How could he? How could Isaac Hayes, who for so long provided the sultry voice of South Park's Chef, leave the show?
Is he sick? Is he mad?
Actually, he's both. He's a Scientologist.
Things were going great until Hayes got his nose out of joint over a recent episode that skewered Scientology. In Trapped in the Closet, 8-year-old Stan gets duped into joining Scientology, whose followers become convinced he's the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard. Tom Cruise is also featured in the episode, although he spends most of it hiding in the closet of Stan's room and refusing to come out.
It's not the first time South Park has made fun of religion. Other noteworthy episodes include Jewbilee, Are You There God, It's Me Jesus, Red Hot Catholic Love, All About Mormons?, The Passion of the Jew and Woodland Critter Christmas. (The last one is only funny if you're amused by depictions of baby mountain lions learning to do abortions so they can prevent the birth of the anti-Christ.)
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. South Park also makes fun of liberals, conservatives, Hollywood, Terry Schiavo, hate crimes, pre- and post-op transexuals, gays, handicapped kids, retarded children, starving Africans, AIDS, terrorists, televangelists, hippies, rednecks and Wal-Mart. It's Take-No-Prisoners T.V. and that's why so many people - including me - watch it.
Chef has been a big part of it, dispensing advise to the kids he collectively addressed as "children," and wowing the ladies with smooth lines and songs about his chocolate salty balls.
And now, after nine seasons of raunchy episodes, he's taking his salty balls and going home. I'm devastated, for I love Chef. But I'm totally disgusted with Isaac Hayes. I could go on and on about it, but I think South Park creator Matt Stone summed it up best.
"This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology," said Stone.
"He has no problem -- and he's cashed plenty of checks -- with our show
fun of Christians... We never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way
until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than
his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."
So be that way, Chef. Forget the fact that people were already laughing at Scientology before this episode even aired. Forget the fact that having Tom Cruise as the public face of a religion is equivalent to hanging a "Kick Me" sign on the church door. Forget that if L. Ron Hubbard's books had been any good he would have never even had to become a cult leader. Forget all that and blame the show that made you an icon to a generation that's never heard of "Shaft."
Hopefully you'll regret what you've done and realize that you should have stayed, if not for us then for the children.