‘South Park’ Reveals New Details Behind Isaac Hayes’ Quitting
South Park will begin its landmark 20th season later tonight, continuing a satirical run that has seen a number of changes and controversies over years. One famous fallout saw South Park tangling with Scientology and seemingly losing its Chef, Isaac Hayes, before his death in 2008, though a new history sees creators and Hayes’ family explaining the notable exit.
It was back in late 2005 that South Park first aired the iconic “Trapped in the Closet” episode, in which the series lampooned both the beliefs of Scientologists and famous advocate Tom Cruise, before jokingly cowering at the group’s litigious reputation. Multiple interviews saw noted Scientologist and South Park voice Isaac Hayes taking the parody in good spirits, though the revered musician surprised everyone in early 2006 with a statement denouncing, and asking to be released from the show.
Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were taken aback, channeling some of their confusion into the Chef/Scientology skewering “The Return of Chef” just days later, though the duo would later dedicate 2008's “The China Probrem” to Hayes after his passing. Some reports claimed that Hayes himself had not quit South Park, but rather Scientology representatives had submitted the initial statement in his name, something a new THR history of South Park corroborates with Stone and Hayes’ son:
Stone: When we did the Scientology episode, [Isaac Hayes, who was a Scientologist] came over, and I sat with him. It was like a day or two after, and it was pretty obvious from the conversation that somebody had sent him to ask us to pull the episode. It had already gone on the air, and we didn’t tell him because we didn’t want him to be held accountable. Plausible deniability. [Four months after "Closet" aired, Hayes quit the show via a statement, supposedly in protest.]
Hayes III: Isaac Hayes 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.
Stone: We sort of figured out the whole picture a bit later, but that’s totally what happened.
Similar claims were reported by Fox News in 2006, though a 2007 interview with Hayes saw the singer adding “They didn’t pay me enough,” and “They weren’t that nice.” Hayes’ son also points out in the THR piece that:
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 has garnered significantly less controversy in recent years, even as it continues to tackle hot-button issues, but might Scientology end up in the crosshairs again? Check out the full history above, and tune in for the Season 20 premiere, “Member Berries,” tonight at 10:00 P.M.
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