I didn’t even think the South Park “Fishsticks” episode was one of their best, but it was an example of Trey Parker’s continuing ability to write jokes that somehow stick with you, and that you just can’t help quoting. (Some shows lose this ability; The Simpsons, even in the Mike Scully years, produced tons of lines that entered the culture, like “Save me, Jeebus!”, but it hasn’t done a lot of that lately. Or if there have been a bunch of compulsively-quotable Simpsons bits from the last few years, I’ve missed most of them.) Last night, even before Kanye West’s “Beyonce should have won and everybody should care what I think” incident, the Kanye West episode of South Park — and the term “gay fish” — was being quoted literally every half-minute on Twitter, and frequently on blogs.
It’s not like the satirical point of the episode, or any South Park episode, was particularly deep or elightening. The point was that Kanye has no sense of humour and is really conceited; we knew that going in. But South Park hasn’t lasted this long because it’s some kind of brilliant intellectual take on the modern world (every so often, like after the movie, people will argue that, but it never lasts long, because Parker always winds up demonstrating that his understanding of issues never goes beyond what he reads on somebody’s website). It’s lasted because it has the ability to take a joke, or combine two or more jokes — Kanye’s humourlessness and the “fishsticks” joke — and come up with comedy bits that never get out of your head.