Kenny McCormick

Kenny McCormick
Kenny McCormick
South Park character
Kenny McCormick
First appearance Jesus vs. Frosty (short)
"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" (South Park)
Created by Trey Parker
Matt Stone
Voiced by Matt Stone (muffled and Mysterion)
Eric Stough (un-muffled)
Mike Judge (un-muffled in film)
Aliases Mysterion
Occupation Student
Family Carol McCormick (mother)
Stuart McCormick (father)
Kevin McCormick (brother)
Karen McCormick (sister)
Religion Roman Catholic
Residence South Park, Colorado

Kenneth "Kenny" McCormick[1] (sometimes spelled as McKormick) is a fictional character in the animated television series South Park. He is one of the four central characters along with his friends Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, and Eric Cartman. His oft-muffled and indiscernible speech—the result of his parka hood covering his mouth—is provided by co-creator Matt Stone. He debuted on television when South Park first aired on August 13, 1997, after having first appeared in The Spirit of Christmas shorts created by Stone and long-time collaborator Trey Parker in 1992 (Jesus vs. Frosty) and 1995 (Jesus vs. Santa).

Kenny is a third- then fourth-grade student who commonly has extraordinary experiences not typical of conventional small-town life in his hometown of South Park, Colorado, where he lives with his relatively poor redneck family. Kenny is animated by computer in a way to emulate the show's original method of cutout animation. He also appears in the 1999 full-length feature film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, as well as South Park-related media and merchandise.

In a running gag most prevalent during the first five seasons of the series, Kenny would die in many episodes before returning in the next with little or no definitive explanation given. Other characters' accompanying exclamation of "Oh my God, they killed Kenny! ...You bastards!" became a catchphrase. Academics and media commentators have published their interpretations of the many aspects of the running gag from philosophical and societal viewpoints. Since the show began its sixth season in 2002, the practice of killing Kenny in each episode has been seldom used by the show's creators. Various episodes have set up the gag, sometimes presenting a number of explanations for Kenny's unacknowledged reappearances.


Role in South Park

Kenny attends South Park Elementary as part of Mr. Garrison's fourth grade class. During the first 58 episodes, Kenny and the other main child characters were in the third grade. Kenny comes from a poor household, presided over by his violent, alcoholic and unemployed parents, Stuart and Carol McCormick.[2] Kenny has an older brother, Kevin, and younger sister was shown with his family in the season nine episode "Best Friends Forever", without having made an appearance in another episode until the 15th season episode The Poor Kid where we learn her name is Karen. When addressing fan speculation that the girl was Kenny's sister, series co-creator Matt Stone merely stated that the character was a "mystery".[3] Kenny is friends with Stan and Kyle, and has indicated that he maintains a friendship with Cartman solely out of pity.[4] Kenny is regularly teased for living in poverty, particularly by Cartman.[5] When it comes to sexually related subjects, he is the most knowledgeable of the group, and the others will typically ask for his explanation of sexual matters unknown to them.

Kenny's superhero alter ego, Mysterion, first appeared in the Season 13 episode "The Coon",[6] as a rival to Eric Cartman's titular superhero alter ego, revealing himself at the end of the episode to the characters, but his identity was not revealed to the viewers until the Season 14 episode "Mysterion Rises",[7] the character's third appearance as part of a story arc.


Prior to season six, Kenny died in almost every episode, with only a few exceptions.[note 1] The nature of the deaths were often gruesome and portrayed in a comically absurd fashion,[8] and usually followed by Stan and Kyle respectively yelling "Oh my God, they/you/he/she/I/we killed Kenny!" and "(You) bastard(s)!".[9] Shortly afterward, rats would commonly appear and begin picking at his corpse.[10] Stone and Parker revealed that when Stan exclaims "They killed Kenny!" and Kyle exclaims "You bastard(s)!", it is apparently not directed towards anyone in particular; they are actually referring to Stone and Parker themselves, as though they were an omnipresence within the show's universe.[citation needed] In a following episode, Kenny would reappear alive and well, usually without any explanation. Most characters appear oblivious or indifferent to the phenomenon, although occasionally one will acknowledge an awareness of it.[11] In "Cherokee Hair Tampons", Kenny gets irritated and offended when Stan laments Kyle's critical condition while utterly ignoring Kenny's past demises.

Near the end of the production run of the show's fifth season, Parker and Stone contemplated having an episode in which Kenny was killed off permanently.[12] The reasoning behind the idea was to genuinely surprise fans, and to allow an opportunity to provide a major role for Butters Stotch, a breakout character whose popularity was growing with the viewers and creators of the show.[12] In the episode "Kenny Dies", Kenny dies after developing a terminal muscular disease,[13] while Parker and Stone claimed that Kenny would not be returning in subsequent episodes. The duo insisted they grew tired of upholding the tradition of having Kenny die in each episode.[14] Stone stated that thinking of humorous ways to kill the character was initially fun, but became more mundane as the series progressed.[13] When they determined that it would be too difficult to develop the character because he was too much of a "prop", Parker and Stone finally decided to kill off Kenny permanently.[9][15]

["Kenny Dies"] was the one episode where [all the characters] cared [he was dying] for once. After that, we said, ‘Why doesn’t he just stay dead?’ And it was like, ‘Okay, let’s just do that.’ It was that easy of a decision. I think a lot of people probably haven’t noticed. I couldn’t care less. I am so sick of that character.
 — Matt Stone, from a 2002 article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel[13]

For much of season six, Kenny remained gone from the show, though both Stone and Parker entertained the idea of eventually bringing the character back.[15] According to Stone, only a small minority of fans were significantly angered by Kenny's absence, with some even threatening to boycott Comedy Central, the cable channel on which South Park is aired.[9] For most of the season, Stan, Kyle, and Cartman fill the void left by Kenny by allowing the characters Butters Stotch and Tweek Tweak into their group, paving the way for the characters to receive more focus on the show.[15][16] Nevertheless, Kenny returned from the year-long absence in the season six finale "Red Sleigh Down", and has remained a starring character ever since. His character no longer dies each week, and has only been killed occasionally in episodes following his return.[17]

The first explanation given for Kenny's deaths and reappearances was given in "Cartman Joins NAMBLA", wherein the McCormicks have a baby exactly like Kenny, including the characteristic orange parka, shortly after the former Kenny dies. Mr. McCormick exclaims, "God, this must be the fiftieth time this has happened", to which Mrs. McCormick quickly replies, "Fifty-second". (The episode is the fifty-third in the series, but Kenny was spared in the first season Christmas episode.) This explanation is expanded upon in the Season 14 episodes "Coon 2: Hindsight", "Mysterion Rises" and "Coon vs. Coon and Friends", in which Kenny, while playing superheroes with his friends, claims his "super power" is immortality. He actually dies several times during these episodes—even committing suicide more than once—reawakening in his bed each time. He is annoyed and angry that no one can remember him dying every time he regenerates, and longs to know the source of his power. Unbeknownst to him, his parents were previously connected to a Cthulhu-worshipping death cult. After shooting himself the second time, Mrs. McCormick awakes with a scream, shrieks "It's happening again!", and minutes later, is shown gently placing a newborn Kenny in his bed. "We should never have gone to that stupid cult meeting," she grouses as she and her husband return to bed.


Creation and design

Kenny's entire face revealed for the first time in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

Kenny is closely based on a childhood friend of Parker who was also named Kenny, with whom he shares several attributes; he was the poorest kid in the neighborhood and would wear a tightly-drawn orange parka that muffled his speech and brown gloves.[18] When developing the character, the show's creators had observed that most groups of childhood friends in small middle-class towns always included "the one poor kid", and decided to portray Kenny in this light.[19] The practice of killing off the character in each of the show's earlier episodes was inspired by events associated with the real-life Kenny's tendency to skip school; noting his absence at the school bus stop, Parker and his other friends would jokingly assume that he had actually died, and then act as if nothing had happened when the character's namesake would re-join them days later to resume attending class.[18]

An unnamed precursor to Kenny first appeared in the first The Spirit of Christmas short, dubbed Jesus vs. Frosty, created by Parker and Stone in 1992 while they were students at the University of Colorado. The character was composed of construction paper cutouts and animated through the use of stop motion.[20] When tasked three years later by friend Brian Graden to create another short as a video Christmas card that he could send to friends, Parker and Stone created another similarly-animated The Spirit of Christmas short, dubbed Jesus vs. Santa.[21][22] In this short, Kenny is given his first name, and first appears as he does in the series. Kenny next appeared on August 13, 1997, when South Park debuted on Comedy Central with the episode "Cartman Gets An Anal Probe".

In tradition with the show's animation style, Kenny is composed of simple geometrical shapes and primary colors.[11][20] He is not offered the same free range of motion associated with hand-drawn characters; his character is mostly shown from only one angle, and his movements are animated in an intentionally jerky fashion.[11][20][23] Ever since the show's second episode, "Weight Gain 4000" (season one, 1997), Kenny, like all other characters on the show, has been animated with computer software, though he is portrayed to give the impression that the show still utilizes its original technique.[20]

Mysterion unmasked at the end of "The Coon". Originally intended to have been a generic, unnamed classmate of the main characters, he was revealed to be Kenny in "Mysterion Rises".

The effect of Kenny's speech is achieved by Stone mumbling into his own hand as he provides Kenny's lines,[20] while the recorded audio is then edited with Pro Tools, and the pitch is altered to make the voice sound more like that of a fourth grader.[24][25][26] As the technique of Kenny's muzzled enunciation frequently implies, many of his lines are indeed profane and sexually explicit, the lengthier of which are mostly improvised by Stone.[20]

He first appeared unobscured by his hood in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, where it was revealed that he had messy golden hair. In a cameo appearance during this moment in the film, Mike Judge provided the voice for Kenny's one line of uninsulated dialogue: "Goodbye, you guys."[27] On a few occasions during episodes that have originally aired since the film's release, he has been seen without the parka.[note 2] He also speaks unmuffled during some of these instances, in which case co-producer Eric Stough will provide Kenny's voice.[28] During "The Coon" episodes of seasons 13 and 14, Kenny has his first major speaking role as the character Mysterion.

Personality and traits

While most child characters on the show are foul-mouthed, Kenny is often even more risqué with his dialogue.[29] Parker and Stone state that they depict Kenny and his friends in this manner in order to display how young boys really talk when they are alone.[11][30] While sometimes cynical and profane, Parker still notes that there is an "underlying sweetness" aspect to the character,[18][31] and Time magazine described Kenny and his friends as "sometimes cruel but with a core of innocence".[32] He is amused by toilet humor and bodily functions,[32] and his favorite television personalities are Terrance and Phillip, a Canadian duo whose comedy routines on their show-within-the-show revolve substantially around fart jokes. Kenny is also lecherous,[5] and often portrayed as being eager to do and say disgusting things in an attempt to impress others or earn money.[19] Conversely, his alter-ego Mysterion is seemingly mature, principled, and serious-minded, the only exception being one instance in "Mysterion Rises" in which he takes delight in irritating Cartman. In all of his guises Kenny is also often depicted as being uncommonly selfless, even dying for the sake of others.

Cultural impact

Kenny, in a vegetative state in the season nine episode "Best Friends Forever", which addressed the Terri Schiavo controversy.

Kenny's deaths are well-known in popular culture,[9] and was one of the things viewers most commonly associated with South Park during its earlier seasons.[33] The exclamation of "Oh my God! They killed Kenny!" quickly became a popular catchphrase,[13][32] while both Kenny and the phrase have appeared on some of the more popular pieces of South Park merchandise,[9] including shirts, bumper stickers, calendars and baseball caps,[5] and inspired the rap song "Kenny's Dead" by Master P,[9] which was featured on Chef Aid: The South Park Album.The catchphrase also appears in MAD magazine's satire of TITANIC where Stan, Kyle and Cartman are shown on a lifeboat while they were supposedly escaping from the sinking ship.

The running gag of Kenny's deaths in earlier seasons was incorporated into the season nine (2005) episode "Best Friends Forever" when Kenny, in a vegetative state, was kept alive by a feeding tube while a media circus erupted over whether the tube should be removed and allow Kenny to die. The episode received much attention as it served to provide commentary on the Terri Schiavo case,[4][34] originally airing just one day before Schiavo died.[35] The episode earned South Park its first Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.[36]

Kenny's deaths have been subject to much critical analysis in the media and literary world. In the book South Park and Philosophy: Bigger, Longer, and More Penetrating, an essay by Southern Illinois University philosophy professor Dr. Randall Auxier, entitled "Killing Kenny: Our Daily Dose of Death", suggests that the fashion of the recurring gag serves to help the viewer become more comfortable with the inevitability of their own death.[37][38] In the book South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point professor Karin Fry wrote an essay concerning the parallels between Kenny's role in the show and the different concepts of existentialism.[39]

When Sophie Rutschmann of the University of Strasbourg discovered a mutated gene that causes an adult fruit fly to die within two days after it is infected with certain bacteria, she named the gene "Kenny" in honor of the character.[40]

In other media

Kenny had a major role in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,[41] the full-length film based on the series, and appeared on the film's soundtrack singing (albeit muffled) some of the same musical numbers performed in the movie.[42] As a tribute to the Dead Parrot sketch, a short that features Kenny as a "dead friend" being returned by Cartman to a shop run by Kyle aired during a 1999 BBC television special commemorating the 30th anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus.[43] Kenny was also featured in the documentary film The Aristocrats, listening to Cartman tell his version of the film's titular joke,[44] and in the "The Gauntlet", a short spoofing both Gladiator and Battlefield Earth that aired during the 2000 MTV Movie Awards.[45][46]

Kenny also appears in four South Park-related video games: In South Park, Kenny is controlled by the player through the first person shooter mode who attempts to ward off enemies from terrorizing the town of South Park.[47] In South Park: Chef's Luv Shack, a user has the option of playing as Kenny when participating in the game's several "minigames" based on other popular arcade games.[48] In the racing game South Park Rally, a user can race as Kenny against other users playing as other characters, while choosing to place him in any of a variety of vehicles.[49] In South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play!, Kenny can be selected as a playable character used to establish a tower defense against the game's antagonists.[50]


  1. ^ Exceptions include "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo" and "Fat Camp". He also seems to die (but turns out to be alive) in some episodes, including "Rainforest Shmainforest" and the two-part episode "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?" / "Probably".
  2. ^ Including "The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000", "Super Best Friends", "Lil' Crime Stoppers", "The Jeffersons", "Good Times with Weapons", "The Losing Edge", "South Park Is Gay!", "Lice Capades", "Margaritaville", "W.T.F.", "Pee", and "You're Getting Old".


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Kenny McCormick". South Park Studios. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  3. ^ "An interview with Matt Stone". South Park Studios. Retrieved 2009-02-16. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b Wyatt Mason (2006-09-17). "My Satirical Self". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  5. ^ a b c Sylvia Rubin (1998-01-26). "TV 's Foul-Mouthed Funnies". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  6. ^ Fickett, Travis (March 19, 2009). "South Park: "The Coon" Review". IGN. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  7. ^ Ramsey Isler (November 4, 2010). "South Park: "Mysterion Rises" Review. Mysterion is not so mysterious anymore.". IGN (News Corporation). Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  8. ^ Devin Leonard (2006-10-27). "'South Park' creators haven't lost their edge". CNN. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Don Kaplan (2002-04-08). "South Park Won't Kill Kenny Anymore". New York Post.,2933,49748,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  10. ^ Bill Carter (1997-11-10). "Comedy Central makes the most of an irreverent, and profitable, new cartoon hit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  11. ^ a b c d Abbie Bernstein (1998-10-27). "South Park - Volume 2". Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  12. ^ a b Trey Parker, Matt Stone (2003). South Park" - The Complete Fifth Season (DVD). Comedy Central.  Mini-commentary for episode "Kenny Dies"
  13. ^ a b c d "South Park’s Kenny R.I.P.". 2002-04-09. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  14. ^ Jaime J. Weinman (2008-03-12). "South Park grows up". Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  15. ^ a b c Page 2 Staff (2002-03-13). "Matt Stone". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  16. ^ Alyson Brodsy and Mark Perlman-Price (2005-10-20). "A season without Kenny". Indiana Daily Student. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  17. ^ Semigram, Aly. "'South Park' tries to go for laughs with the Penn State scandal". Entertainment Weekly. November 17, 2011
  18. ^ a b c "Trey Parker and Matt Stone interview (2000) pt 3/5". YouTube. 2000. Retrieved 2009-02-28. 
  19. ^ a b Trey Parker, Matt Stone. Goin' Down to South Park (Television documentary). Comedy Central. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f Matt Cheplic (1998-05-01). "'As Crappy As Possible': The Method Behind the Madness of South Park". Penton Media. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  21. ^ "Brian Graden's Bio". Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  22. ^ "Brian Graden Biography". Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  23. ^ Jaime J. Weinman (2008-03-12). "South Park grows up". Mac Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  24. ^ Stephanie Jorgl (2005). "South Park: Where The Sound Ain't No Joke!". Digizine. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  25. ^ "South Park FAQ". South Park Studios. 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  26. ^ "40 Questions". South Park Studios. 2001-10-04. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  27. ^ "FAQ Archives". South Park Studios. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  28. ^ "FAQ Archives". South Park Studios. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  29. ^ "Cartman top with kids". BBC. 1999-08-26. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  30. ^ Jake Trapper and Dan Morris (2006-09-22). "Secrets of 'South Park'". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  31. ^ Frazier Moore (2006-12-14). "Loud and lewd but sweet underneath". The Age. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  32. ^ a b c Jeffrey Ressner and James Collins (1998-03-23). "Gross And Grosser". Time.,9171,988028,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  33. ^ "Word, Charged Find a Savior". 1998-04-27. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  34. ^ Melanie McFarland (2006-10-02). "Social satire keeps 'South Park' fans coming back for a gasp, and a laugh". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  35. ^ Kate Aurthur (2005-04-02). "'South Park' Echoes the Schiavo Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  36. ^ Terry Morrow (2005-10-23). "‘South Park’ outlives creators’ expectations". Scripps Howard News Service. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  37. ^ Staff (2007-02-05). "Philosophy Speaker Presents "Killing Kenny: Our Daily Dose of Death"". GMC Journal (Green Mountain College). Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  38. ^ Marchetto, Sean (2007-12-06). "Just killing Kenny or ontological boredom?". Fast Forward Weekly. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  39. ^ Arp, Robert (Editor); Fry, Karin (2006-12-01). South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today. Blackwell Publishing (The Blackwell Philosophy & Pop Culture Series). pp. 77–86. ISBN 978-1-4051-6160-2. 
  40. ^ Thomas H. Maugh II (2002-08-05). "Playing the Name Game". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  41. ^ Pulver, Andrew (1999-08-27). "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut". The Guardian. London.,,77038,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  42. ^ "Various - Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut". Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  43. ^ "News - Pythons cut train crash from funny show". Retrieved 2009-08-01. 
  44. ^ "HBO Documentary Films: The Aristocrats". HBO. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  45. ^ Ortega, Tony (2001-09-27). "Sympathy For The Devil: Tory Bezazian was a veteran Scientologist who loved going after church critics. Until she met the darkest detractor of all.". New Times Los Angeles. 
  46. ^ Trey Parker, Matt Stone (2000). The Gauntlet (Television special). MTV, Comedy Central.  Short that aired during the 2000 MTV Movie Awards
  47. ^ Baker, Christopher Michael. "South Park - Overview". Allgame. Retrieved 16 July 2009. 
  48. ^ "Review: South Park: Chef's Luv Shack". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  49. ^ "South Park Rally Preview". IGN. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  50. ^ Brudvig, Erik (2009-10-06). "South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play Review". IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 

External links

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