South Park Shamelessly Rips CollegeHumor Inception Parody, Apologizes Half-Heartedly


The New York Times ArtsBeat blog managed something resembling an apology from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for lifting huge segments of dialogue for their Inception parody, which aired Wednesday, from CollegeHumor’s “Inception Characters Don’t Understand Inception,” created in early August. Except Parker and Stone’s explanation makes little to no sense and leaves them looking like bigger tools.

Christopher Nolan’s Inception was released on July 8, and wound up one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, and certainly tops the list of the year’s most talked about and most parodied pieces of “art.” And so it’s already obnoxious — but not un-South Park-like — for the show’s parody to come out on October 20, after all of the good jokes have already been made. South Park usually gets away with chiming in late by doing it better. In this case, they just ripped it off. What is this for South Park anyway, season 23?

Dave Itzkoff at the Times has a rundown of the similarities between the two versions, including this particularly damning exchange. (Remember CollegeHumor’s came first, on August 2.)

CollegeHumor: “That doesn’t sound so hard.”
“It is.”
[a character groans in pain]
“We don’t have time for this.”
“O.K., fine, so next we’re going into Arthur’s dream, and then what?”
“Then we go into Fischer’s dreams.”
“O.K., got it.”
“But Fischer will think we’re in Browning’s dream.”
“O.K. Wait, who’s Browning?”

South Park: “That doesn’t sound very difficult.”
“It is.”
[a character groans in pain]
“We don’t have time for this.”
“O.K., fine, so you’re going to take my son to a dream within the dream, and then what?”
“Then we go into your husband’s dreams.”
“But your husband will think we’re in Hasselbeck’s dream.”
“O.K. Wait, who’s Hasselbeck?”

That’s not the only example, but it’s the one that shows there’s no question about what happened here. At least Parker and Stone admit they turned to the CollegeHumor video, yet their explanation of “Why?” makes close to no sense:

When Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone could not find a movie theater showing “Inception,” and were unable to get a DVD screener of the film (or find a watchable version on BitTorrent), they turned to other parodies of that film on the Web, and found the CollegeHumor video.

“We thought their joke was that a lot of those lines were actually in the movie,” Mr. Stone said, “and they were banging them against each other, and showing that the ‘Inception’ characters didn’t even know ‘Inception.’ That was a mistake, and it was an honest mistake.”

They ripped off a less popular comedy team because their Inception bootleg was not high enough quality to watch? Get an intern. We’re not buying it.

And unfortunately, because South Park is a giant of the industry, there’s nothing more to be done here, except for the CollegeHumor dudes to accept the apology and move on, which, of course, they’ve done:

David and I just got off the phone with Matt Stone (coolest sentence I’ve ever written). He was extremely nice and apologetic. He explained that when they couldn’t get a copy of an Inception screener, they used our sketch as source material.

All is well, and we’re going to meet up with Matt and Trey when they’re in New York.

Now maybe it’s cynical to see this as an instance of bullying and different rules applying to different people, but it reeks a little of egoism on the part of Parker and Stone. But it happens all the time when powerful people plagiarize. And if the victims won’t be irked enough themselves, we’ll be pissed for them. Check out the video clips here:

‘South Park’ Apologizes for Lifted Material in ‘Inception’ Parody [NYT]

Update: Here’s a video of the offending clips juxtaposed together.

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