News & Politics

Lloyd Kaufman on Scientology and South Park: Eric Sherman Did Ask Me about Trey Parker and Matt Stone


UPDATE: Mark Ebner adds his own confirmation of OSA activity with a similar leaked Scientology document. Also, a private investigator describes sifting trash for the Church of Scientology.

Just got off the phone with Troma Studios founder Lloyd Kaufman, who says he’s been getting a lot of calls since we reported this weekend that he is mentioned in Scientology documents which detail a retaliatory investigation of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

In 2005, Parker and Stone aired “Trapped in the Closet,” an episode of South Park that deeply embarrassed Scientology by mocking its upper-level teachings. By the spring of 2006, the formerly secret documents suggest, Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs was overseeing a multi-pronged effort to retaliate against the animators by researching their public records, digging through their trash, and doing the same to their close friends and employees. In two different documents, mention is also made that Kaufman was pumped for information with the use of a longtime Scientologist and filmmaker named Eric Sherman.

This morning, Kaufman confirmed to me that in 2006, Sherman — an old college classmate and longtime friend — did call him up to ask about Parker and Stone.

“Eric Sherman did indeed call me. Now, he was next door to me at Yale, so he’s an old friend and a good guy. And he’s a filmmaker. He did ask me about Trey and Matt, but he didn’t say anything about Scientology or that he was investigating,” Kaufman said.

When I asked Kaufman if he realized that his old friend is a longtime Scientologist, he said, “Eric is a great guy. He’s never mentioned Scientology to me.” (Sherman’s long record in the church is well documented, however.)

“All I remember is telling him that they were great guys and had reinvigorated American satire,” Kaufman added. “Eric makes movies, and I got the sense he was interested in working with them.”

Update: I should also point out that Kaufman told me that he did not give Sherman the name of any close friends to Parker and Stone. Although the OSA documents imply that Sherman turned over such names to Scientology — such as John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn — Kaufman insists that he not only didn’t give those names to Sherman, he was really unfamiliar with either of the actors.

The formerly secret OSA documents, however, suggest that Sherman was gathering information about Parker and Stone to help Scientology’s efforts to investigate the duo. We have made multiple attempts to reach Sherman and will continue to do so, but he has not replied. Parker and Stone, meanwhile, declined to be interviewed through a spokeswoman, who said they have no comment on the matter.

Kaufman is well known for Troma Studios and its low-budget satirical films such as the Toxic Avenger series, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and the more recent Terror Firmer, which featured Trey Parker.

“Even after they became stars, Trey acted in Terror Firmer. They’ve been totally generous with their time,” Kaufman said. “I have only the greatest love and admiration for Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and they’re among the most talented and admirable people in the entertainment industry. I’m glad Troma played a role in bringing them to the movie industry.” (Before South Park began, Parker’s film Cannibal! The Musical was distributed by Troma.)

I asked Kaufman about an OSA document which says that a student of Sherman, a young filmmaker, would try to use Kaufman to get an internship at South Park and become a mole for Scientology. Did he remember a young filmmaker being presented to him at that time?

“I can’t tell you how many people want me to introduce them to Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Every day people ask me about them,” Kaufman answered. He said there was no way he could remember a particular young filmmaker approaching him in 2006.

“The only point I want to make is that I love Trey and Matt, and that they’ve been totally loyal,” he said. But when I asked him about his thoughts on Scientology, he couldn’t help giving me a quip:

“They put a gag order on me. And when I woke up, Tom Cruise’s penis was in my mouth.”

Yeah, that’s Lloyd Kaufman, a treasure to the independent film industry. (And next year, he points out, will be Troma’s 40th year anniversary. I told him the Voice would definitely get back to him on that.)

He ended the conversation by telling me again how much he’s been hearing from people in the last few days. “Troma’s been around for 40 years. Samuel L. Jackson’s first movie was a Troma picture…but if I got hit by a bus today, this thing about South Park would be on my gravestone,” and he gave a laugh.

Update: Kaufman has now tweeted about this story

The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#1: L. Ron Hubbard
#2: David Miscavige
#3: Marty Rathbun
#4: Tom Cruise
#5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin
#6: Anonymous
#7: Mark Bunker
#8: Mike Rinder
#9: Jason Beghe
#10: Lisa McPherson
#11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants)
#12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives)
#13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists)
#14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists)
#15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics)
#16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church’s HQ
#17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano
#18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive
#19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church’s other thugs and goons)
#20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures)
#21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church
#22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members)
#23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church)
#24: David Touretzky (and other academics)
#25: Xenu, galactic overlord

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications. | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin’ Scared


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