The Departure of Isaac Hayes

And other Scientology things
updated January 25, 2007

It all began with Season 9, Episode 12. "Trapped In The Closet," which original aired on November 16, 2005. After it aired, all us fans wondered how Isaac Hayes would react. seeing as the episode made fun of Scientology, which is his religion. He didn't say anything about the episode until a month later, which is where I begin my timeline. Enjoy:
  1. November 16-23 - According to Matt Stone, Isaac came to their office after its airing to express how upset he was over the episode.
    “I had about a two-hour meeting with him, and he was actually really upset,” Stone explained. “He really loves Scientology and he really loves ‘South Park,’ and those two things were at odds. And he asked us to go to the network and have them pull the episode, and don’t ever have it made into DVDs. We said no, we’re not gonna do that. He said okay and he left, and we didn’t hear anything.”
  2. December 19, 2005 - Heard on Opie & Anthony this morning: "Matt and Trey lampoon everybody, and if you take that shit seriously, I'll sell you the Brooklyn Bridge for $2."

    Isaac Hayes, about the episode "Trapped In The Closet"

  3. January 18, 2006 - Scientology vs. South Park in the News. Isaac Hayes was hospitalized Tuesday after overextending himself on tour. Tom Cruise is thinking of suing the show for defamation of character if the episode airs again.
  4. January and February 2006 - Some Danish cartoons originally printed last September lampooning Mohammed got the attention and ire of the Islamist fundamentalist group the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East, who then called for riots in defense of Mohammed. Isaac Hayes saw this, as did we all, and began to change his mind about the SP episode on Scientology and thus his involvement with the show.
  5. March 15, 2006 - Isaac Hayes has asked to leave South Park.


    Legendary soul man Isaac Hayes has officially requested a release from his contract with the "South Park" television show, and the Comedy Central cable station. Mr. Hayes has been a cast member of "South Park" since 1997 as the voice of "CHEF."
    Mr. Hayes has decided to part ways with "South Park" because of recent episodes and press that have embarked upon what he feels are inappropriate ridicule of religious communities. While fully acknowledging "South Park's" right to freedom of speech, Mr. Hayes is disappointed with what he perceives as a growing insensitivity towards personal spiritual beliefs, not only with "South Park" episodes but also the recent Danish cartoon controversy.
    "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins." Mr. Hayes adds, "religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."
    “Then we were at the office and we heard Isaac’s quitting,” says Parker. “[Execs] got a letter from his lawyer. We kinda honestly knew that might happen when we made the episodes, but we didn’t wanna be hypocrites. We always say, ‘It’s all okay to make fun of or none of it is.’ So when we had this good idea for a Scientology episode, we’re like, this could piss Isaac off, but we’re hypocrites if we don’t make it for that reason. To be honest, Chef hasn’t really been a big part of the show for five years, so it wasn’t like a devastating blow or anything. We were bummed out, but he has a right to [quit] and it was sort of gonna be the end of it.
    “Then this press release came out where it said ‘Isaac left the show, Trey and Matt are bigots,’ etc. It was so crazy because we got along so well. And that’s why we were like, ‘Wow, you thought the show was fine until we did your religion. Now we’re bigots.’ So then, we’re like, ‘Okay, game on motherfucker,’ and we did that episode [depicting Chef’s violent demise] -- i.e., the "Return of Chef" episode in which Chef was indoctrinated into a Scientology-esque cult of secret pedophiles.
    Matt Stone fires back.
    "South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."
    Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "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."
    Matt and Trey were on The Late Show with David Letterman on Monday to tape their segment, which will air tonight. Seems Dave tapes two shows on Monday. Anyway, check for MnT on Dave tonight - maybe they'll have more to say on Chef's departure from the show.
  6. March 16, 2006 - From what I hear, yesterday night's Late Show was pretty awful. I got a clip of it from nall and saw Matt and Trey go on and talk to Dave. Here's the clip in WMV format from Jeremy, on YouSendIt, and here's the transcript recap just for the part where they talked about Isaac Hayes:

    Dave: Is it Isaac Hayes who is not continuing with the show?
    Trey: Yeah, Isaac Hayes just quit.
    Dave: He was what?
    Trey: He was the voice of Chef, you know, and he's been, you know, actually in the last five years he hasn't been a huge part of the show, but, uh, he um, we kinda, we did a show last season about Scientology [BIIIG WINCE]
    Matt: And Isaac is a- Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist.
    Dave: He's a Scientologist?
    Matt: Yeah
    Trey: And we, we knew, we knew, we're like "Boy, Isaac might quit over this" and sure enough, he did, you know, so... [shrug] But uh... [shrug]
    A longer transcript might appear later on, but there's nothing in the rest of the clip we don't already know. And I haven't heard a reason why the eps were switched at the last moment, but one can assume they were one last tribute to Chef before the show moves on without him.
  7. March 16, 2006, evening edition - It turns out Tom Cruise is the reason the eps were switched around yesterday evening. From Hollywood Interrupted:
    Sources from inside Paramount and South Park Studios report that parent company Viacom pulled last night's scheduled repeat of the high-rated "Trapped in the Closet" episode after the humorless Scientologist movie star Tom Cruise threatened to cancel all publicity for Mission Impossible:3 if Comedy Central aired the episode that satirizes Scientology and mocks his sexuality again.
    Not only is this the first time that the South Park creators have been officially censored in their ten hit seasons with Comedy Central, Viacom officials also reportedly ordered Matt Stone and Trey Parker not to discuss the reason why their episode was cancelled.
    The South Park boys are said to be angry, but will probably get revenge with the manner in which they deal with Scientologist Isaac Hayes' departure from the show.
  8. March 17, 2006 - Well, seeing as MnT have been told to keep quiet about why "Trapped In The Closet" was shelved for "Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls" on Wednesday, it's no surprise that Tom Cruise would say he wasn't involved in the switch. Matt and Trey's response?

    So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! 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!!!

    Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu.
    ... :D Not much more they can say. Comedy Central's stance remains this:
    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."
  9. March 20, 2006 - If what Tom Cruise said is true, then Comedy Central has less to fear from him. After "Trapped in the Closet" aired last fall, he threatened to sue anyone who dared to show it again, but now he says he wasn't involved with the episode switch last Wednesday and will go on to promote M I:3 for Paramount this Spring. Any station (CC, C4, etc.) care to air the episode now? Fans, visit Chefgate and let your opinion be read!
  10. March 21, 2006 - here's an article saying that Isaac Hayes is in no position to have quit anything. On January 17, Hayes suffered a mild stroke, and he's been recovering ever since, so Roger Friedman says Hayes couldn't have quit on his own - that someone quit for him, with or without his knowledge. "If it wasn’t Hayes, then who would have done such a thing?" Again, nobody's talking. The article notes that the stroke may have affected Hayes' speech and his memory so that he couldn't be in a position to make decisions concerning his career at this time. Also, where is the Hollywood Left on all this?
    "Where are George Clooney and his brave Hollywood friends?" notes DeBecht, chiding Clooney who made a particular point during the Oscars of patting himself on the back for having the courage to call Joseph McCarthy a bad guy - 50 years and countless books and documentaries after the fact. "Here’s censorship happening right under Hollywood's nose, but instead of confronting an actual free speech issue, all these brave liberals souls don’t want to take on a clear violation of free speech when it involves a big-name actor who might be able to give them a job somewhere down the road. “Hypocrisy‚ isn’t a strong enough word to describe this.”
  11. March 22, 2006 - We can ignore Roger Friedman's commentary about Hayes not qutting on his own. Hayes has had a week to reply and say that he's still on the show, and he hasn't done it. This article says that "He's really done with the whole situation. He's already stated what he's stated, and he's sticking by it," recovery or no, which would mean Hayes DID submit his resignation, and Matt and Trey accepted it.
  12. March 23, 2006 - Okay, somebody's not getting us the truth about Isaac's health... And how many people are speaking for him now? USA TODAY's Gary Levin reports that Hayes is fine. Also, ratings are in: 3.5 million viewers! One mil more than last year's average.

    Hayes' spokeswoman Amy Harnell says he was hospitalized Jan. 15 in Memphis with high blood pressure, and had "subsequent medical complications," but was released after a few days and is "totally fine now."
    Which means we should hear from him soon, probably through MnT.
  13. March 24, 2006 - MTV is reporting that Isaac Hayes quit the show on his own - that no one quit for him.

    Amy Harnell, a spokesperson for Hayes, told MTV News the Fox News report was "definitely not true" and that Hayes' decision to quit was "his and his alone."
    Hayes' spokesperson wants it to be known that the musician is "100-percent" finished with "South Park."
    "He's finished talking about it. Basically, his feeling is, if [Stone and Parker] felt the need to do episodes like this one, then that's fine," Harnell said. "He's done with it, and he's already turning his attention to a series of upcoming commercial projects."
    Since then, he's appeared in commercials for McDonald's and Frito-Lay. We can now stop wondering and move on.

  14. March 29, 2006 - Based on the info I have in my Secrets page, I conclude that neither stroke nor claims of religious intolerance was involved in Isaac Hayes' decision to leave the show. Only his faithfulness to Scientology was involved, which just confirms what Matt Stone said about it 16 days ago:

    "South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."
  15. July 2, 2006 - "Chef Returns!" was set to air again on July 5, but was pushed back to July 19.

    ...or can we?

  16. September 25, 2006 - "South Park": those crude kids of ours (The Denver Post) has Matt wondering what happened to Isaac Hayes, as Hayes hasn't said anything about his departure from the show since he (or his Scientologist spokespeople) accused it of religious insensitivity. Also, Matt and Trey get offers to be executive producers on other shows, but they haven't accepted any so far.
    Soul great ISAAC HAYES didn't leave hit TV series SOUTH PARK because they mocked his religion of Scientology - insisting it was simply because he wasn't enjoying the show anymore. The 63-year-old soul singer, who voiced the popular character CHEF on the show, had a falling out with creators MATT STONE and TREY PARKER after they featured an episode mocking prominent Scientologist TOM CRUISE and JOHN TRAVOLTA last year (05). However, Hayes says the reason he ultimately moved on had nothing to do with the episode saying, "I just decided it was time to leave. For a time it was fun. The fun ran out."
    Considering his diminishing appearances in the show in seasons 8 and 9, I don't doubt it.
  18. January 25, 2007 - Isaac Hayes is talking again. ISAAC PUTS CHEF BEHIND HIM (The New York Post) has him saying that he left the show over money, not religion:

    January 24, 2007 -- DESPITE the wishes of his fans, Isaac Hayes will not be returning to "South Park," where he contributed his basso profundo to the character Chef. "I just moved on," Hayes told The Post's Billy Heller. And although he admits an episode that spoofed Scientology - he's an adherent - didn't sit well with him, the Oscar- and Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Famer also said he felt shafted. Hayes said the big reason he left the show last year was, "They didn't pay me enough." And, "They weren't that nice." In town to help promote "Memphis Celebrates 50 Years of Soul," coinciding with the anniversary of the 1957 birth of the Stax record label, the clean-headed "Black Moses" also weighed in on today's hip-hop music scene: "It ain't gonna last." Hayes, still recovering from a stroke and in physical therapy, moved deliberately and used lengthy pauses before answering questions, but he's ready to go onstage Saturday at the B.B. King Blues Club on West 42nd Street. "I got my voice," he said. "That still works."
    August 10, 2008 -- Isaac Hayes dies after falling off his treadmill at home. Likely cause: heart attack. He had suffered a mild stroke two and a half years ago. RIP, Black Moses, Chef.