Back in 2006, Isaac Hayes (a.k.a. the voice of Chef) shocked South Park fans by quitting the controversial series in protest of the show's Scientology-spoofing episode “Trapped in the Closet,” which among other things mercilessly skewered the religion's exceedingly-bizarre founding documents. But in a new Hollywood Reporter roundtable celebrating the show's 20th season, Hayes' son Isaac Hayes III claims that his father — who he alleges was “very thankful and proud” of the second-act career boost the series provided him — actually didn't quit the show on his own.
“Isaac Hayes did not quit South Park; someone quit South Park for him,” said Hayes III of his father, who died in 2008. “What happened was that in January 2006 my dad had a stroke and lost the ability to speak. He really didn't have that much comprehension, and he had to relearn to play the piano and a lot of different things. He was in no position to resign under his own knowledge. At the time, everybody around my father was involved in Scientology – his assistants, the core group of people. So someone quit South Park on Isaac Hayes' behalf. We don't know who.”
Hayes III added: “My father was not that big of a hypocrite to be part of a show that would constantly poke fun at African-American people, Jewish people, gay people – and only quit when it comes to Scientology. He wouldn't be that hypocritical.”
In the same roundtable, South Park co-creator Matt Stone related that while the elder Hayes did ask for “Trapped in the Closet” to be pulled from rebroadcast during a face-to-face meeting “a day or two after” the episode initially aired (Hayes was not notified of its content ahead of time), he states that it “was pretty obvious from the conversation that somebody had sent him to ask us to pull the episode.”
Stone previously lent his voice to the theory that Hayes' statement announcing his departure was in fact crafted by a third party during a 2007 interview with Rolling Stone, in which he stated: “There are reports that Isaac had a stroke and Scientology quit the show for him, and I believe it… It was a brutal, up-close, personal thing with Isaac. If you look at the timeline, something doesn't add up.”
Regardless of who actually put out the statement of protest credited to Hayes, the aftermath unfortunately wasn't pretty for the bass-voiced Chef, who was famously and brutally killed off in the March 22, 2006 episode “The Return of Chef,” which completed the character's tragic arc by splicing in audio that the singer-actor had recorded prior to his exit. I wonder if Parker and Stone feel bad about that now? Eh, probably not.