In 1997, Isaac Hayes become the voice of Chef, the large, sexed-up, black cafeteria chef at South Park Elementary, who was the only adult that Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman could consistently trust. He was wonderful, lovable, and in classic Isaac Hayes fashion, broke into song all the time. No South Park viewer could but love Chef, and appreciate Hayes’ wonderful contribution to this timeless and fantastic show about American culture.
Unfortunately, Chef was not a part of South Park to the end of his life, as his character was killed in the first episode of the tenth season, titled “The Return of Chef” (1001). It was, to be sure, a controversial move, but nothing other than controversy surrounded his departure from the show.
At the end of the 9th season South Park did an episode about Scientology, lambasting the religion thoroughly and making it and some of its celebrity members, namely Tom Cruise, look rather stupid. Isaac Hayes took issues with Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s portrayal of his religion – yes, Hayes was a Scientologist – insisting that they just didn’t understand. Moreover, he told them that it wasn’t right to make fun of his religion that way, though they noted that he had no trouble making fun of nearly everyone else’s religions in other episodes.
Hayes left during the season break and later, Parker and Stone received a letter that he was resigning permanently. Mystery surrounds this letter because it is unclear who wrote it. It is believed that Hayes was in a coma when the letter was sent, suggesting that he had no hand in it at all. Others contend that he was coerced into writing the letter, and of course there is always the possibility that he wrote it himself. If this last option, it is unlikely that he was not goaded by fellow Scientologists to do so.
This situation soured me towards Isaac Hayes because I found his character on the show to be incredibly important – and also quite funny. Nonetheless, what happened happened and in a spectacular episode about Chef’s leaving South Park for a fruity little club (a metaphor for Scientology), the character was killed off and Isaac Hayes never returned to South Park again.
Now, he’s dead for real. I hope that the final 2 years of his life were fulfilling and enjoyable. I’m sorry that he departed from South Park on such an unfortunate note. Perhaps, considering my thoughts, I should try to bear Kyle’s eulogy in mind from Chef’s funeral at the end of the episode:
“We’re all here today because Chef has been such an important part of our lives. A lot of us don’t agree with the choices Chef has made in the past few days. Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can’t let the events of the last week take away the memories of how much Chef made us smile. I’m gonna remember Chef as the jolly old guy who always broke into song. I’m gonna remember Chef as the guy who gave us advice to live by. So you see, we shouldn’t be mad at Chef for leaving us. We should be mad at that little fruity club for scrambling his brains. And in the end, I know that somewhere out there, there’s the good part of Chef that’s still alive in us all.”
Here’s to you Isaac Hayes.
On a similarly unfortunate note, Bernie Mac has also died at the age of 50.
What was your favorite Chef moment? What will you remember Isaac Hayes for?
To read about the group Anonymous and their global protest against Scientology, click HERE.
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Filed under: Religion, South Park Tagged: | 1997, 65, America, Bernie Mac, cartman, Chef, culture, Dead, death, eulogy, Isaac Hayes, Isaac Hayes Dead, Kenny, kyle, love, matt stone, music, obituary, Scientologist, Scientology, sex, Shaft, song, South Park, Stan, The Return of Chef, Tom Cruise, trey parker