About Last Night... (South Park)

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"About Last Night…"
South Park episode
About Last Night... (South Park).png
A drunk Randy participating in a celebratory riot along with a crowd of other Obama supporters
Episode no. Season 12
Episode 12
Directed by Trey Parker
Written by Trey Parker
Production code 1302
Original air date November 5, 2008
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"About Last Night…" is the twelfth episode of the twelfth season of the American animated television series South Park, and the 179th overall episode of the series. It originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 5, 2008. In the episode, a fictionalized Barack Obama wins the presidential election against John McCain, and the mass hysteria that ensues from rival supporters serves as a guise for the two candidates to complete their true combined objective: an Ocean's Eleven-esque jewel heist.

The episode was written and directed by series co-creator Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States. Rather than focus the episode's plot as satiric commentary on modern politics, the duo instead decided to create an absurd, action-movie plot. The episode includes elements of Obama's victory speech, which took place only 24 hours before the episode was set to air. As it became clear Obama was a clear favorite to win the election, only one version of the episode was produced, with him the victor. Had McCain won the election, Parker and co-creator Matt Stone intended to do a drunken commentary over the original version, poorly dubbing over lines.

While many commended the episode's timeliness, it received mixed reviews.

Plot[edit]

Following the announcement of the 2008 presidential election results, Barack Obama (Trey Parker) and John McCain (Matt Stone) address their supporters on nationwide television as the South Park townspeople gather to watch. Randy and the other Obama supporters (including the Marshes and Broflovskis, except for Ike, who supported McCain) celebrate drunkenly in the streets, while McCain supporters (including the Stotches, Mr. Garrison and Mr. Mackey) sit despondently inside, fearing that the new, inexperienced president would lead to the end of civilization. Ike attempts suicide by jumping out a first-story window; he survives but appears to be badly injured, so Stan and Kyle try to take him to the hospital. The two boys search through the partying crowd to find anyone who can drive Ike to the hospital, but without success. Randy, believing that Obama's win means he will be financially secure forever, insults and punches his boss (also an Obama supporter) in the face, breaking his nose. Other revelers tip over Officer Barbrady's police car when he tries to restore order.

Stan and Kyle find the Stotches building an "ark" while keeping many of the McCain supporters back since there's no more room. The boys' plea for help leads to a brawl among the adults, so they head for the hospital on foot. The emergency room is packed with patients who have either partied too hard or tried to kill themselves to the point that the hospital nurse (who is alone because one doctor was partying and one hanged himself) can determine what has happened to Ike by simply asking which candidate he supported. Randy is found here as well, trying to still party while singing Barry Manilow's "Mandy" (replacing "Oh, Mandy" with "Obama").

The subplot of the episode is where Obama and McCain turn out to be leaders of a jewel heist club known as the "Presidential Crime Syndicate" and staged the entire election so that one of them could gain access to the Oval Office. This was to access a tunnel that would lead to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where they would steal the Hope Diamond. They were able to accomplish the mission with the help of Michelle Obama, a computer hacker who had also faked her marriage with Obama to fool the press, and Sarah Palin, who is not only secretly English, but actually more intelligent than the episode's original portrayal of her would suggest (she says to a bewildered press corps that she'll come back and beat Obama in 2009, then leaves saying "Oh, my phone's goin' ringy!"). Once the plan was complete, Ike, who had been a member of the heist the entire time, blows up a private jet that contained dummies of the criminals and alters hospital records to declare everyone involved legally dead. The next day, as the gang is at Washington Dulles International Airport about to leave the country, Obama decides that he does not want to go with them. Instead, he and his wife decide to stay behind to "give this President thing a shot."

At the end of the episode, the McCain supporters emerge from their "ark" to find that society has not collapsed overnight. They eventually realise that they have overreacted to the election's results and decide to give President Obama a chance (rationalizing that if he is a bad president that they could just vote him out in four years). As for Randy, he wakes up on his couch with a hangover to find that his pants are missing and his TV is gone (Cartman had stolen it, having taken advantage of the chaos to steal TVs from people's houses and was selling them from a cart strapped to his Big Wheel earlier in the episode). Stan then walks in and tells Randy that he has been fired. Not realizing it was for insulting and punching his boss (and saying he did not need the job anymore now that Obama was elected), Randy scowls and exclaims "Goddamnit! Obama said things would be different! That son of a bitch lied to us! I knew I should've voted for McCain!"

Themes[edit]

An interpretation of the episode summarized its contents as a condemnation of those who care too much about political issues.[1] The episode satirizes the variety of reactions from liberals and conservations in the aftermath of election returns: "somewhere between a boozy orgy of celebratory puking in the streets and apocalyptic panic."[2] The episode exaggerates their reactions to extremes to illustrate possible absurdity.[3]

Production[edit]

"We purposely stay politically confusing. We play the spectrum from doing things that are either not political at all or spot on. [...] I think stuff that works the best is not when we talk about the politics, like "If he takes Pennsylvania, he can win the whole thing!" It's more the emotions behind the politics, and why do people feel this way. And admitting we're all human beings."

 —Matt Stone on staying apolitical[4]

The episode's plot originated before the season began, when the writing team began brainstorming episode ideas.[4] Parker and Stone noticed that an episode from the run could air the day following the election, and set their sights on producing an episode.[4] Parker was particularly set on producing the episode after seeing the uproar over a joke from a recent Family Guy episode ("Road to Germany"), in which the character of Stewie, dressed as a Nazi, sports a McCain-Palin button. South Park had previously criticized the program with the 2006 two-parter "Cartoon Wars", and Parker intensely disliked the joke.[5] Rather than focus the episode's plot as satiric commentary on modern politics, the duo instead decided to create an absurd, action-movie plot inspired by the film Ocean's Eleven.[5] "We've all heard about everything; we've talked about everything to death," Parker said. "And it's like, let's just put him in a diamond heist movie. They're just diamond thieves, and it's not about the politics at all anymore."[5] After coming up with a neutral plot that would not disclose who would win the election, it gradually became obvious over the season that Obama would emerge the winner.[4]

Barack Obama giving his victory speech after winning the election. Elements of the speech were included in the episode, broadcast less than 24 hours later.

Parker felt strongly over the course of the election season that Obama would win the election, so much so that he bet money on his victory in October.[5] Parker used a sports betting website, which he normally used to gamble on football games, to predict the outcome; the website placed the odds heavily against McCain.[5] The team initially intended to create an alternate version in case McCain won, but found the prospect too daunting, considering their quick production schedule. In a possible scenario in which McCain was declared the winner, the duo intended to air the completed episode as is and deal with what was termed their "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment later.[6][5] Possible outcomes included doing a drunken Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque commentary over the completed version, in which lines are poorly dubbed over the dialogue.[4] Rather than partying in the streets, Obama supporters would be rioting, while McCain supporters would hide in the Ark to protect themselves from the riot, rather than a world in which their candidate loses.[4] "There was a really stressful fifteen minutes there where we thought 'Oh man, what if we're wrong?' We really banked on it," said Stone.[4]

In choosing which characters would be liberal or conservative, Stone admitted the choices were sometimes arbitrary.[4] The character of Randy getting inebriated was always something the team found humorous; as a result, it was natural he become a hard-partying Obama supporter.[4] In contrast, Mr. Garrison, who in the series is a "self-hating gay man," is portrayed as a McCain supporter to provide irony.[4] In one possible storyline, then-President George W. Bush would heroically take the blame for the diamond heist, in a parody of The Dark Knight, but it was rejected as jokes about Bush had become overdone.[4]The episode includes details such as excerpts from Obama's victory speech and the stage and podium on which he spoke.[5] For the victory and concession speeches, Parker wrote placeholder lines until after the election's outcome. Following Obama's victory speech, the duo found it remarkable the amount of placeholder material that turned out similar to the actual speech.[4] Comedy Central, as usual, saw few finished sequences before the episode went to air, but raised questions over one scene in which Obama's grandmother "fakes" her death (Obama's real grandmother had passed the day preceding the election).[5]

The episode was completed on the morning of its air date, hours after they typically complete episodes.[5] "We're delivering it right up against the wire every single week. [...] Trey and I got home at 10:30 yesterday morning," said Stone to an interviewer the day following the episode's broadcast.[4]

Reception[edit]

Sean O'Neal of The A.V. Club commended the episode's apolitical approach, but wished "tonight's inconsequential silliness had been a little funnier across the board."[7] Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger criticized the episode as a "half-hour SNL sketch," commenting that only the first five minutes he felt were humorous.[1] Newsweek criticized the episode as a "lukewarm parody" in a 2010 article criticizing the creative state of the program.[8] "While this episode was perhaps not as funny as it could have been, it manages to feel poignant," said Travis Fickett of IGN.[3]

The episode was generally seen as a prime example of South Park's abnormally fast production schedule.[2] "Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always turned around "South Park" episodes with impressive speed, but Wednesday night was ridiculous," said James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sepinwall, Alan (November 6, 2008). "South Park, "About Last Night"". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Vine, Richard (November 12, 2008). "President Obama, South Park-style". The Guardian. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Fickett, Travis (November 6, 2008). "South Park: "About Last Night" Review". IGN. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Fickett, Travis (November 7, 2008). "How South Park Pulled Off "About Last Night..."". IGN. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Milian, Mark (November 7, 2008). "'South Park' creator on his tricky Obama-beats-McCain election episode". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Hibberd, James (November 5, 2008). "'South Park' takes on Barack Obama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ O'Neal, Sean (November 5, 2008). "South Park: About Last Night". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  8. ^ Alston, Joshua (March 23, 2010). "Is 'South Park' Losing Its Edge?". Newsweek. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 

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