Bill Hader Reveals The Origin of South Park’s “Fishsticks” Episode


Bill Hader

Jimmy: Do you like fishsticks?
Cartman: Yeah.
Jimmy: Do you like putting fishsticks in your mouth?
Cartman: Yeah.
Jimmy: Well, what are you Eric? A gay fish?

 –  South Park, 2009

How did “quite possibly the funniest joke ever conceived” come about? Bill Hader explained it all when he appeared this week with host Ron Bennington for an episode of SiriusXM’s Unmasked.

Bill Hader spent eight seasons as a regular on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. He’s also appeared in hit comedies like “Superbad”, “Adventureland”, “Men in Black 3”, “Tropic Thunder”, “Paul”, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and he starred in the animated feature “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”.

When Bill Hader sat down with Ron Bennington, he talked about his new movie, “The Skeleton Twins” co-starring former SNL cast mate Kristen Wiig, dealing with his performance anxiety and his time at Saturday Night Live. He also discussed going to work with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone on the popular Comedy Central cartoon series in 2008. He took the Unmasked audience behind the scenes of one of South Park’s most famous episodes.

The episode is “Fishsticks” from Season 13 of South Park where a joke about being “a gay fish” took the country by storm. Hader told Bennington that it all started with an invitation from his friend, Matt Stone.  He was shooting a movie in Vancouver– Night at the Museum 2– and Stone invited him to a South Park writers’ retreat.

“They do these things where they get together and they go to a different city where they get away from their wives and their kids and stuff. And they go to a hotel, a nice hotel. And every morning you wake up. You have breakfast. And you talk about South Park. And then you go and you visit whatever’s in that city. You go on a little dumb tour thing and then you come back and you work on South Park and then have dinner and then go home. And it’s a dream. So he said – You should go on the writers retreat. It’s me and Trey and this very funny woman named Erica Rivinoja and Vernon Chatman, is one of the funniest human being on the planet. So, we all went and I went and hung out with these guys.”

Hader said that he had a great time at the South Park writers retreat. He also talked about how the inspiration for the “Fishsticks” episode came from an unlikely place, during the retreat.

“We went to this thing. It’s called a salmon ladder -where you watch the salmon like go up. Trey  took us, kind of like a dad. He’s reading the brochure and he’s like, ‘This is really interesting.’ And we’re watching the salmon ladder kind of like – ‘Oh this is funny’. And I’m like, ‘Well, this is interesting’. And then Matt was like, ‘What if one of the salmon was like Evel Knievel just like on a big motorcycle and just like -“aaaaaahhhhh!!’ And we all started laughing. And then somebody was like , ‘Yeah and he’s got a big dick.’ I said, ‘Oh yeah. He’s a fish-dick.’ And then someone went, ‘Fishsticks?’ I go, ‘No, no, fish dick.’ ‘Oh, you mean fishsticks, like you put in your mouth, like you eat, fishsticks.’ I go, ‘No, no, fish dick.’ And then Trey went, ‘No one has ever made that joke before.’ And he’s like googling it,  ‘Someone’s had to have made…like that’s the dumbest joke.’ Fish dick, fishsticks. No one had made the joke before. And that turned into an episode about Kanye West being a gay fish. And that’s how episodes are made. And I’m like, ‘Wow. That’s how it happens.’ It’s kind of like you’re just fucking around and then you come up with a great episode.”

Bennington pointed out to Hader how that episode is when Kanye West’s nightmare began. Hader explained not only why Kanye West became the target of the “Fishsticks – Gay Fish” joke, but also how comedian Carlos Mencia was pulled into it as well.

“It was like ,’Who does not have a sense of humor about themselves?’ And it was like,’Who would not get the joke?’ And it was Kanye West. And then we had Vernon Chatman…this is why Vernon Chatman is so funny. We go, ‘Okay, so Cartman comes up with a joke , ‘Are you a gay fish?’ And everyone gets the joke except Kanye West. So, he has a press conference going, ‘I am not a gay fish.’ And then his guys come to him and say, ‘Hey, we found the guy who came up with the joke. We’re going to beat him up.’ And they go, ‘Okay.’ So, they found Cartman and Vernon Chatman goes, ‘What if they found Carlos Mencia because he steals jokes.’ So, we did the whole scene with Carlos Mencia and they’re beating him up. And he’s going – ‘My dick don’t work, man.’ It’s the funniest thing in the world.”

Bill Hader can be seen in “The Skeleton Twins” in theaters now. He’ll also be co-starring in the upcoming comedy “Trainwreck” directed by Judd Apatow and written by Amy Schumer. Hader will be returning to Saturday Night Live as host on Saturday, October 11th on NBC with musical guest, Hozier.

Ron Bennington’s Unmasked with Bill Hader premieres this Friday, September 19th at 2 pm Eastern on the Ron and Fez Show. You can listen on SiriusXM’s Raw Dog Comedy Hits Channel 99. Replays of this episode will run Saturday, September 20th at 7 pm et and on Sunday, September 21th at 2 pm and 10 pm et.

Unmasked — an hour long interview show talking about creativity with comedians– is taped before a live studios audience. In addition to hosting Unmasked, Ron Bennington also hosts Ron Bennington Interviews and is the primary voice on The Ron and Fez Show weekdays from noon to 3pm et on SiriusXM. For information on how to get tickets to tapings of Unmasked, follow@UnmaskedShow on twitter.

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