What Would Brian Boitano Do?
"What Would Brian Boitano Do?" is a song from the 1999 film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut written by South Park co-creator Trey Parker and composer Marc Shaiman. In the song, Olympic and professional figure skater Brian Boitano is treated lyrically as a superhero in a series of increasingly ludicrous situations. The title of the absurdist song is a parody of the evangelical Christian motto "What Would Jesus Do?"
Olympic and professional figure skater Brian Boitano is a recurring figure in the animated television series South Park, which debuted in 1997. In actuality the use of a fictionalized Boitano's character predates the show, with an angel-like Boitano materializing to lend advice in the second "The Spirit of Christmas" short animated film, made by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone in 1995 while still students at the University of Colorado.
Boitano's character also appears in the fourth episode of the first season of the South Park television series in the episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride". In this September 1997 episode of the show the Boitano character appears ice dancing during the gay liberation-themed song "We're All Gay and It's OK!" The very private Boitano came out publicly as gay only on December 19, 2013, days after being named by President Barack Obama to the American delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
In the absurdist song, Boitano is cast as an action hero, with his 1988 Olympic Winter Games victory escalated into a series of increasingly ludicrous purported achievements to include fighting grizzly bears in the Alps with his "magical fire breath", time travel to the year 3010 to do battle with an evil robot king to save humanity (again), and construction of the Great Pyramids of Egypt while at the same time beating up 13th Century Mongol emperor Kublai Khan, because he "doesn't take shit from anybody".
"What Would Brian Boitano Do?" is reprised with an aggressive folk punk version featured prominently in the movie's closing credits. Recorded by Stone and Parker's band DVDA, the uptempo and energetic alternate version further reveals that Boitano also has an apparently limitless appetite for spicy chicken wings in a brief heavy metal bridge section.
Response from Boitano
In a series of interviews, Boitano has reacted light-heartedly to the use of his name in the song. Having no prior acquaintance with Parker or Stone, he went to see Bigger, Longer, and Uncut alone, with misgivings about possibly being treated harshly in the film. Instead, he experienced hearing the line "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" in the film being received with appreciative laughter, which he found to be "surreal."
Boitano's agent subsequently received permission to make T-shirts featuring the South Park Boitano character with the proceeds donated to charity. In addition to providing original art for the project, Stone and Parker included affectionate notes emphasizing their personal respect for Boitano. Boitano in turn appeared on an episode of a VH1 television documentary, VH1 Goes Inside: South Park to speak about his perspective on the show. "If they'd ragged on me, I wouldn't have," Boitano noted in a 2007 interview.
"It's become such a part of my life," Boitano remarked in a 2006 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "Kids who don't know who I am, or what I did at the Olympics, meet me and think I'm cool because I'm in South Park."
Boitano skated to a slightly modified version of the song as part of the 1999 Brian Boitano's Holiday Skating Spectacular television special.
Boitano also starred in a TV show on the Food Network premiering on August 23, 2009, the title of which, What Would Brian Boitano Make?, mirrors the song's title. This tangent led to Boitano's authorship of a cookbook by the same title, published in 2013.
- Gwen Kapp, "Tickled by life, Boitano even enjoys 'South Park' ribbing," San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 5, 2006.
- "Trivia for South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut". IMDb. 1999. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
- Sam Stall with James Siciliano, The South Park Episode Guide: Volume 1 – Seasons 1–5. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2009; pg. 17.
- Scott Stump, "Brian Boitano on Coming Out: 'I had to go past my comfort zone'", Today, Jan. 2, 2014.
- Mark A. Robinson, The World of Musicals, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2014; pg. 649.
- Mandi Bierly, "Brian Boitano Interview Spectacular!" Entertainment Weekly, Dec. 19, 2007.
- "What Would Brian Boitano Make?" Food Network, www.foodnetwork.com/
- Tom Szaroleta, "What Would Brian Boitano Do? He'd Publish a Cookbook, That's What," Florida Times Union, Nov. 7, 2013.