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Everyone's in a Stew Over 'South Park' Chef

Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, top, belatedly quit the show over a Scientology spoof.
Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, top, belatedly quit the show over a Scientology spoof. (Comedy Central Via Reuters)

So Hayes very publicly quits "South Park" on Monday, the media gloms on to this story and hangs on for dear life for a couple of days.

CNN's "Showbiz Tonight" files a report noting that in a recent interview on their very own show, Hayes said he had no beef with the Scientology episode. "I didn't see it but I was told about it. But they lampoon everybody and if you believe them, you got a problem," Hayes says in a clip.

Stone and co-creator Trey Parker go on David Letterman's CBS late-night show and joke that Hayes's character hasn't been a large part of the show for about five years anyway, and when they did the show about Scientology, "we were like, boy, Isaac might quit over this, and sure enough he did."

And by Wednesday, about 100 times as many people know that the "Trapped in the Closet" episode is going to run on Comedy Central that night.

Only when people tune in, the episode isn't there. Instead it's another episode, called "Chef's Salty Chocolate Balls," and an additional episode also prominently featuring Hayes's advice-dispensing school cook character.

Called for comment the next day, Comedy Central, a division of Viacom, issued a statement explaining that the "Trapped in the Closet" episode was yanked because "in light of the events of earlier this week, we wanted to give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for."

Really, they did. And not in some neoironic way. They were being serious.

And all this is going on while Tom Cruise is busy promoting his upcoming "Mission: Impossible III," which hits theaters on May 5, for Paramount, another division of Viacom.

I'm just sayin'.

Cruise's publicist yesterday said, "Tom had nothing to do with this matter. He's been promoting 'Mission: Impossible III' for the last six months. We have no clue where this came from."

Stone and Parker obviously have their theory about the abrupt episode switcheroo:

"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!" the two said in a statement sent to trade paper Variety.

"Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!"

They signed the statement, "Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu."

In November, when the episode was first scheduled to run on Comedy Central, network spokesman Tony Fox was asked by Radar whether taking swipes at Cruise and Scientology was smart. Fox responded that the network has Stone and Parker's back.

"If you know 'South Park,' they are free, and have been, to satirize anybody and anything they want to. They've made fun of MTV, they've made fun of Viacom, they've made fun of Comedy Central, and we've never interfered with them."

Oh, well.

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