He’s unintelligible, he’s wrapped in orange, he’s a vigilante superhero, and he’s immortal: he’s Kenny McCormick. One of the four lead boys on South Park, Kenny's fascinating character because he’s so mysterious. The poorest kid in South Park doesn’t say much, and when he does speak it’s muffled by his tightly wrapped hood, so you don’t always know what’s going on in his head. Then there’s that whole immortality thing, where he constantly dies and returns to life in the next episode.
Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone certainly brought an iconic character to life in Kenny nearly 20 years ago (though he technically debuted in a short, five years before the series began, in a somewhat different form – but more on that later). But despite all those years of exposure, Kenny remains shrouded in mystery.
Oh my God! We listed Kenny! Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Kenny.
You know Kenny dies a lot, but did you know exactly how many times? That’s right, to date, he’s died 102 times in various media, including the series, video games, authorized parodies, the original pre-series shorts, the series’ opening sequence (nine times alone), and the movie, where he kicked the bucked twice. That’s the official number used in a video to promote the 20th season, released in September 2016.
With the show having completed its 20th season in December, Kenny actually hasn’t died since Season 17. Overall, in the series alone, his death total comes in at 80. The vast majority of his fatalities came during the first five seasons.
Poor Kenny has met his maker in so many horrible ways: he’s been microwaved, strangled by a tetherball rope, electrocuted, eaten by Ozzy Osbourne, shot, impaled on a flag pole, eaten by turkeys, and fallen down a waterfall, among many others. And it all started when he was run over by a police car in the pilot, which was the finishing blow after he’d already been shot by aliens and trampled by cattle.
His most common form of death? Being trampled or crushed (22 times).
As we said, Kenny is a fairly mysterious fellow, owed in large part to his hood, which muffles his voice. So it’s through his several aliases that we learn a little more about him. Let’s start out with his most famous alter ego, the superhero Mysterion. Kenny’s appeared as the vigilante Mysterion in four episodes, still donning a hood, but with his mouth is exposed in this one so he can talk in a deeper, gravelly, Batman-esque voice.
In the thirteenth season episode “W.T.F.,” Kenny took on another alias: the wrestler El Pollo Loco (Spanish for “the crazy chicken”). In the episode, the boys try to create their own professional wrestling federation, but Kenny’s time in it is cut short when he’s shot by their gym teacher with a rocket launcher.
Princess Kenny started off as Lady McCormick, both of whom are inspired by the Game of Thrones character Daenerys Targaryen. The blonde beauty shows Kenny’s feminine side, with a dress over his parka, and eventually transforms into an anime character with huge eyes who likes to flirt with boys.
Finally, there’s Dennis. Dennis can barely be considered an alias, though. It’s more a matter of mutual misunderstanding. In Season 19, when Kenny works at the City Wok restaurant, its owner, Tuong Lu Kim’s, thick accent makes “Kenneth” sound like “Dennis.” Or it could be that Kenny’s muffled voice made it sound like he said his name was “Dennis?” It’s a mystery for the ages.
South Park had its humble beginnings way back in 1992, when creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were students at the University of Colorado. Along with some other classmates, they made a short film called The Spirit of Christmas: Jesus vs. Frosty. It’s even more crudely animated than the original TV series' episodes, using stop-motion animation with characters and settings made out of construction paper.
In the first of two Spirit of Christmas films, we meet four potty-mouthed boys who look a lot like Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny. If you’re a fan of the show, you'll notice two strange things. First, the orange-hooded character who looks like Kenny clearly says an unmuffled, “Yeah,” which the “real” Kenny wouldn’t say so clearly. Second, their snowman comes to life and kills the character who looks like Cartman (which is oddly satisfying for South Park fans), following which the Kyle-esque character shouts, “Oh my God! Frosty killed Kenny!”
So the Cartman-looking character was named Kenny, but the other characters are never named. All that being said, the Kenny-looking character is also killed by the snowman, so either way you slice it, Kenny dies right from the beginning.
Throughout the series, Kenny’s hood-muffled, often indecipherable voice has been provided by series co-creator Matt Stone. The muffled sound is simply achieved by Stone talking into his own hand, then, like they do with the other kids on the show, they use audio editing software Pro Tools to modulate the pitch up so it sounds younger.
However, as you may have guessed by the title of this entry, Stone isn’t the only person to have voiced Kenny. Animated worlds collided the first time we ever heard Kenny’s voice unmuffled, in the film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, when Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge said, as Kenny, “Goodbye, you guys,” as he ascended to the afterlife.
Kenny has spoken on two other occasions in the series, in the episodes “The Jeffersons” (season eight) and “Lice Capades,” (season 11) both times voiced by series producer Eric Stough.
Kenny's actually difficult to understand in three languages. The deceptively smart kid has somehow added both Spanish and Romanian to his arsenal of languages, to go with his unintelligible mastery of English. Let's go back to that wrestling episode, “W.T.F.”, where, billed as “the cold-blooded wrestler from Mexico,” Kenny appears as the masked El Pollo Loco. Though he isn’t wearing his signature hood, his voice is still muffled due to the mask, but he does speak some Spanish. After all, he is meant to be a Mexican luchador.
Then there’s the fourth season episode “Quintuplets 2000,” where Kenny speaks a bit of Romanian when he becomes a huge opera star in Romania. Yes, Kenny becomes a huge opera star in Romania. Because, why not?
This actually technically leads us to a fourth language for the little McCormick boy, since he sings the Italian aria “La donna e mobile” by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.
The rapper Eminem is no stranger to making pop culture references in his songs, but he loves South Park, and Kenny in particular, so much that he’s name-dropped the kid in three of his songs. It starts with his third album, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) and the song “The Kids.” In parts of the song he sounds like South Park guidance counselor Mr. Mackey, saying things like, “Drugs are bad, m’kay?” At the end of the song, there’s a voice that sounds like Cartman hollering, “Mushrooms killed Kenny!”
Then 10 years later, he was back with the South Park love on the album Recovery. In “W.T.P.” he flows, “But when it comes to them trailers in them South Parks/ Muffle it, ‘cause homie that hood’s tighter than Kenny’s.” We’ll leave the interpretations to you. Then, on the track “Untitled,” he says that people are “Looking at me like I killed Kenny.”
We’ve already detailed three occasions where you can hear Kenny’s voice clearly, without the muffling of his hood or a mask or other mouth-blocking hindrance: in the feature film, in “The Jeffersons”, and in “Lice Capades.” Those aren’t the only times he’s been heard clearly, though. There have been four others, all as his superhero alter ego Mysterion.
Mysterion first appears in “The Coon” in season 13. He’s first heard, in his clear but gravelly voice, arguing with Cartman (as his alter ego The Coon) about whose job it is to protect the city and who they really are behind their superhero masks. Kenny also speaks clearly as Mysterion in “Coon 2: Hindsight”, “Coon vs. Coon & Friends”, and “Mysterion Rises.”
The voice of Mysterion, like the voice of Kenny, is provided by Matt Stone, even though the superhero voice is so much deeper and huskier than Kenny’s high-pitched mumbles.
In life, there’s nothing more tragic than the death of a child – but not so much in South Park, at least when it comes to Kenny. In the early days, Kyle and Stan seemed genuinely upset when their buddy died, but even for them it got to be more and more old hat the more times he died, occasionally making their trademark lines sound tired and obligatory: “Oh my God, they killed Kenny.” “You bastards.”
That’s the only sign of the other kids being at all aware that their friend dies and returns a lot. But as Mysterion, Kenny outright admits he’s fully aware of the phenomenon. In “Mysterion Rises,” he claims it’s his superpower, and his curse. “I've experienced death, countless times,” he explains. “Sometimes I see a bright light. Sometimes I see Heaven. Or Hell. But eventually, no matter what, I wake up in my bed, wearing my same old clothes. And the worst part? Nobody even remembers me dying.”
Kenny may be deceptively smart and decent, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s broken the law many, many times, and has been arrested four times as a result. He was first arrested in the fourth season episode “Fat Camp.” Of all things, the then-third-grader was jailed for prostitution. How do we explain this gently? Somehow he got in a competition with Tom Green and Johnny Knoxville that resulted in him charging Howard Stern $10 to give Stern "mouth pleasures".
Up next, in season seven, he was booked, along with Kyle and Stan, for illegally downloading music. In season 13, he was arrested twice: first for his vigilante efforts as Mysterion, then by the Japanese for destroying their whaling boat.
So that’s what he was actually arrested for. Here’s what he got away with: conspiring to murder Sarah Jessica Parker, illegal possession of a firearm, arson, breaking and entering, fraud, and assault, among others.
Sure, there are South Park video games and Kenny is not only in them, but, predictably, dies in them. But licensed South Park games are not the only place you’ll see Kenny McCormick in the world of gaming.
In the game Fallout, which was released the same year South Park premiered, in 1997, there’s a character named Deputy Kenny. When the deputy is killed in the game, the player character yells, “Oh my God! They killed Kenny!” Flash forward to Fallout 3 and its DLC Point Lookout in 2009 and there’s another character named Kenny, this time a boy. Like our Kenny, this one is poor and good with weapons, and also whistles the South Park theme song. In the same game’s Operation: Anchorage DLC, there’s a character with a last name very similar to Kenny’s, and when he dies you hear, “Oh my God! They killed McKormick! You gotta kill those bastards!”
It’s not just Fallout games that worship Kenny, though. In World War II Online: Battleground Europe, there’s a response to a .wtf command that references Kenny. Finally, Skate 3 has a character who looks an awful lot like the oft-killed fourth-grader.
The feature film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was a big one for Kenny. Not only was it the first time we ever heard his unmuffled voice, but it’s also the first and only time we see his full head, completely unobstructed (besides when he's a baby). Of course, Kenny is famous for that hood pulled tightly over his head, but in the movie they make a big honking deal over revealing his full head for the first time.
After he’s sacrificed his afterlife, dooming himself to Hell, the music swells dramatically as Kenny stands in front of his friends. Little does he know he’s actually about to ascend to Heaven. It feels not unlike Luke Skywalker unmasking Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi. We see Kenny from behind as he sheds his hood, revealing a shock of messy blond hair. Then the camera switches perspective to show him from the front, just a normal kid. After all that time, we couldn’t help but wonder if the hood was hiding some dark mystery, perhaps a scar or a goiter. But, no, he’s just a kid like the rest.
That being said, there are various scenes throughout the series where you see partial or reverse glimpses of his unhooded head, but the movie is the only time you see things properly, with no hat or anything in the way.
The character of Kenny McCormick is actually based on a real kid that South Park co-creator Trey Parker knew as a child, appropriately named Kenny. The real Kenny was not just similar in name, but in just about every significant way other than dying all the time, although Parker and his friends would joke around all the time about him dying because he always “disappeared.”
In a Paley Center interview from 2000, Parker reminisces about his old friend: “He had the little orange coat, and he would always say sh*t we couldn’t understand... And he was the poorest kid in the neighborhood.” No word on whether or not the real Kenny also turned into a vigilante superhero and repeatedly broke the law.
Parker went on to claim that a lot of South Park characters are based on real people, without naming names, likely since he worried earlier that admitting Kenny was a real person could get him in trouble.
It seems like a bit of a running gag throughout the series that Kenny will put just about anything in his mouth or up his nose. Perhaps when you know you’re not going to actually stay dead when you die, you become fearless. Often, he ingests strange things with the intent of getting high.
It all started way back in the second episode of the first season, “Volcano”, when Kenny guzzles gasoline, impressing Stan’s half-uncle Jimbo. In the seventh season episode “Cancelled”, he snorts a cocaine-like purple powder provided by Joozian aliens called “blach”. In the 12th season (“Major Boobage”) he becomes addicted to the high that comes from sniffing cat pee.
Then there are the other strange things Kenny ingests, just because. He simultaneously horrifies and amazes a TV audience when he eats a pile of fresh dog poo. Finally, in the fourth season episode “Fat Camp”, the boys realize poor-kid Kenny will do literally just about anything for money, when he’s first paid to eat a manatee’s spleen, then, after he vomits it up, he takes money to eat the vomit.
It would actually be perfectly acceptable if the answer to why Kenny constantly dies and resurrects was, “Just because.” Curiously, though, they’ve actually given many reasons for this strange twist of fate – which in itself is a kind of middle finger to the concept of continuity. Perhaps it's actually Parker and Stone’s own unique way of saying, “Just because.”
The first explanation came in the fifth season episode, “Cartman Joins NAMBLA.” Kenny is run over by an ambulance, dies, then his mother gives birth to a parka-clad child named Kenny. As the story goes, when Kenny dies his soul returns via a new fetus within his mother, which is almost instantaneously born and ages to eight or nine years old.
Eight seasons later, Kenny dies in the first part of a two-parter, but simply pops back out of thin air in the second part. As Mysterion, he reveals that, like the earlier explanation, his mother gives birth to him, but this time he wakes up in his bed. Ultimately, it seems that his immortality is the result of something that happened at a meeting of the Cult of Cthulhu, as his mother mysteriously implies in “Coon vs. Coon & Friends.”
After a while, the “Kenny dies every episode and Stan and Kyle say, ‘Oh my God! They killed Kenny! You bastards,’ and Kenny magically returns the next episode” shtick got old for Parker and Stone. The kid died in nearly every episode for five seasons and it was funny for a while – it’s actually probably part of the reason the show really took off – but by the 13th episode of the fifth season, they’d decided enough was enough.
In “Kenny Dies”, Kenny is diagnosed with a terminal illness, rather than the usual extravagant, violent death. The boys learn a lot about accepting death as part of life and Kenny finally has a funeral. It was the real deal. Kenny was dead-dead. But, as we all know, he didn’t stay dead-dead. He returned in the 17th episode of season six, when he simply reappears with his friends at the end of the episode, claiming he’d just been hanging out.
Do you have any Kenny trivia up your sleeve... or in your hood? Let us know in the comments!