed Kenny! You bastards!" while simultaneously prompting panic among the culturally prudish, just as Bart Simpson and crew had previously done with T-shirt-ready adages like "Eat my shorts!" and "Don't have a cow, man!" Like The Simpsons, which enters its 28th season on September 25th, South Park outlasted the hoopla that surrounded its rise to prominence. Unlike The Simpsons, however, South Park remains brilliant.
The 20th anniversary of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's satirical cartoon show presents me with an opportunity to present this argument: if South Park has been at least pretty good for twice as long as The Simpsons was great, doesn't that make South Park an overall superior program? And if South Park is better than The Simpsons, doesn't it logically follow that South Park is now the greatest animated comedy of all time?
The South Park-Simpsons rivalry is alive and aggro on the internet. Stone and Parker even confronted the issue in the notorious Season 10 two-parter "Cartoon Wars." But I'm ready to deliver my punch. And I'm not just a contrarian South Park devotee; I have actual, honest-to-gosh math to support my theory. Here's why South Park stands above the presumed champion.