South Park Turns 25: Series Creators on the Importance of Being ‘Fearless’

“We have had three or four different moments where we thought, ‘This is the swan song. This is it,'” series co-creator Matt Stone tells PEOPLE

South Park Turns 25: Series Creators on the Importance of Being 'Fearless'

It is best not to ask South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone if they see an end in sight for the Comedy Central series — it’s a minefield they’ve learned to avoid the hard way over the years.

The popular cartoon sitcom revolving around four foul-mouthed elementary school children in a small Colorado mountain town officially turns 25 on Saturday. To celebrate the milestone, Parker and Stone — who met while students at the University of Colorado where they created their show — put on a two-night bash this week at the iconic Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, which featured a number of musical acts, including Primus, who did the show’s theme from day one.

The event was taped and will air Saturday on Comedy Central, officially marking the show’s exact premiere on the network it is credited — along with The Daily Show — for building. The 25th-anniversary concert will then arrive on Paramount+.

In an interview with PEOPLE, the duo — who in August 2021 inked a $900 million mega-deal with MTV Entertainment Studios for more seasons of the show and 14 made-for-TV movies — explained why they had never felt more loved by fans than at the Red Rocks concert.

Parker and Stone also talked about their favorite memories over the past 25 years of the show and shared their biggest lesson learned in navigating Hollywood.

What was your reaction to the Red Rocks’ admiration? Have you ever felt more love from fans in 25 years?

Stone: Probably not. And I will say, we live in a world where it’s like, “Look at these ratings. Look how many people downloaded it,” but we’re never in a room with that many people. There has never been a physical manifestation of that, so it was pretty overwhelming to be in a physical space with that many of our fans at Red Rocks.

Parker: It was pretty surreal, and the first night, I don’t really remember much. But that first moment of going out and singing the first line of “Uncle F–ker” and hearing 10,000 people sing along, it really did f— me up. You could see it on my face. Then the governor showed up and declared it South Park Day in Colorado. And you get the actual thing with a seal and you’re like, “this is a real f—ing thing.” That hit me pretty hard.

Stone: Being called, “Sons of Colorado” was pretty rad — instead of “sons of bitches.” (Laughs.)

South Park Turns 25: Series Creators on the Importance of Being 'Fearless'

Is there a favorite moment or memory that’s been on your mind of late when you think about the last 25 years?

Stone: In every season, there is always just one show that purely made us laugh, and we can bond over again. And it can be one that not everyone else loved. I remember all of those shows. It is not just fun and games doing South Park. It’s brutal and stressful and terrifying at times, so once in a while, you get a show that is just fun. It’s rare, but those are the ones that keep it going.

If you were allowed a mulligan for an episode or backlash incident, would you take it and where would it be applied after 25 years?

Stone: We would rather just do a show about that feeling [of regret]. And we’ve done that before. We do episodes now that we wouldn’t have done 20 years ago. We’ve done well doing more of that.

Parker: If you ask me on any Tuesday night if I would take a mulligan and not do that show, I would say, “Absolutely.” (Laughs.)

What is the most important or valuable industry lesson you have learned over the 25 years?

Parker: Just to be fearless, but not in a brave way. I recently looked at an interview we did in ’98, and we just don’t listen to anyone. It’s a good thing Matt and I have each other because I don’t care what anyone thinks. But if Matt says, “I don’t think this is good because of whatever,” I obviously listen to him. It’s the fearlessness of your career. We’ve always been like, “Look, let’s do this and if we get thrown out, we’ll go back to Colorado.” And that is how we’ve operated from day one. Never have we said, “Let’s not do this because it will be bad for the brand, it might be bad for our careers.”

Stone: We have had three or four different moments where we thought, “This is the swan song. This is it.” The South Park movie [Bigger, Longer & Uncut] was the first of the big angst. We felt that the show had been dismissed and we weren’t pulling our weight. So, we said, “Let’s just do one big f— off thing that’s crazy, and then we’re out.” And The Book of Mormon, I remember feeling like that. We had these people on stage singing “F— you, God.” So it was like, “We might be going back to Colorado.”

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South Park Turns 25: Series Creators on the Importance of Being 'Fearless'

Is there any interest in doing another South Park film for theatrical release?

Stone: It would be hard to say right now because South Park, for us, has become an even more spontaneous thing. It’s a “let’s get in a room, figure it out, and do it right now” thing. So to think of something for a movie — it’s possible. But it’s mainly just, “We’ve got to get something to put on in two weeks. What are we doing?” We’ve proven to ourselves that the show does not get better with more time. We don’t need more time.

Understandable, but are you enjoying the long-form structure for the show via the Paramount+ made-fo-TV films?

Parker: It’s been great to do some different things. I loved the first half of South Park: The Streaming Wars. It felt very movie-ish, but I also enjoyed going back to the season and doing six shows. And after doing some Paramount+ stuff, [the Comedy Central series] felt so fast. It was like we were just getting into it and the show need to be complete. So, I had to re-learn that, It will be interesting going forward to see how we strike that balance.

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Given that it’s been so long, do you ever give any thought to when you might conclude South Park?

Parker: If there is anything I’ve learned after 25 years, it’s not to answer that question because I’ve had a lot of stupid — I had someone show me a magazine where I said at 32, “There’s no way I’m going to be doing South Park when I’m 40. That would be lame.” So, we take everything a show at a time and a week at a time. And that has always been best.

The South Park 25th Anniversary Concert will air Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

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