South Park gives us another episode of mixed quality that’s strengthened by strong character moments and some hilarious, if not spot-on, celebrity parody.  Jimmy and Cartman have come up with the perfect joke, and it sweeps the country in a frenzy of media exposure. Before the boys knoew it  Carlos Mencia is taking credit for their joke and Kanye West is getting pissed off that everyone's calling him a gay fish. Confused? So is Kanye, and find out exactly why after the jump...

Episode 4: Fishsticks
Full Episode Online: South Park Studios

The funniest joke ever
Cartman comes to visit Jimmy, who’s working on some new jokes for his comedy routine.  Cartman says he wanted to hang out with Kyle and Stan, but they’re pissed off at him for something, so he has to hang out with him instead.  Jimmy tries out a few jokes on Cartman, but Cartman rejects one after another.  Jimmy’s mom brings some fruit to him, smashing a black widow spider before it bites him.  “You saved my life, mom,” Jimmy tanks her.  She then leaves, and Cartman says that he can’t be creative with fruit – he needs something more substantial.  Jimmy says they have fish sticks, and then he says it aloud, a couple times.  “Fish dicks…Cartman, do you like Fish sticks?”  “Yeah,” Cartman responds uncertainly.  “Do you like to put fish sticks in your mouth?”  “Yeah.” “What are you, a gay fish?”  Cartman declares that they’ve struck gold – so they head over to the school to try it out.  Jimmy episodes come along extremely rarely, and they’re usually pretty hilarious. “Erection Day” showed how he could carry an entire episode on his own shoulders, and “Cripple Fight” is classic.  

Fish sticks are the new queefing
At school, Butters tells Cartman to try out the joke on Clyde.  He does, and Clyde and Butters laugh heartily. Then he tries it out on Token, who loves it as well.  Soon the joke sweeps the entire town, and everyone’s laughing at it. (Hmmm…seems suspiciously like the queef mania that swept the entire town last week).  The mania spreads to the entire country. Even Jimmy Kimmel inserts the joke into his stand-up, and Letterman into his banter, to the audience laughing heartily.  People barf in the audiences, the joke is so funny.  They do a news special on it – the joke crosses barriers, borders, and is uniting practically the entire country; except for Kanye West, who is extremely offended at the idea of him being a gay fish.  He even announces a conference where a doctor examines his neck before an audience of hundreds to prove he doesn’t have gills.  He asks if the audience has any questions, and someone asks the fish sticks joke, so of course Kanye gets super pissed off.  So Kanye West, the egotistical rapper living a double life rampant with hypocrisy is Parker and Stone’s new target?  I’m on board, though so far the parody is kind of surface-level.

Taking the credit
Cartman’s gloating about his joke to his friends, and he tells Jimmy that they should patent the joke.  Jimmy says they should just be happy with their popularity, but Cartman says he doesn’t work for free so he’s gonna talk to a lawyer.  He leaves the lunch table, and the boys ask Jimmy exactly how much of the joke Cartman wrote.  Jimmy says none, actually, and Kyle and says that Jimmy needs all the credit for himself – while Craig is his usual pragmatic self and points out that Jimmy should be grateful Cartman isn’t taking all the credit and is letting him have half.

On Conan O’Brien one night, Carlos Mencia comes on as the creator of the fish sticks joke.  He tells a fake story about how he came up with the joke.  Cartman is pissed off, and he presents the patent papers to Jimmy to sign so that they can sue Mencia for stealing their joke.  (Another celebrity target?  Both of them egotistical maniacs?  I’m with you so far.)  Jimmy says that he came up with more of the joke than Cartman, but Cartman says that that’s not what happened, and he tells a story wherein he co-creates the joke with Jimmy.  Out loud, half to himself, Jimmy says, “Is that really how it happened?”   Cartman says they had an agreement – and if he wants to go back on it now, he’s no better than a Jew. “I’m sorry?”  Jimmy asks.  “It’s cool, man, it’s cool,” Cartman says, walking off. He goes to see Kyle in the bathroom, approaching him about Jimmy stealing the joke.  He says Kyle needs to teach him some Jew defense moves.  Kyle says he believes that Cartman believes he wrote it, because people who are douchebags can do the kind of mental gymnastics necessary to deceive themselves.  After Kyle leaves, Cartman tries to recall how it happened – and in this scenario he imagines himself killing a dragon instead of the black widow spider, while of course coming up with the joke.

Kanye the Gay Fish
At a Kanye West concert, he comes out onto stage and starts to rap to find that most of the audience is dressed up fish-wear with signs proclaiming Kanye to be a gay fish.  He leaves the concert right away, an in his hotel room mutters to himself, trying to figure it out. He’s a lyrical and musical genius, he says, why can’t he do it?  He creates a chart on a white board to figure it all out.  “You see, fish dicks is a play on words,” his aides try to explain to him.  Kanye doesn’t believe them.  Soon after they reveal to him that they found out who started the joke – Carlos Mencia.  They tie him up and he’s about to beat his ass with a baseball bat, when Mencia confesses to just packaging up old jokes because he’s not a funny comedian, and also, he doesn’t have a dick and has to pee in a bag.  “I ain’t gonna hurt you,” Kanye says, backing away.  “I pay people to do that for me.”  He backs off and lets his cronies do the work for him.  They beat him to a bloody pulp, leaving him alive enough so that Kanye can come forward and ask him about the joke.  Mencia simple tells Kanye that he’s a gay fish, so Kanye lops off his entire head with a baseball bat. Hm, a bit of a disappointing end for Mencia, who used to be on Comedy Central himself and could have used some serious skewering – his hypocrisy and massive ego and downright lies are exposed here, but only cursorily, and the stuff that has nothing to do with his work, like him pissing in a bag, is funnier than any commentary involved in the lines he has using to try and defend himself.  

Ellen welcomes onto her show the comedy team of Cartman and Valmer.  Cartman is showboating the whole time, and he happily says, “Hi Ellen!”  Ellen asks how they came up with the joke.  Cartman explain that comedy is like a ball bouncing around a room – you never where it could bounce next, and it just bounces back and forth so many times that it just get faster and faster.  Jimmy, sitting next to him, has a few tears rolling down his cheeks.  Cartman pats him on the back and says jokingly not to cry; it’ll make him start crying too.  Ellen asks how nobody thought of this before – what made them so special? Cartman says that he realizes that a lot of people wouldn’t work with Jimmy because he’s disabled- but working with crippled people is really important.  Cartman says that what’s important is that they took the credit of the joke and not Carlos Mencia.  Ellen then points out that Mencia was found dead in his apartment that morning with fish sticks shoved down his throat.  Cartman and Jimmy are speechless.  Here’s where the show touched at least one strong point – Jimmy’s anguish over having Cartman take all the credit was moving, because we now how much Jimmy values his comedy.  Cartman was perfectly in character, too, making it worse with each sentence, even bringing the fact that Jimmy was a cripple into the main light, all for his own devious ends.

Back in South Park, Cartman says they have a bunch more TV shows lined up.  Jimmy says it was always his dream to talk about his craft on national television.  He asks Cartman how he took credit for something he didn’t do, with tears in his eyes.  He shouts at Cartman, asking him how he can live with himself after having done something like that.  Cartman says Jimmy knows that they both came up with the joke.  Suddenly Kanye West bursts in with his posse and starts breaking shit – tying up the two boys to chairs and demanding to know why they started the rumors about him.  Cartman tells the story of how they came up with the joke again. – only this time he’s wearing a black leather jacket and turns into Johnny Storm to sav the town from an entire town of Jew-bots, finishing up the joke when he gets back from his mission.   When the fantasy’s over, Cartman says he realizes the joke was all done by him, so Kanye should let Jimmy go.  Jimmy is shocked that Cartman will go so far in his ego as to claim ownership of the joke in the face of death.   Cartman says that he realizes what Kyle was trying to tell him – Jimmy’s ego was so huge that it blinded him to the truth of what people were saying about him.  As he’s talking, Kanye gets a sad look in his eye, and when Cartman’s done speaking he admits to the boys that he’s done wrong.  Jimmy, realizing there’s no point in arguing, thanks Cartman for his sincerity.  Then we’re treated to possibly the best moment of this entire season – Kanye West walking out onto a dock, followed by his posse, dressed in tight spandex and only sporting one piece of bling.  He tells them he needs to listen to his fans and admit who he really is. So he jumps off the dock into the water and sings a song about how he can now make love to the other gay fish.

Though this episode easily wasn’t the best of the season, at least it didn’t sink as low as last week’s dreadfully one-note “queef” episode.  Once again, Parker and Stone’s sights are set on celebrities and popular culture; and once again, like they’ve been doing recently, they seem to have missed the mark.  While both Kanye’s and Mencia’s ego received a fair beating here, all the other aspects of their celebrity personas were left untouched, though it was hilarious and totally worth it to see Kanye West dancing around in the water, pretending to be a gay fish.  That kind of single, hilarious image is what South Park can be so good at when they try (they achieved it earlier this season with the giant floating Mickey Mouse of Doom and again when Stan discovered how the government made financial decisions), and it’s a perfect closer for the episode. Other parts of this episode that made it pretty funny were Cartman’s little stories about what happened, culminating in him saving the town from an army of Jew-bots.  Once again, this is more of what we need these boys to be doing – not going around parading like superheroes,  not marching to Washington DC to return a Margaritaville machine, not to pass legislation to have queefing outlawed, not trying to expose Disney for their hypocritical agenda, but instead just boys being boys.  The central conflict of this episode arose from a very simple idea – Jimmy comes up with a joke and Cartman tries to take credit for it.  When the episode focuses on this central storyline, it’s easy to be amused by Cartman’s complete and utter blindness to his own hypocrisy or sympathize with Jimmy as he watches his dream destroyed by Cartman.  When we go to Kanye West and Mencia, it’s much more boring and rote, even if it is punctuated by flashes of entertainment.  “Fishsticks” is not the episode fans have been waiting for for so long, but it does contain many moments that are sure to become South Park classics, and it can also be pretty damn funny.

-Thomas Anderson
aka MovieBuzzReviewDude. Check out his movie/media/pop culture blog here.