The team behind Comedy Central's long-standing hit animated series South Park are no strangers to controversy. It's hard to find a year that goes by when they don't completely destroy a particular celebrity, public figure, and/or popular movement.
The satire is strong with South Park, but internet readers were shocked and dismayed to find out that their latest episode - which satirized the users of the popular online review website Yelp.com - had spurred the company into filing legal action against the show. One lesson we learn time and again, don't believe everything you read online.
There are a number of satirical websites out there that report on fake news and a good number of them manage to fool many an online readers. The news that Yelp was suing the South Park team for $10 million began to trend online, leaving fans of the series outraged and somewhat confused. Many at first though the news was reported by outlet NBC, but it was actually spread by satirical site NBC.com.co.
Last Wednesdays episode, titled "You're Not Yelping", focused on the abuse and sometimes absurdity of Yelp reviews and those that write them. The supposed "fact" that Yelp was suing South Park only made the message stronger and was a glaring irony. This should have probably inspired readers to dig further, but alas the news was soon trending on Twitter and Facebook, and was picked up by many major media outlets.
The fake statement from the head of Yelp, Paul Horner, that NBC.com.co posted read:
“Our company, along with its millions of users, take Yelp very seriously. The South Park episode was in extremely bad taste and not funny whatsoever. To say our critics are out there trying to get free food and using racist slurs on little Mexican children is beyond ridiculous. To compare the users of Yelp to terrorists is not only cruel, but the definition of libel and slander. I believe any reasonable court in America will agree with the lawsuit and rule in our favor.”
The South Park team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone released a statement about the supposed lawsuit, which only added fuel to the fire.
“We’ve taken a hard look at the information presented to us, and after reviewing it, we have given Yelp and their lawsuit only one star. Their lawyers delivered us legal documents in a very unprofessional manner; not bothering to smile or even a quick handshake. The writing on the envelope was barely legible and in two different colors. It is our personal opinion that Yelp could do a much better job by not suing us for ten million dollars.”
Stone and Parker's impeccable sense of humor is a further example of why the comedy series is still fresh, going strong and making headlines well into its 19th season. For more on that, you should check out the documentary Six Days To Air, which shows the process of how the South Park crew brings shows to life each week on an impressive deadline.
Discerning readers would possibly have picked-up on the fact that the NBC.com.co article also references Fappy the Masturbation Dolphin as another disgruntled small business that was effected by Yelp. Fappy is a well-known internet hoax and satire character.
The internet wins again, fooling us all into a big uproar over nothing. This isn't the first time that readers have been fooled by an online prank and it won't be the last. It would probably make a good subject for a future South Park episode, in fact.
South Park airs Wednesday nights at 9:00 PM eastern time on Comedy Central