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Matt Stone: The TV Squad Interview - VIDEO

by Danny Gallagher, posted Feb 6th 2009 11:05AM
Matt StoneMatt Stone and Trey Parker are the modern day equivalent of a young Orson Welles arriving fresh off the boat to Hollywood, only with a lot less farting and jokes about having an ass the size of a mid-sized sedan. That part of Welles' life doesn't parallel Matt and Trey's until post-Touch of Evil.

The creators of Comedy Central's South Park have a rare, carte blanche contract to write, produce, star and create just about whatever they want. If they think it's cool or funny or particularly meaningful, that's enough fuel to get things burning.

One of those projects found its way to the small screen, a weekly travel news show called How's Your News?, which premieres on MTV this Sunday at 10:30 PM ET. It features a band of handicapped reporters talking to celebrities and on-the-street schmoes about anything that's on their minds. It started as a series of short films and turned into a critically acclaimed documentary. Stone told me that this time, the ambition and imagination that fueled this project came from its true stars.

I actually saw your movie when it was at SXSW way back when. Can you explain how it went from that to this, the TV show?

MS: A lot of it is [Arthur Bradford, the show's other executive producer who originally produced news videos while teaching at a summer camp for people with disabilities] and the reporters who are at every kind of event, like when they went to South by Southwest, and I'm sure they had cameras and filmed stuff back then. They make the most out of everything that they do, and there is this anamorphous blend of performance and disability support.

So after the movie, we had a couple of contacts with TV that were mostly like, oh, some lady I can't remember that worked at Bravo and a person who worked at Trio. And Trio was so cool and kind of on a lark. He scraped together a little bit of money, and we sent them to the 2004 Republican and Democratic convention and they did a whole show at the conventions. That turned out to be such a huge success, as far as access. Arthur had low level parking lot access, and he showed up with How's Your News?, and no one would say no to them because how can you say no to a bunch of handicapped people? Obviously, it's a safe interview. They just got on the convention floor and we shot all this footage of them talking to Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Al Sharpton and Michael Moore. And after that, Arthur was really, like there's more stuff to this thing.

And MTV was right at the top of the list, the place where you would least expect a show like this. It's about defying expectations. Usually you would expect to see a show like this on PBS or Bravo or Trio. He wanted to make something that defies those expectations. He's like, "This is a good show with people who are really talented on the screen and are definitely characters that you're going to get to know." That was his whole thing. He was like, "I want to redefine the way people look at disabilities, and this is one way to do it."

DG: Is that why MTV was the first place you took it to?

MS: One is because Trey and I are at home at Comedy Central and we know everyone there and we love working there. Arthur didn't want to put comedy before anything, especially since Trey and I are involved. He didn't want to be seen first and foremost as a comedy or we want you to laugh and for obvious reasons. We're really sensitive about that. Are you laughing with them or are you laughing at them? There will be a lot of talk about that after the show goes on the air. Arthur was like, "It's OK to laugh if the laughter comes from a good place."

So a lot of that is that we all have preconceptions in life of what people with disabilities are like and what they are capable of doing. Arthur's vision and drive to do the show is about redefining those. You go, hey, they can make fun of themselves or they can go out and screw around and have fun and laugh, and you can laugh too.

DG: But, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, I think you can understand that some people might think when it has Trey Parker and Matt Stone's name on it, people might think...

MS: No, I totally agree with you. Me and Trey thought for a long time that we should keep our name off of it, not because of us, but because of them. How's Your News? is sullied by its association with me and Trey and its association with MTV. Like How's Your News? is pure of heart and pure of intention and they have been doing what they do for ten years. I think once people see it, it does change that (perception). But I can understand why people would think that about me and Trey. (laughs)

DG: Why did you and Trey feel the need to bring these shows and the movie to a bigger audience?

MS: Honestly, it's not our ambition. It's their ambition. It really is the reporters' ambition and Arthur's. I don't know if we got them into this, but we started it with them way long ago, even before South Park went on the air, I think, like 10 years ago. We did a 30-minute movie and a 90-minute movie, and then Arthur calls and says, "Hey, we want to do this now." So what are we going to say? No? They are the ones who want to do it. They're constantly pushing and saying "We want to do another thing, can you help us?"

They are just excited about the whole thing. The movie that you saw when they went to California, a lot of these people live in D.C. or Boston, and they don't get to travel a lot. So for them, going to California was like going to the moon. It was like the coolest thing they've ever done. I think the show helps them do a lot of things they wouldn't normally get to do.

DG: Between this show, you and Trey also produced a season of Kenny vs. Spenny for Comedy Central, and I can't imagine what the South Park workload is like. Do you see yourselves moving into executive producer-ship or whatever you call it?

MS: South Park is our main thing. That's the thing that keeps me up at night. How's Your News? is really a favor for Arthur, and it's really a fun thing to be involved with and we can't say no. There was a time when Trey and I thought about the EP role as kind of godfathering things. You basically have to become more of a volume player; you have to have five shows on TV and you get to make a lot of money. I think we're going in the other direction. I think we're kind of shying away from that.

We don't really architect our careers that carefully. We just kind of do whatever we want to do this year. Trey and I don't have a manager or a publicist. We don't have any of that shit. We just kind of do what we want to do and not for any real reason. I think we're just attracted to doing our own thing. I actually think we're going in the other direction of not doing too much of this. Maybe from time to time when we think we can help something out, but we do best when we're just on our own, walking around and coming up with our thing. I think that's where we do our best work.

I kind of see us going in the whole Terry Gilliam direction (laughs) kind of thing. Like maybe in a few years come out with something. That's what I'm thinking nowadays.

DG: And the way you described it, I can't think of anyone who says we want to just do our own thing.

MS: No, and through some hard work and luck, we've gotten into that position. We know that's a really good position to be in, where we can just do our thing. We're lucky.

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That guy in the video really looks like Cheryl Hines!

February 07 2009 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This along with the CollegeHumor Show on MTV this Sunday just might make MTV worth watching again.


February 06 2009 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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