Kenny's Death was a running gag in South Park. Kenny's manner of death changes from episode to episode, and usually features someone or something that fatally hurts him. A typical gag features the culprit or accident killing Kenny, followed by the phrases "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" and "You bastards!" from his friends Stan and Kyle, respectively. Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have said that the "You bastards!" line (often used even for deaths by inanimate objects/accidents) is actually directed towards said creators, for writing the death into the script. In more recent seasons (starting with season seven), the gags occur only a few times.
History of Kenny's DeathIn the first few episodes, Kyle says the entire phrase. It usually varies depending on who kills Kenny. On one occasion ("Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000"), Stan and Kyle accidentally kill Kenny, causing Stan to cry out, in a somewhat nonchalant way, "Oh my God, we killed Kenny." Kyle replies, "We killed Kenny?" and Stan says, "Yeah, we killed Kenny; we're bastards". Also, when Kyle kills zombie Kenny in "Pinkeye", He says "Oh my God, I killed Kenny! You Bastard!" In the earlier seasons, usually right after his death, rats show up, start nibbling on the body and carry off body parts. In "The Succubus", this is parodied: he is "killed" and rats gather on him, the sun rises and he is standing there alive again when the boys are waiting for Chef to come play baseball, then the next day when he is squashed by the Succubus during Chef's wedding. Also in "Pinkeye" Kenny dies three times. First he is crushed by the Mir space station as it falls from orbit. Then he is cut in half (by Kyle) as a zombie. Then, when trying to come out of his grave, an angel statue falls onSummer Sucks", when a firecracker he is holding explodes and blows him to pieces.
In "Fat Camp", "The Biggest Douche in the Universe", and "Cripple Fight", it is suggested that Kenny's orange parka plays a major role in his many deaths, even though he has died without it in the episodes "Super Best Friends", "The Jeffersons", "W.T.F.", "Pee", "Sexual Healing", "Mysterion Rises" and " Coon vs. Coon & Friends". In "Fat Camp", Kenny is never actually killed, although a boy, who helped Cartman smuggle candy into the fat camp, dressed up as Kenny, dies in the end; to which Stan replies, "Oh my god, they killed Kenny!...sort of." And then Kyle replies, "Yeah, they kind of killed Kenny, sort of, look alike...you bastards!" In "The Biggest Douche in the Universe", Rob Schneider is killed while wearing Kenny's outfit and in "Cripple Fight" Timmy tries to have Jimmy killed by giving him a parka that resembles one Kenny would wear. Jimmy is seen walking down a street, narrowly escaping death with every step, and Jimbo can even be heard saying "There's Kenny! Kill him!" in the background.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker planned to kill Kenny off for good at the end of season five with "Kenny Dies" and replaced him first with Butters and then Tweek during the sixth season. A story arc that occurs during the second half of the season (starting with "A Ladder to Heaven") involves Cartman being possessed by Kenny after accidentally drinking his ashes (which Cartman thought was chocolate milk mix). Kenny's soul is trapped inside Cartman's body until it is exorcised into a pot roast, which is eaten by Rob Schneider, who subsequently dies. Finally, at the end of the 2002 Christmas episode, Kenny returns, stating that he had been "over there," as he points to his right. During the following season, Kenny seems to have lost his bad luck and doesn't die anymore. Kenny's lucky streak ended during the 2003 Christmas episode ("It's Christmas in Canada"), and died again in "The Jeffersons", "Wing" and "Best Friends Forever".
In "Best Friends Forever", Kenny is the first in South Park to get a Sony PSP and the first in the world to reach level sixty in the game Heaven versus Hell; he dies early in the episode to command Heaven's armies in the final battle against Satan (in the episode he is frequently likened or referred to as Keanu Reeves). His death is not permanent, however, and he is revived, but in a persistent vegetative state with a feeding tube in an almost-serious spoof of the controversy surrounding the Terri Schiavo case in Florida. This episode won South Park its first Emmy.
Kenny has died and come back 103 times in the South Park franchise (80 in the series, to date, two in the early animated shorts, six in other authorized TV parodies, five times in two video games, and twice in the movie. He is also killed nine different ways in the opening sequence).
Recurring deaths and series canon
While the series usually maintains an expanding continuity, it is a running joke that Kenny's deaths from episode to episode are treated in a highly inconsistent fashion.
Early-season deaths are usually treated as "non-canon", in that they are not acknowledged as having happened at all. In the clip episode "City on the Edge of Forever (Flashbacks)", while relating stories of previous episodes, Cartman mentions how Kenny died in one such incident, to which Stan and Kyle protest, "That's not the way it happened; Kenny just died eight hours ago from that monster, how could he have died then too?" Cartman then replies, "Oh yeah. I guess that doesn't make sense." This episode turns out to be a dream within a dream.
Season 14 explains that everyone fails to remember that Kenny has died whenever he does (see below) but one episode shows that Cartman is aware of Kenny's constant deaths, but it's possible that he doesn't find them to be a source of concern. In "Cartmanland", the McCormick family sues Eric Cartman for Kenny's wrongful death, and Cartman protests, "Kenny? He dies all the time!" When Kyle is suffering potentially fatal kidney troubles ("Cherokee Hair Tampons") and Stan tells Kenny several times that he's worried his friend might die, Kenny responds with irritation (with lines such as "It's not that fucking serious" and "You never seem to care when I die!") and eventually yells his own muffled version of Cartman's catchphrase "That's it - I've had enough of this bullshit! Screw you guys! I'm going home!", implying that he is aware of and considerably irked by the other kids' being unaware of his own previous deaths (due to them forgetting that he dies). After doing this, he walks away, only to have a piano crush him while Stan continues to weep for Kyle, oblivious to Kenny's death.
In "Cartman's Mom is Still a Dirty Slut", the second part of a two-part episode (where Kenny had died in the first part), Kenny miraculously materializes next to Stan, accompanied with angelic music, but Stan merely acknowledges him with a slightly surprised "Oh, hey, Kenny."
Kenny himself seems to be somewhat aware of his own recurring death. In "It's Christmas in Canada", Kenny refuses to get on city airline planes and decides to stay in South Park with Cartman. When Stan asks why, Kenny says, "'Cause, dude, I'll fucking die." Kyle, however, does not seem to have realized Kenny's bad luck as he replies "You're not gonna die, Kenny. Don't be stupid." Kenny's will in Best Friends Forever begins "in the likely chance of my demise..." Another instance in which Kenny is aware of his countless deaths is in the first season's Christmas special; he cheers when he realizes he hasn't died at the end. In "Tweek vs. Craig", Kenny avoids shop class fearing the dangers of the many hazardous tools; after he narrowly avoids dying, he channels the dead girlfriend and relatives of the shop teacher for a few moments. Also, the Lyrics of the song "Kenny's Dead" state
Would it be a car crash, a plane, a gun, or suicide?!
He knew one day that the rats would come
But he didn't know they was gonna scream 'bout it!
And hit him with a shotgun
In "Cartman Joins NAMBLA", Kenny spends most of the episode upset that his mother is having another child, and continually tries to find ways to abort the fetus. Near the end of the episode, Kenny is unexpectedly killed by being backed over by an ambulance. In the final scene, Kenny's mother and father fawn over the infant she has just given birth to. Kenny's father, struck by how much the new child resembles their deceased son Kenny (including orange parka), decides to name the new baby boy Kenny in his brother's memory, to which Kenny's mother declares "Yes! A brand-new Kenny!" The final punch line of this gag comes when Kenny's father says "God, this must be like the 50th time this has happened", to which his mother corrects, "52nd". (Arguably, this is indeed the 52nd incarnation of Kenny).
The gag of Kenny dying in almost every episode was dropped with the airing of "Kenny Dies", in which Kenny's death is treated with more weight; in particular, the other boys are somehow able to sense that it would be more permanent but its probably because they know the death will happen beforehand—though it should be noted that in a few episodes—for example "Pinkeye"—they treat his death as if permanent (ironically, since Kenny comes back to life twice in that episode). Unlike previous episodes which his death is over-the-top, he suffers from a serious muscular disease and the boys and their parents are shocked by it (Stan in particular could not bear to see him in the hospital). The reason Kenny was killed off in Season 6 was because Trey Parker and Matt Stone were getting tired of killing him and decided to just get rid of him but they then decided to bring him back by leaving clues of his return such as having his soul live inside of Cartman. At the end of "Red Sleigh Down" Kenny returns and the boys did not sound surprise and respond to him as if they knew he was coming. Since his permanent revival, Kenny has died extremely rarely throughout episodes. He has not died at all in Season 10. However the usual lines were used in "Make Love, Not Warcraft" when his character was killed along with everybody else by a person with a high level, and in "The Return of Chef", when Chef was killed.
The episode "Mysterion Rises" finally begins to explain Kenny's deaths, when Kenny, as Mysterion reveals to Captain Hindsight his superpower is his familiar inability to die, explaining he's died countless times, usually ending up in Heaven or Hell, but no matter what he wakes up in his bed the next day in his same clothes. It is slightly implied this is involved with the Cthulhu cult, as his parents were arrested for their involvement ten years ago. He questions them about it and they claim they were drunk and have no memory. While at the cult meeting, he hears the phrase "That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die" and becomes very upset, going to the Goth Kids for an explanation. Henrietta shows him a copy of the Necronomicon and explains that cultists have been attempting to summon Old Ones to our world for years. A picture from the book shows six cloaked men standing around a Pentagram with an infant in the center, possibly attempting a summoning. This may be how Kenny received his immortality.
After Bradley (as Mint-Berry Crunch) finds out he has real powers as well, which Coon & Friends do actually recognize, Kenny (Mysterion) - probably realizing he'll just sound desperate for attention - gives up on trying to convince the others and instead just shoots himself again.
At the end of "Coon vs. Coon & Friends" we learn that, because something that happened to his parents in the cult meetings ten years prior, Kenny is reborn after each of his deaths and placed in his bed, wrapped in his orange parka, and wakes up the next morning, fully grown, in the same condition he was in before he died.
Prior to these episodes, three explanations had been provided for Kenny's deaths - in an interview with Trey Parker he was asked why Kenny died and responded "he's poor". In another instance however, he claimed Kenny was a "supernatural demi-god" and an FAQ response in 2003 regarding Kenny's Christmas resurrection claimed that there "was a connection between Jesus' death and Kenny's resurrection"
In Popular Culture
- The phrase "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" was ranked #35 on TV Land's Greatest TV Catchphrases and Quotes. It was here that Matt Stone and Trey Parker revealed that "they" and "bastards" were referring to themselves.
- In the book series Animorphs, a character quotes, after an orange figure has died, "Oh my god! They killed Kenny!" on the second page of book 22, The Solution.
- In a battle between Kenny G and Flea on Celebrity Deathmatch, Flea rips out Kenny G's lower jaw, and then throws it into the audience like a boomerang, causing the jaw to come back and bury itself right into Kenny G's skull, killing him. Nick Diamond, one of the hosts, says, "Oh my God! Flea killed Kenny G! Flea killed Kenny G!" Then a little boy in the audience yells out, "YOU BASTARD!"
- On the Boy Meets World episode "And Then There Was Shawn", which is a parody of Scream, Kenny is the first person to die by having a pencil stabbed in his head. Eric responds by shouting "Oh my god! They killed Kenny!" Someone then replies with "You Ba..." which is cut off when the killer appears as they run out of the room screaming.
- Kenny's constant death and Stan/Kyle's response had become so well known that after winning his fight against Ken Shamrock at UFC 40: Vendetta, Tito Ortiz (notorious for putting on a t-shirt offending his defeated opponent) put on a shirt that read "I killed Kenny, you bastard".
- In the March 2 episode of FX's Dirt, a hostage situation shows a Kenny character being shot twice and killed. A nervous actor begins laughing, saying "Oh my god, you killed Kenny."
- In the episode "In Sickness and in Hell" of the TV series Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena picks a louse from her hair and tosses it into the fire. In an almost inaudible voice, the other lice scream, "Oh my god, you killed Kenny! You Bastard!"
- In the Lionhead game Black & White, in the first island if you kill the third sailor by the boat, the other sailor says, "Oh my god, you've killed Kenneth!"
- In the video game crossover comics. Charlie from Street Fighter dies in all of the comics. Since Charlie is known to die in every game he was in, they make him die the same way Kenny always dies. Sakura and Cammy from Street Fighter quote Stan and Kyle "Oh my god They killed Charlie, You Bastards!"
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Danny Strong informally dubbed his character Jonathan Levinson as the "Kenny of Buffy" due to the great number of bad things that have happened to him.
- In International Moron Patrol, the character John the Hedgehog dies in every episode, similar to Kenny.
- In Halo 3, when the IWHBYD (I Would Have Been Your Daddy) skull is turned on, marines will sometimes shout out: "They killed the Chief! You bastards!" - When the player dies.
- In "A Tale of Two Cows", chapter of Drawn Together (another Comedy Central animated series), when the Live Action Cow started to kill in another cities, the L.A.C. kills everyone in South Park (we can see Kyle, Jesus, Chef, Mr. Garrison, etc.), except for Kenny. That was an inversion of the running gag to the death of Kenny.
- In 2006, Russian punk-rock band Sloat released the song, Oни Убили Кенни (Russian: They killed Kenny). The video for this song includes clips from episodes where he died periodically. It also includes montage from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
- Douglas Henshall, who plays Nick Cutter in the British sci-fi series Primeval, stated that he wanted, the character Tom Ryan to be the show's version of Kenny, being killed and resurrected throughout the series.
- Carnival Phantasm references the "E-Rank Luck" of the character Lancer, who dies in every episode. Upon his deaths, nearby characters scream, "Oh my god, they killed Lancer!" and "You bastards!".
- "Classic & Original TV Show Video Clips Online - 100 Catchphrases". TV Land. Retrieved on 2009-01-27.
- Springer, Matt, "Big Man on Campus", from Buffy the Vampire Slayer magazine #13 (UK, September 2000), page 20-21.