updated 10/15/2004 10:41:10 AM ET 2004-10-15T14:41:10

Guests: Amy Fisher, Trey Parker, Matt Stone


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Judging Amy.  She fired the shots that launched 1,000 tabloid headlines when she was only 16.


AMY FISHER:  Your Honor, the truth is, I did something that was so awful and I wish I could take it back.


NORVILLE:  A crime so sensational it spawned three TV movies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And whatever Amy wants, Amy gets.


NORVILLE:  Amy Fisher served seven years for shooting her lover’s wife.


FISHER:  I’ve spent the last 13 years saying, Why did I do that?  How could I do that?


NORVILLE:  Now the girl they called the Long Island Lolita is a wife, mother and writer.


FISHER:  They think I’m supposed to be illiterate and insane.


NORVILLE:  And back in the public spotlight with a cautionary tale for troubled teens.  Tonight: Amy Fisher comes to terms with her past.


FISHER:  I feel like it’s better to face my life.


NORVILLE:  Hollywood bad boys.  They’re the warped, wacky brains behind those raunchy types on “South Park.”  Now they’re stringing movie fans along with a daring comedy about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, terrorists, terrorize this!


NORVILLE:  Is it any wonder Trey Parker and Matt Stone enjoy yanking a few chains?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  God, it feels cool!


NORVILLE:  Tonight, we’ll meet Hollywood’s un-PC puppet masters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, where do we go from here?



ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  After her release from prison, Amy Fisher decided to disappear.  She changed her name, her Social Security number.  She even underwent plastic surgery to alter her appearance.  She went to college, got married and had a child.

But now Amy Fisher is back in the spotlight.  She’s had the surgery reversed, and she’s appearing in public using the name by which the world knew her, Amy Fisher.  And she has a warning for parents who may think they know their teenagers and who may be wrong.  She’s written a book entitled “If I Knew Then.”  Amy Fisher also writes a weekly column for “The Long Island Press” newspaper.

And joining me now is Amy Fisher.  It’s nice to meet you.

AMY FISHER, AUTHOR, “IF I KNEW THEN”:  It’s nice to meet you, too.

NORVILLE:  Has day gone by that you don’t think about May 19, 1992?

FISHER:  Well, I don’t think about it every single waking moment of my entire life, but you know, I do reflect on it.  And you know, throughout years, I think of it in a different perspective, and you learn over time to, you know, see your mistakes in a more clear light.  And you know, I’m able to take more responsibility for it now, as opposed to, you know, 10 or 13 years ago, you know, when I was younger.

NORVILLE:  When I read your book, it just kept coming back to me.  I don’t understand how a 16-year-old kid can be persuaded to take a gun and go try to kill somebody.  How do you explain that?

FISHER:  You know what?  That’s why I wrote the book because a lot of people said that, I don’t understand that.  And I felt like there are so many troubled kids out there and they don’t get the help because, you know, parents want to be in denial.  Nobody wants to understand it.  And, you know, whether the problems are of a minimal level, or in my case, you know, a drastic extreme, you know, kids still have problems.  And I decided, I said, You know what?  If I write my life story and I do it in a constructive, positive way to say this is who I was, you know, and really be honest about, you know, saying I was spoiled and I was selfish, you know, and immature and these are the reasons that I did, you know, X, Y and Z...


NORVILLE:  Yes, but there are a lot of spoiled, immature kids out there.  Very few of them end up getting a gun and going killing the wife of the man that they’re involved with.  So I want to try to go back a little bit and understand what was going on in your life that led up to that.  Joey Buttafouco, first off.  How’d you meet the guy?

FISHER:  You know what?  I discuss my past and use it as, you know, a tool to live a more positive life.  And, you know, obviously, I had troubles, and you know, I’m not here to justify, you know, OK, I did this and here’s the reasons, because you know what?  My past when I was younger was destructive, and there’s really—there’s no justification.  And you know what?  I can explain it in the best way I can, looking back in hindsight.


FISHER:  You know, it definitely—I made poor decisions.  You know, I affected a lot of lives.  You know, I hurt, you know, another human being, Mary Jo Buttafouco, like, so horrifically, and not just physically, just emotionally, mentally.  And you know, that’s something that, you know, I carry with me today and...

NORVILLE:  Have you forgiven yourself for that?

FISHER:  You know what?  You never fully forgive yourself.  You constantly go over it and say, why did I do this?  You know, I constantly beat myself up over it.  And no, you don’t fully forgive yourself, but what happens is you learn to put it in perspective and say, OK, I’m not going to let this horrible thing define my entire life.  And you know, you try to put your life in a more positive direction.

NORVILLE:  I want to go back in time because to learn the lessons, you really do have to know where you were as a 16-year-old kid.  And I sense a great reluctance to talk about that.

FISHER:  Oh, not at all.  You know what?  I put it all in the book...


FISHER:  ... and I’m not reluctant to talk about it.  What, you know, I’m reluctant to do is sensationalize the past, where it takes away from a positive message that I can put out there.

NORVILLE:  But you met Joey Buttafuoco because he was a car mechanic who did some repairs on your vehicle.

FISHER:  Correct.  And you know what?  He knew my father.  And you know, I like to say now, years later, that, you know, he wasn’t my boyfriend.  At the time, I thought he was my boyfriend and it was so romantic.  You know, years later, I realize this man really—you know, he was a sexual predator.  A 37-year-old man, 16-year-old girl, that’s not normal.  It’s illegal.  And you know, it’s very, very sad.

NORVILLE:  You write in the book that he brought you home—your car wasn’t ready.  He brought you home because your dad had dropped you off, thinking you’d be able to drive yourself back.  Nobody was home.  He came into the house, ended up in your room.  You naively thought he really wanted to see your fish tank.  You really were a sheltered little kid.

FISHER:  You know what?  I was sheltered, you know, and I didn’t have anybody that sat me down, you know, previous to that and said, OK, you know, there are sexual predators out there.  You know, when you’re a young kid, Mom and Dad, they sit you down and they say, Don’t get in cars with strangers.  Don’t talk to strangers.  You know, and they figure, OK, you know, we’ve taught our daughter well.  They don’t teach you, you know, don’t talk to the man that’s nice to you that fixes your car, you know...

NORVILLE:  That daddy knows...

FISHER:  Exactly.

NORVILLE:  ... and introduced me to.

FISHER:  You know, and people say, she should have known better.  Well, you know what?  Shame on me, I didn’t know better.  And there’s a lot of kids out there that don’t know better, you know, and I think it’s our job as a society to help them.

NORVILLE:  You’re a mother now of a 3-year-old little boy.  You’ve got another one on the way.  And in the book, you over and again say, I want others to learn from my mistakes.  In hindsight—and I’m not sure what the answers are, where the wrong turn was in your life, but it seems to me, reading your story, a lot began when you moved unexpectedly when you were 13-years-old and the world that you’d known, of which you were a very comfortable part, suddenly ended.  How big a deal was that in your life?

FISHER:  Well, you know, I put that in the book because it was a big deal.  You know, my parents decided to move to a different neighborhood when I was 13-years-old, and they thought that they were, you know, bringing me into a better place where I’d go to better schools.  And what happened is—you know, it’s a very turbulent point, 13-years-old.  You enter adolescence.  And you know, having to switch friends and make new friends, you know, it leaves you with a feeling of insecurity, lack of self-worth and self-esteem, you know?  And it makes it easier to fall prey to negative behaviors because you don’t love yourself.

NORVILLE:  So this Joey guy comes into your life.  He kisses you.  He hugs you.  And you said in the book you all had sex the day he brought you home.

FISHER:  I was so desperate at 16-years-old to have somebody say, Oh, I love you, that—you know, a 16-year-old, they hear that for the first time and, you know, I think any young woman, or any woman in general, can remember back to being 15, 16, 17-years-old, hearing that for the first time, and it’s like that’s your entire world.  And eventually, we all grow up and we realize, you know, there’s other things that matter a lot more in life.  But at that point, you can’t see that.

NORVILLE:  And you never heard it from your dad or your mom?

FISHER:  Oh, my mom, definitely.  But you know what?  I wasn’t looking for a maternal figure, I was looking for, you know, a father figure.  And I had a turbulent relationship with my dad.  And you know what?  I know years later, he loved me and I think he tried in his own way.  But as a teenager, I felt unloved.  You know, whether my feelings were realistic or not, they were still my feelings.

NORVILLE:  So this Joey says he loves you.  He becomes kind of like a Svengali father figure-slash-boyfriend.  The next thing you know, he’s griping about his wife and he says, Gosh, if I could figure out a way to get rid of her—how did you end up being the triggerman for Joey Buttafouco?

FISHER:  You know what?  I was a confused kid.  I would have did anything for this man just for his love because I was so insecure.  I had no sense of self-worth.


FISHER:  You know, I didn’t matter.  My future didn’t matter, you know?  And I also—being a kid, you don’t understand the ramifications.  You know, people—a lot of people say, Well, didn’t you know any better?  Didn’t you know shooting somebody was wrong?  And you know, I put in the book, the brutal honesty is I did know something was wrong.  I did know it’s not nice to, you know, shoot somebody.  And I didn’t care, you know?

And it took many years to become a really decent, compassionate person and say, Look, I did this, you know, and this was a horrible thing, you know, and I did it because my character was very poor, you know, and I’m not going to conduct myself like this.  I’m going to lead a positive life, you know?  And there’s a real message to be sent.

NORVILLE:  In a moment, I want to hear how you traveled that journey to get to that place.  But it all started when you went up the steps of the Buttafouco home, and after an exchange with Mary Jo, you pulled the trigger.  Can you remember that moment?

FISHER:  You know what?  I remember that moment as clearly as I think we all remember any of our past.  You remember things and, you know, sometimes you remember what you want to remember.  Really, that’s the honest truth.  So, you know, I tried to put it in the best perspective I could in the book, you know?  And I mention it—like I said, I mention it more as my state of mind and my immaturities and, you know, the negative reasons for why I did this, you know, to tell teens out there, you know, Yes, you know, I know I was spoiled.  You know, I know I was immature.  And maybe if they see, you know, the qualities that I had that really were really horrible, they would say, Oh, wow, you know, I think that, too, or...


NORVILLE:  ... themselves.

FISHER:  Yes, they see themselves and they say, You know, I don’t want to go on that same path of destruction.

NORVILLE:  For you, it all hit home after you were arrested.  You were in court, and you had an opportunity to speak to the judge and it was an incredibly dramatic moment from your trial.  Here’s just a tiny bit of it.


FISHER:  Your Honor, the truth is, I did something that was so awful, and I wish I could take it back.  It’s also the truth I had an affair with a married man.  And it’s also the truth that Joey knew of my intentions towards his wife, and he encouraged me.


NORVILLE:  Can you remember how scared you were at that moment?

FISHER:  Oh, I was terrified.  And you know, it’s funny, though.  I see those sound bites constantly.  And I was a kid.  I was 17 years old.  And I’m told by my attorney at the time, You’re going to court, and here’s your speech and this is what you’re going to say.  And I remember feeling very, very bad.  I definitely felt bad, but I didn’t understand why.  It took many years to travel through that journey of really understanding, you know?  And it was true.  But you know, where it says, I had an affair with a married man, you know, that came from the attorney writing...

NORVILLE:  Telling you what to say.

FISHER:  Exactly.  They write it on paper, you know, and you go and you say the speech.  It’s so rehearsed.  You know, and years later, at 30 years old, I realize this was not an affair with a married man, you know, this was a sexual deviant, you know, who took advantage of a teenager.  It’s disgusting, you know?  I mean, I’m certainly responsible for, you know, my conduct of behavior, but, you know, I want to make that clear—you know, I mean, mothers out there—I mean, I know as a mother, you know, if my 16-year-old was involved with a 37-year-old man, I would go nuts.

NORVILLE:  Yes, but your mother didn’t know.  And we’re going to stop right there.  When we come back, more on what Amy Fisher’s parents weren’t asking, the questions that she advises all parents to go over with their children.  And more about the terrible seven years that she spent behind bars.  Back in a moment.


MARY JO BUTTAFUOCO:  Amy Fisher came do my home, rang my doorbell and viciously and deliberately assaulted me on the front porch of my home.




JOEY BUTTAFUOCO:  This could—this definitely could happen to any—any—any anybody.  And it’s not just male or female.  This could happen to anybody.  It just didn’t cut it.  She’s a liar, an absolute liar, right until the end.


NORVILLE:  Joey Buttafouco, back during the days when Amy Fisher was about to go on trial for shooting Mary Jo Buttafouco.  She spent seven years in prison and has written a book about what she learned from her experiences.  The title of the book is called “If I Knew Then” by Amy Fisher.

You know, you did seven years.  Joey Buttafouco did six months for statutory rape.

FISHER:  That is true.

NORVILLE:  Does that not get in your gut?

FISHER:  You know what?  I have to focus more on me than on Joey Buttafouco.  You know, over the years, he’s proven his character.  He’s proven the type of individual he is.  He’s been in jail I think three times in the past decade.  You know, he’s not a good guy.


FISHER:  You know?  And as a teenager, I had very poor judgment.

NORVILLE:  You use the name Amy Fisher in the book, but that’s not your name anymore.  You surgically altered your appearance.  You changed your name.  You changed your Social Security number.  Can you ever really put it behind you?

FISHER:  You know what?  I can put my life behind me and move on in a positive way, as far as my career and my family.  But I’ll always have to live with the things I did as a teenager because it’s so public, you know?  And I actually—I decided, if I have it live with it, which I do, that I’m going to use it as a positive tool to send a message out there and to help people.  And I spent seven years literally, like, hiding in a closet.  If somebody would mention the name Amy Fisher...

NORVILLE:  After you got out of prison?

FISHER:  Oh, yes.  Somebody would mention the name Amy Fisher, and I just wanted to be sick.  I was just so embarrassed about who I was, what I did to Mary Joe Buttafuoco.  And you know, it got a point where I said, You know what?  You can’t run from where you are.  You have to face it and you have to hold your head up.  And as long as you’re living your life in a productive manner, you know, that’s all you can do.

NORVILLE:  You were sentenced to minimum of 5, could have been as much as 15 years in prison for your crime.

FISHER:  Correct.

NORVILLE:  And Mary Jo’s words may have helped win your release.  She said, when she wrote to the D.A., quote, “I have come to the conclusion that Amy Fisher has spent enough time in jail as punishment for her crime.  I’ve given the matter a great deal of thought and prayer.  It is right and good that I can now say that I forgive Amy Fisher.”

Have you said I’m sorry to Mary Jo?

FISHER:  I have.  And we corresponded before that, you know, and that’s what ultimately led up to that statement.  You know, I never knew Mary Jo Buttafouco.  Literally, I shot this woman that I never knew because I was a crazy, confused kid.  And then I got see what a good, compassionate, wonderful human being she was.  And of course, it made me feel even worse for what I did.  It’s, like, here’s this great person, and Oh, God, look what I did to her.  But it also—it showed me the goodness in the world.  And I just—I think she’s fantastic.  And I heard she’s remarried.  I don’t know if it’s true.  And you know, I hope she’s having a great life.

NORVILLE:  The frame of mind that you’re in, that the lessons you’ve learned should be a cautionary tale to kids and parents out there—did you come to that point because of the rehabilitation that went on in prison, or was this a personal journey that you went through of soul searching, and so on?

FISHER:  Well, I don’t feel that I had any type of rehabilitation in prison.  I did my time in prison, and I think it made me a stronger individual to come out and emerge and say, you know, I’m going to fight back in the respect of really putting my life together, you know, and really making my family proud and making myself proud of me and getting, you know, a sense of self and positive self-esteem.  You know, it’s been a long journey for me.  And I think becoming a mother really has had an impact on, you know, how I view parenthood and children.  And it also made me realize just how young I was at 16.

NORVILLE:  Does it also make you appreciate the hell you put your own mother through, in a way that you couldn’t when you were 16 and 17 years old, going through this?

FISHER:  Oh, absolutely.  When I was 16 and 17 years old, it was all about me, me, me.  And I couldn’t even see anybody else except me.  Now sometimes I just call her and I say, you know, Oh, I’m sorry.  And I’ll go off on a tangent, and she’s going to say to me, This is years ago.  It’s OK.  You coming over?  You want to go to lunch?  Like, you know, she’s OK.  She’s past it.  You know, and she was just concerned about me and, you know, everything I was going through.  She’s just fantastic.

NORVILLE:  Can you profit from this book?  Are you able to earn money from this, or are you prohibited by law?

FISHER:  No, basically, I can earn money in any capacity for anything.

NORVILLE:  So the Son of Sam law would have expired, now that you’re off parole and out of the system.

FISHER:  You know what?  I don’t really know about the legalities of things like that.  You know, I don’t know.  I’m not an attorney.

NORVILLE:  Does it knock your socks off that this many years later, Amy Fisher still can sell books, obviously, you know, still is of interest to the television audience?  Because you were such a national obsession when your case was first going through the system.

FISHER:  Well, you know what?  I think it’s a great thing, at this point in time, because, you know, instead of it being just a sensational tabloid story, you know, I was able to turn this into a positive, send a message out there, help people.  And I feel like I’m doing a really, really positive thing.

NORVILLE:  When we come back.  Amy Fisher grew up in a middle class home with parents who thought they were very involved in their life.  The real truth was quite different.  When we come back, her tips for parents to keep their kids from going down the same path she went down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You, Amy Fisher, are hereby sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment which shall have a maximum term of 15 years.  And the court hereby imposes the minimum of 5 years.




NORVILLE:  Back now with Amy Fisher.  Her new book is called “If I Knew Then.”

And right up front in your book, you’ve got a message for parents. 

You say, Cut the graphic, criminal, violent images kids are seeing on TV.  Monitor what they’re watching.  Monitor what they’re listening to.  Monitor what they’re watching at the theater.  Why?

FISHER:  Because I think parents have to take a more active role with their teenagers.  You know, when I was a teenager, I figured, you know, I was a polite girl.  My parents didn’t ask a lot of questions.  And I ran wild.  And you know, I did things—I stayed out until 2:00 o’clock in the morning...

NORVILLE:  How could you do stay out until 2:00 if your mom and dad are home??  Didn’t they know you weren’t in your bed, or were you sneaking out the door?

FISHER:  Oh, no, no, no.  I would tell my mom, I’m going out with Jane or Suzy, whoever it was.  Oh, and she has all these friends, and they thought it was wonderful.  And you know, they were looking for things like drugs and alcohol.  And it’s not that they were—they weren’t paying attention or they didn’t care.  They did absolutely care...


NORVILLE:  And your mom thought that she was an involved parent.

FISHER:  She did.

NORVILLE:  She thought she was keeping good tabs on you.

FISHER:  She didn’t know what to look for.  You know, and...

NORVILLE:  What should she have been looking for?

FISHER:  ... teens are very good at hiding things.


FISHER:  You know, and I say to parents, you know, Once in a while, go through your kids’ room.  Go through the drawers.  You know, my mother says, Well, I thought it would be invasive.  I didn’t want to invade your privacy.  Well, invading your privacy, you know, it could really, you know, stop a kid from going down a path of destruction.  If my mother would have went through my room, oh, boy...

NORVILLE:  What would she have found?

FISHER:  ... the things she would have found.

NORVILLE:  What would she have found?  If she’d gone through your room when you were just after 16 years of age, just after your birthday, what would she have found?

FISHER:  Oh, letters from girlfriends that you write when you’re sitting in the back of math class, you know, talking about all the things you’re doing, you know, just an array of information, you know, sexy underwear that a teenager has no business having, that she didn’t buy for me—you know, things like that, little clues, you know, that add up to a big picture.  And, you know, it gives you more of an insight of what is going on with your teenager that you were unaware of.

NORVILLE:  You also paint a picture of a child who was pretty indulged by their parent.  You had a $20,000 sports car when you were just 16 years of age, and no matter how times you wrecked your car, Dad didn’t really take it away from you that much.  I mean, you really pretty much got to keep all the privileges.

FISHER:  Well, actually, you know what?  The only person that says I wrecked my car numerous times is Joey Buttafuoco.  And, by his track record, I don’t think we should go by him.  That’s not the truth at all. 


NORVILLE:  But you had an expensive car.  You had a lot of stuff. 

FISHER:  You know what?  I did have a lot of stuff, but there’s a lot of people in the world that are well off financially, that can provide well for their children.  Materialistic items in itself, that is not a negative.  You have to be involved.  Rich, poor, whatever level you are in society, you still have to take that same active role. 

NORVILLE:  And, finally, would you suggest that parents have a weekly conversation with their kids, a daily conversation?  How often should they make sure that interaction happens? 

FISHER:  Well, you know what?  The line of communications I feel should always be open, but more importantly, know.  Teenagers, they lie.  They are not going to tell you.  They are going to avoid the questions. 

When you see things like slipping grades, don’t just tell your child, OK, do better in school.  Call the teacher.  Find out why the grades are slipping.  Ask for a progress report.  Really stay on top of it.  Stay involved.  Don’t just give them a lecture and move on. 


NORVILLE:  Because the message to the kid also, I love you.  By following up on you, it’s another way of saying, I love you.

FISHER:  It is.  I felt very unloved.  And I know now, looking back, I know my parents loved me.  I talk to my mother all the time. 

I know, at 30, how much she loves me now.  I couldn’t see that when I was 16.  I felt very unloved.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  So there’s a lot of good advice along those lines in the back of this book.  It’s called “If I Knew Then” by Amy Fisher.  Congratulations on the book. 

FISHER:  Oh, thank you. 

NORVILLE:  And best of luck in your new life.  We wish you well.

FISHER:  Thank you so much.

NORVILLE:  We’ll be right back.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next, they gave birth to television’s rudest, crudest kids.




ANNOUNCER:  Now the creators of “South Park” are masterminding a puppet regime.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Soon, every country will be in complete chaos.


ANNOUNCER:  Hollywood bad boys Trey Parker and Matt Stone drop in to talk about their latest big screen venture. 






NORVILLE:  If you thought the cartoon series “South Park” was daring, hang in there.   “South Park” creators have a new movie, a controversial film called “Team America: World Police.”

They join me next.




UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What’s up, bin Laden? 

Uh-oh, 5:30.  Time to pray.   Uh-oh. 


NORVILLE:  That was scene from “South Park,” Comedy Central’s hit animated series about four foul-mouthed fourth graders.  The show was created seven years ago by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

And now the pair have turned their biting social commentary to something else, namely the war on terror.  Their new movie called “Team America: World Police” is a tongue-in-cheek, but nonetheless politically biting stand-up of those big-budget action movies.  And it comes with strings attached.  The film casts a team of marionettes as an elite counterterrorism squad facing off against North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, also against Muslim terrorists and a conspiracy of high-profile Hollywood liberals. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And just what does this have to do with me? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Last week in Paris, we caught four terrorists with a weapon of mass destruction.  Our only hope is to have somebody act like a terrorist.  We need an actor and they say you are the best. 


NORVILLE:  “Team America: World Police” opens tomorrow. 

And Trey Parker and Matt Stone are with me now.

Congratulations on the movie. 


PARKER:  Thank you very much.

NORVILLE:  I understand that you really just finished it literally days ago. 

PARKER:  We finished last Thursday. 

STONE:  I think Thursday at about 4:00 in the morning. 

PARKER:  Yes. 

STONE:  We were finally done.

PARKER:  Doing a puppet movie was a lot harder than we could have thought. 


NORVILLE:  Where did the idea for doing a movie with marionettes come from?  I don’t remember seeing marionettes on the screen since Julie Andrews was doing the goat herd thing in “The Sound of Music.”


PARKER:  It actually—it came from the old show “Thunderbirds” that Gerry Anderson did.  It was a British television show.  And it was in the late ‘60s. 


PARKER:  And they were doing retch eats on Tech TV.  And we kind of remembered it.  From being kids, we kind of remembered the show, though we haven’t fans.  But we just—immediately, we were talking about how it was animation, but live action animation.  And it just seemed like this whole new kind of thing.  We thought, that looks easy.  Let’s do that.  It was a really bad idea.

NORVILLE:  Because it turned out to be a heck of a lot harder than you thought? 

STONE:  Oh, yes, so much harder, yes, so much harder.

NORVILLE:  Why?  Because you basically you have got puppets on strings

and you just—the puppets


NORVILLE:  ... talk back like the actors do. 

STONE:  That is the one good part is, at the end of the day, you just hang up your cast and they’re in their little closet.  But the hard part about doing anything with marionettes is they can’t actually do anything.  They can’t even really walk that well.  They can’t pick up a coffee cup. 


NORVILLE:  But that is part of the fun, isn’t it, that they’re sort of herky-jerky, Max Headroom.


PARKER:  It seems charming now, but it sure wasn’t on the set. 


STONE:  It is part of the charm.  Hopefully, the charm of the movie that is that it has that look. 


NORVILLE:  Yes.  And here they are.  You see that these are terrorists who are hiding in Paris. 

STONE:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  And they don’t move that well, which is part of what makes it kind of...

PARKER:  No, but every single shot, every one of the—you can’t shoot it like a live action movie, where you kind of have your actors together.  You sort of tell them what to do and then you let them do their things and you shoot it from different angles. 

You had to literally do every single line of dialogue as its own shot.  And it ended up being that each one of those shots, every single little shot you see this movie, we would only get about seven a day. 


PARKER:  And so we realized after about a week and a half or two weeks into shooting, that we only had about three minutes of movie and we were in big trouble, because we’ve got a 10-week schedule.

NORVILLE:  And you got X amount of dollars. 


PARKER:  Exactly.  So it was a lot of pressure.  And we ended up having to go to two units and then three units and almost four units sometimes.  So it was...

NORVILLE:  And yet, when we look at the film, the strings are very visible.  You didn’t go back into postproduction and try to erase all the parts that make a marionette movie a marionette movie. 

PARKER:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  You wanted to be able to see the strings.  Why? 

STONE:  Well, just because that’s the whole idea.  And we spent so much time doing so many things practical like on set.  Like, the explosions are real.  The car crashes are real.  And that was the idea, was to do the anti what’s become everybody in Hollywood now, the anti-C.G. movie.  So everything you see is real.

And once we started maybe removing the strings or something any kind of compositing or computer effects, then it kind of put everything—it was like, well, what—did they computerize that explosion, too?  And all the stuff that we had done for real would then be in doubt. 


STONE:  ... just leave it all there.

PARKER:  We were inspired by “Avenue Q,” too. 

STONE:  Yes. 

PARKER:  Because we saw that.  Those guys invited us to see that show.

And we were so impressed by how—“Avenue Q” is the show on Broadway where they use hand puppets. 

NORVILLE:  They’re like Muppets, yes.

PARKER:  They are like Muppets. 

And you can just see—we were surprised for the first minute that the person is just there doing it.  And for the first minute, you are kind of going, well, that is going to be distracting.  And then it wasn’t. 

NORVILLE:  Then you forget about it.

PARKER:  And so we really figured, well, if we do our job right, we should be able to do the same thing. 

NORVILLE:  As much as this is a movie made by marionettes, it’s also a movie with a message.  But I’m trying to figure what the message is. 

PARKER:  We are, too. 

NORVILLE:  Are you poking fun at the big blockbuster producers of the world or is there a message about the war on terror that you want to say and comedy is your way of getting it across? 

STONE:  The movie is—“Team America” is a send-up of big Hollywood movies, more than anything.  That’s really what the movie, if anything, makes fun of. 

It’s just that when we started talking about subject matter, the more

serious the subject matter was, the funnier it was with puppets, because

it’s not—it’s just funny to see puppets take on big


NORVILLE:  The war on terror is funny? 

STONE:  No, not the war on terror is funny, because it just has to do with the different emotions that we’ve had as Americans. 

It’s really our—us being Americans, we’ve been through what everybody has been through the last three years.


STONE:  And it’s really about Gary, the main character.  It’s about his emotional journey, being, like, am I ashamed to be an American?  Am I proud to be an American?  And we really don’t claim to know anything about foreign policy or even the politics.  But what we do think that we tried to capture in the movie is the emotions behind the politics. 


STONE:  We’ve all kind of had some of those mixture of emotions. 

NORVILLE:  There is also the message out there.  Here, he is sort of looking like the Luke Skywalker character using the Jedi mambo to get the Koreans out of the way. 

But you look at this.  There’s a heck of a lot of violence going on.  He’s firing and you can see the casings and we see puppets that turn out to have body parts that explode out. 

PARKER:  Yes.  Well, and that’s—the whole point of doing the money was to do the big action movie and do what Bruckheimer would do.  In fact, it just became a thing on set.  We would say, OK, what would Jerry Bruckheimer do right now?  And usually the answer was, blow it up. 

NORVILLE:  So WWJD was, what would Jerry do?


PARKER:  Exactly.  We had the little


STONE:  We had the little bracelets, and it was, what would Jerry do? 

PARKER:  And usually it was, yes, blow up the set. 


NORVILLE:  But there’s also—I want to get away from politics here and I want to run one clip where the bad guy in this movie isn’t Osama bin Laden, as much as it is North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il. 


NORVILLE:  And this scene is where Hans Blix from the United Nations goes in to try to settle this once and for all. 

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don’t have any weapons of mass destruction, OK, Hans? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then let me look around, so I can ease the U.N.’s collective mind.  I’m sorry, but the U.N. must be firm with you.  Let me see your whole palace or else. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Or else what? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Or else we will be very, very angry with you and we will write you a letter telling you how angry we are. 


NORVILLE:  Can we tell the people what happens? 

PARKER:  Yes, yes.  Yes, go ahead.  You can.


NORVILLE:  You stick him in the shark tank and he gets eaten down to bare bones.

PARKER:  Kim Jong Il feeds him to the sharks.  And we used real nurse sharks like that big and we just filled Hans Blix full of squid.


NORVILLE:  And that was how you made Hans disappear. 

STONE:  Yes.  Yes.  That’s how he got eaten.

PARKER:  And with every single thing—we do the same thing with “South Park.”  It never starts with the politics.  It always starts with, I want to see a puppet get eaten by a shark.  How do we do that?  Let’s make it Hans Blix. 

NORVILLE:  So while you may be grown men with mortgages and bills to pay, in reality, you are still 12-year-olds. 


STONE:  Exactly.  You have got your G.I. Joe doll and you just started ripping the arms off and setting them on fire. 

NORVILLE:  You’ve been to my house, haven’t you?



NORVILLE:  As much as you say it’s not a political message, there’s a lot of political overtones.

PARKER:  Sure.

NORVILLE:  And this has now become part of the political dialogue. 

We’ll take a short break.  When we come back, more on that with Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  So stick around.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  He’s getting away with the WMD.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I got him.  Damn.  I missed him.




UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  And so you see, the new world is inevitable. 




UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Inevitable.  Things are inevitably going to change. 


NORVILLE:  That’s another scene from the new movie “Team America:

World Police,” as marionettes takes on world terrorists.  The film opens around the country tomorrow.

And it’s from the writing team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of television’s “South Park.” 

We saw the water scene was where the Panama Canal has been blown up.  We saw Paris get destroyed just going into the commercial break.  Hans Blix gets eaten by sharks alive.  And this movie originally had an NC-17. 

STONE:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  But it had nothing to do with the violence I just mentioned. 


STONE:  No. 

PARKER:  Once again, the MPAA, they came—and there’s way more violent stuff than that.  And they were absolutely fine with it.  But then there was one scene. 

NORVILLE:  Janeane Garofalo’s head gets blown off.  We see what is inside.

PARKER:  Complete blown off, yes.

NORVILLE:  And that wasn’t a problem.

PARKER:  No.  They were happy about that.

It was just the love-making scene, in which we took two puppets and did basically what kids all around America have always done with their G.I.  Joes and Barbies, because we made these puppets.  We didn’t make them anatomically correct.  We just want them to look like a Barbie like and Ken doll.  And then the whole idea was shoot it with Bill Pope, who is the amazing cinematographer, take a Barbie and Ken doll and do what all these kids always do with awesome lighting and great music behind him.

And the MPAA just came back and they were just like, well, no, you can’t do that because there’s too many positions. 

STONE:  There was too many positions.

NORVILLE:  But you knew—come on, be straight.  You knew that the motion picture agency was going to get in a tizzy about this.

PARKER:  We knew because they are insane. 

STONE:  Yes.  Yes.  And they don’t like us from our last movie. 


NORVILLE:  But isn’t that good for marketing?  Did you really think you were going to get that through or doesn’t it help the marketing of a movie? 

PARKER:  Matt really thought it was going to get through.

STONE:  I have to say, I truly—I actually said, I was like, I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with this.  This is puppets.  There’s absolutely no way the MPAA ratings board would be that insane where they would like try to censor this.


PARKER:  Trey was right.

NORVILLE:  And you said, oh, yes, they will.


NORVILLE:  And yet what I saw at the movies, frankly, was pretty heavy duty. 

PARKER:  That’s what people keep saying. 

NORVILLE:  I don’t want to ask what was in before


PARKER:  It’s now—it’s like a 48-second-long scene now.  And it was a good 23, 24 minutes.  No. 



PARKER:  No, it was probably two minutes.  But—and a lot of it was just—we had all the same shots.  They just made us cut the shot down, each shot from five seconds to four seconds, then to three seconds, and somehow thinking that that would make it better.  But, you know...

STONE:  To me, it’s so innocuous, the whole scene.  Our parents came out for the premiere.  And I was sitting next to my mom.

NORVILLE:  Wasn’t that something that make you uncomfortable? 

STONE:  No, not that.  There are so many other things in the movie that made me blush in front of my mom before that did.

NORVILLE:  Like what?

STONE:  The scene is so innocuous and so funny. 

Like, a lot of the language, a lot of the violence.  I think it’s funny, but I don’t think my mom was, like, too thrilled with it. 

NORVILLE:  Does it have to be that coarse, the language? 


PARKER:  No.  It really is unfortunate. 

STONE:  You could make a much—yes, you could make a great movie without having to do all that. 


PARKER:  If someone else could have had this idea, it probably would have been better.

NORVILLE:  They could have done a good job with it.

PARKER:  Yes. 

STONE:  Yes, they could have made a beautiful movie.  But, instead, we had the idea. 


PARKER:  Because we never—that’s the thing. 

When we do “South Park,” when we do all this, people think that we sit down and go, OK, what’s really dirty? 

NORVILLE:  The most disgusting thing


PARKER:  Yes.  And it’s not that at all.

It’s always, what is the story we can come up.  And with this thing, it really was, oh, let’s use acting like the force and we use all the typical Joseph Campbell mythology and everything.  We get into that and it just comes out filthy just because that’s who we are. 

NORVILLE:  You also take a lot of shots like for most of the movie at Hollywood. 

STONE:  Yes.  

NORVILLE:  You really don’t like the Screen Actors Guild, although in this movie, it’s called the Film Actors Guild. 

PARKER:  Yes.  Well, we didn’t want to get sued.




PARKER:  Oh, yes. 


PARKER:  Oh, my God.  It totally is. 


STONE:  Oops. 

PARKER:  Oh, wow.


NORVILLE:  Have you heard from anybody? 

STONE:  The only person we heard from was—from the actors—was Sean Penn.  He wrote us and he wrote the world a nasty letter, an open letter to us. 


PARKER:  Which was—it was really funny, because the letter was, it seemed that he was angry at us.  And yet he couldn’t have done anything to help us out more.  He basically, a week before opening, sent this letter out and got us on the front page of everything again. 


NORVILLE:  Well, let’s let the folks at home know what the letter was all about.  It was in reference to an interview that you all had given to “Rolling Stone.”

And his respond was—because, in the interview, you were joking about voting.  And he said: “It’s all well to joke about me or whomever you choose.  Not so well, to encourage irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death”—change the screen—“of innocent people throughout the world.  The vote matters to them.  No one’s ignorance, including a couple of hip cross-dressers, is an excuse.   All best, and a sincere ‘blank,’ Sean Penn.”

PARKER:  Fantastic. 

STONE:  Do you understand that?  Does that logic or reasoning make sense to you?

NORVILLE:  I understand all those words. 


STONE:  The reasoning is so faulty.  We never—to encourage irresponsibility that will lead to the mutilation of people.  I don’t even know what he’s talking about. 

NORVILLE:  Well, what you had said in “Rolling Stone” was is ‘Vote or Die’ is a serious danger to democracy.  And, hey, 19-year-olds who don’t know anything, you choose.  If you don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no shame in not voting.”

Did he misunderstand what you were saying? 

STONE:  He must have, because all we were saying is, we were trying to make the point that, like, campaigns should be about get informed, get aware about the issues and then vote.  Encouraging uninformed people to vote doesn’t seem like the best idea to us. 

PARKER:  Just go vote.

STONE:  Just go vote no matter what.

NORVILLE:  But don’t you think someone is going to figure out what to vote for before they go marching off?  


STONE:  That’s not what they do.  And it’s not a—Democrats do it and Republicans do it.  They try to appeal to people who are uninformed and try to get them out to the polls.  Its been going on forever. 

And I just don’t think it’s like that—no one should be patting themselves on the back for getting a bunch of uniformed people out to the polls. 

PARKER:  Especially like vote or I will kill you. 



NORVILLE:  On another note, “South Park” starts in another week and a half.  Are you guys ready?  Because you work up to the last minute on everything, it seems.

STONE:  No, we’re not ready.

PARKER:  We have to get on a plane tomorrow and we can finally put this movie behind us.  And then a week from Wednesday, the new “South Park” episode airs and we don’t even have any idea what it is going to be about.  But it might be about vote or I’ll kill you.

STONE:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  It’s different than when it started, but not that different graphically.  You could have zazzed up everything with a computer generator and stuff like that.  But you have chosen to keep it the way it was from the beginning. 

PARKER:  Well, we’re just really proud of the fact that there’s a lot of animated shows out there, and we like the fact that, if you are flipping through the channels, you can pretty immediately go, that’s “South Park.” 

And do we have—we have state-of-the-art computers now.  We have all of the—we have great animators.  We could, again, make something really beautiful.  But we just—we prefer to make something that is ours.

NORVILLE:  It would be so out of character for you, wouldn’t it?

PARKER:  Exactly.  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  And, finally, in the last few seconds, why do you dislike Barbra Streisand so much? 

PARKER:  Well, look at her. 

STONE:  Just look at her.  Just when she opens her mouth, it just


PARKER:  No, it was sort of a Colorado thing. 

She did this thing back when we were in college.  And she sort of—she came out against Colorado and said—and threatened, because Colorado was going to pass a law, she threatened, I will never visit Colorado again if you pass this law, like we would care. 


STONE:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  I’m sure she loves Colorado very much. 


NORVILLE:  The movie is called “Team America: World Police.”  The creators are Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

And “South Park” coming back soon to TV very soon with the new season.  

STONE:  Thank you very much. 

PARKER:  Thank you very much.

NORVILLE:  Good luck with everything.  Good to see you both.

We’ll be back.


NORVILLE:  We always like to hear from you, so e-mail us at  And we have got some of your e-mails posted on our Web page.  That’s, same place you can sign up for our newsletter. 

And that is our program for tonight.  I’m Deborah Norville.  Thanks a lot for watching. 

Do join us tomorrow night.  More than eight million people a week listen to this nationally syndicated radio host.  Tom Joyner has a lot to say about this year’s election.  And he will be with us tomorrow to talk about the role that talk radio is helping to play as the nation elects a president. 

That’s it for tonight.  Coming up next, Joe Scarborough and


We’ll see you tomorrow.



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