South Park is still watched by over 8 million people weekly, after 20 years and over 250 episodes, including last night’s 20th season premiere. For the 20th anniversary, Hollywood Reporter compiled a long, fascinating oral history with Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and several other people related to the show, including Isaac Hayes III, the son of the late Isaac Hayes, aka Chef.
The whole article is worth checking out, but the part with Hayes particularly surprised us. His father shouted a jovial “Hello there, children!” and dispensed questionable advice to kids as Chef for the first nine seasons of South Park. He quit the show via a statement after the Scientology episode, “Trapped In The Closet”, aired in 2005. Afterward, Jerome “Chef” McElroy fell in with the wrong crowd (the “Super Adventure Club”) and things didn’t go so well for him.
(The scene gets even more brutal from there.)
But now Hayes’ son is telling a new and depressing side of the story:
“Isaac Hayes did not quit South Park; someone quit South Park for him. 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 people. So someone quit South Park on Isaac Hayes’s behalf. We don’t know who.”
Matt Stone told THR that Hayes asked them to pull the episode but it had already aired, and that, “It was pretty obvious from the conversation that somebody had sent him to ask us to pull the episode.”
Hayes’ son went on to reiterate that he didn’t think his father wanted to quit the show, saying “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.”