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South Park producer Anne Garefino ’81
It’s Tuesday afternoon at the South Park studios in Culver City, California. Tomorrow night’s episode—about a whale that the South Park kids steal to send to the moon—is far from ready, but the whole creative crew of the prime-time cartoon series on Comedy Central is taking an ice cream break. South Park story lines are deliberately left open until the last moment, and the animators, voice artists, music editors, and writers will be working into the morning hours. Next week’s subject is not yet a gleam in anyone’s eye.
“Ridiculously crazy” is how executive producer Anne Garefino describes the process. Her job is craziest of all. She oversees budgets, product licensing, hiring, video game development, and press relations (recent studio visitors: CBS Morning News and GQ); she also attends writers’ meetings, consults with the MTV Networks’ standards-and-practices people on dicey content, keeps a blog for hardcore fans, and lends her voice to the show’s crowd scenes. Garefino wears jeans to the office and is happy to be affiliated with a show that tackles large social issues irreverently (its critics would say, objectionably). South Park won an Emmy in 2005 for the episode “Best Friends Forever,” in which young Kenny, hit by a truck, descends into a vegetative state as friends, strangers, angels, and Satan squabble over his feeding tube. The series garnered a Peabody Award in April.
For six months of the year Garefino works seven days a week. Then, when South Park is on hiatus, she works some more—producing full-length animated movies (Team America: World Police and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut) and other cable TV content (That’s My Bush, a political satire). In a deal with Paramount, more movies lie ahead.
Garefino majored in finance and thought she’d be a stockbroker after BC, but she took a job in Washington, D.C., at the Folger Theatre, instead, as assistant to the producer’s assistant. An internship in local public television led to a job in 1983 coproducing In Performance at the White House, which she left in 1988 to study film production at the American Film Institute. Production work at Comedy Central led to her post at the launch of South Park.
Relatives still ask her when she is going to be in front of the camera. “That’s not what I do,” she tells them.
Suzanne Mantell writes from Los Angeles.
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