The 12 Most Underrated South Park Characters

"South Park" has been on the air for 25 years, and because I make incredibly good decisions with my time, I recently sat down and watched all 25 seasons of the show in honor of the anniversary. Okay, that's a lie. I thought it would be a fun way to kill time and it coincidentally happened to be right before the show's anniversary. Time is funny like that. "South Park" has managed to last this long on the air, mostly because the show has an entire world of characters for audiences to enjoy. Of course, everyone has their favorites like the core four boys, Butters, Randy Marsh, and memorable characters from yesteryear like Chef and Mr. Hankey, but "South Park" has a lot more people to help tell their ridiculous stories than people realize. Here are the 12 most underrated characters on "South Park."

For the sake of argument, I'm not including characters that have been canonically killed off or have been actively/intentionally written out by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

12. Sergeant Harrison Yates

Just because a character is underrated doesn't mean they're a wholly good character audiences should aspire to emulate. Sergeant Harrison Yates (aka Detective Harris) is the lead detective of the Park County Police Force, and one of the best tools Trey Parker and Matt Stone have at their disposal for quality commentary. For most of the run of "South Park," law enforcement was represented by Officer Barbrady, a bumbling fool terrible at his job due to his own ineptitude, and reminiscent of Chief Clancy Wiggum on "The Simpsons." Sergeant Yates is more in line with the unapologetically corrupt officers we know exist on police forces who are bad at their jobs because the system will always protect them.

To be fair, Yates is also incredibly stupid, taking hours to research the angles of left hands in "Cartman's Incredible Gift," only to declare that left hands stay left hands no matter what angle we see them as. Yates is a perfect vessel for "South Park" to continue exploring themes of law enforcement abuse, whether it's racial profiling in "The Jeffersons" or a lack of action in "Dead Kids." The opportunities for good Yates-centered storylines are endless, and as long as America keeps being America, they'll never run out of material. HAHAHAHA THIS COUNTRY IS A NIGHTMARE SOMETIMES!

11. Satan

Okay, sure, Satan technically died in the episode "Nobody Got Cereal?," when the climate change metaphor ManBearPig took him out, but "South Park" has also killed Kenny McCormick over 100 times and brought him back, so anything's possible. Satan has been one of the continually appearing fantasy characters throughout the series and played a major part in the success of "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut." Satan of course has the typical devil look (but much beefier) and traditional powers of strength and fire often shown in other portrayals of the character, but "South Park" Satan is really something special.

Despite his reputation as being, well, Satan, his character is often humanized in ways a lot of "South Park" characters are not privy to experiencing. In "Probably," Satan has to seek the advice of God for his relationship troubles when he has no one left to talk to, ultimately realizing he needs to break up with both of his boyfriends and work on himself. In "Freemium Isn't Free," Satan assists Stan with his growing addiction to mobile gaming, and takes down Beelzaboot the Canadian Devil for abusing his power. Satan's one of the best legacy characters on the show, and I'll be waiting with bated breath for the day he makes a comeback.

10. Jimmy Valmer

Wow, what a terrific audience! Jimmy was first introduced to be a one-time rival for Timmy Burch, but he has grown to become one of the most surprisingly wonderful characters on "South Park." Of course, not all the jokes surrounding Jimmy — and Timmy, Nathan, Mimsy, or any of the other disabled characters — have aged well over time, but the treatment of Jimmy has been a great compass to show the evolution of how "South Park" handles stories about the disabled community. Jimmy is a complex kid who tries to do the right thing, but is also just as foul-mouthed and competitive as the rest of the boys at school. At this point in the game, Jimmy is treated equitably by his friends, who make accommodations for him when needed, but they ultimately give him as much crap as they do anyone else.

Recent seasons have begun to show Jimmy in a more prominent role, including in the "Post Covid" Paramount+ specials, something that should absolutely continue moving into the future. Jimmy Valmer deserves plenty more screen time, as the Jimmy-centric episodes like "Erection Day" and "Sponsored Content" are some of the series' best. After all, Jimmy did write the most perfect joke ever written in "Fishsticks." 

9. Wendy Testaburger

Easily the most prominently featured girl* student at South Park Elementary, Wendy Testaburger has consistently been the lone voice of reason in the class. Honestly, she's often the voice of reason for the whole damn town. "South Park" rightfully gets called out on the way it frequently falls into misogynist tropes (like the entirety of Liane Cartman in early seasons), but Wendy was one of the first feminist heroes I ever had. The show often has characters react to her as if she's nothing but a political buzzkill, but nine times out of 10, Wendy is completely right to be upset about whatever cause she's currently passionate about.

Of course, because it's "South Park," Wendy's had plenty of examples of being wholly in the wrong (like the time she had Ms. Ellen shot into the sun in "Tom's Rhinoplasty"), but that's what makes her character so good. She's not perfect, she's super messy, but she's really trying her hardest to make the world a better place. Wendy has been given a multitude of character-centric episodes over the last 25 years, but as the boys' friendships with the other girls in school continue to grow in show appearances as they have since season 17, we need more Wendy Testaburger.

* Wendy's superhero alter ego in "The Fractured But Whole" is a polysexual genderfluid person named "Call Girl" and given her history with gender nonconformity, there's a high probability Wendy will eventually identify this way outside of the superhero role. My money is on a genderfluid femme who uses she/they pronouns.

8. PC Principal

As an angry, gay, leftist, I f****** LOVE PC Principal, and he's probably my favorite character in the new era of "South Park." Look, there's no such thing as "both sides are equally bad," when it comes to American politics, but one of the biggest problems that exists in liberal/left-leaning circles is how much infighting takes place over semantics. PC Principal's entire existence is taking frat bro-like energy and applying it to social justice talking points. It's a great gimmick that allows the show an entry point to satirize liberals with the same veracity as they do conservatives, but instead focus on Parker and Stone's decades-long belief that conservatives are idiots and liberals are annoying.

In a weird way, they've also allowed a new perspective for a lot of people who grew up during the years of the show where it was its most offensive but have now recognized the world has changed. In a few episodes PC Principal, who positions himself as a beacon of progressiveness, screws up and says/does something problematic. It's a weirdly comforting reminder that regardless of how steadfast our beliefs are, we're human and we're bound to make mistakes. More importantly, it's a nice reality check so we don't turn into insufferable busybodies.

7. Kevin Stoley

There has never been a better time for more Kevin Stoley than right this second. Kevin has been around since the very first episode, but is a character most people might not even realize has a name. Kevin is obsessed with nerdy properties like "Star Wars, "Star Trek," "Lord of the Rings," and as an adult, "Doctor Who," and often brings them up at the most inopportune times. In the commentary track to "The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers" commentary, Trey Parker described Kevin as the character who is "always screwing up the whole show." He's that kid in school who only wants to talk about what he wants to talk about. God, I love him.

Okay, I'm just going to show my hand here and admit I am fantasy booking a Kevin-centric episode all about toxic fan culture. This is an area Matt and Trey have touched on before with boy bands, and Terrance and Phillip, but watching Kevin have a full-on meltdown about whatever new "Star Wars" show is coming next to Disney+ would be a dream come true. There's plenty for them to say and satirize about obsessive fan culture, and Kevin would make for the perfect conduit.

6. Karen McCormick

We don't know a lot about Kenny's little sister Karen, but I sure wish we did. Karen McCormick started out as a background character, but she shined in the spotlight in "The Poor Kid." Kenny is a wonderfully protective big brother to Karen, using his superhero alter ego Mysterion, to keep her safe. Karen considers Mysterion to be her guardian angel, and we see in the "Post Covid" specials she even wears the Mysterion logo as a necklace, a sign that her appreciation for him never went away.

In the gentrification episode "The City Part of Town," Kenny picks up a job at City Wok to try and help with his family's finances, but instead uses the money to buy a doll for Karen. We clearly know how Kenny feels about his little sister and understand his motivations for wanting to protect her, but we don't get to see things from Karen's perspective very often. Here's hoping as the show moves forward, we'll get to know her a little better, and maybe find out how she feels about Randy Marsh becoming the biggest "Karen" in South Park.

5. Tweek & Craig

These two characters spent most of the run of "South Park" as secondary characters at South Park Elementary, with Craig known for his penchant for flipping authority figures the bird, and Tweek for being overcaffeinated and constantly paranoid. The characters were pretty one note, even after the season 3 episode "Tweek vs. Craig," which saw them physically fight one another. Everything changed, however, with the season 19 episode "Tweek x Craig." Based on the very real, Yaoi-inspired area of "South Park" fandom, the frequent showcase of fans "shipping" the two of them became canon.

Tweek and Craig avoid every gay stereotype and trope seen on TV (including "South Park"), and absolutely nothing about their characters changed when they got into a relationship. Craig is still kind of a hotheaded jerk, and Tweek is still as jittery and anxious as ever. If anything, the two of them have brought out the best in each other, with Craig learning to be more mindful of the emotions of others and Tweek learning better ways to manage his stress so as to not put that obligation on those that care about him. When we talk about the best examples of queer representation, Tweek and Craig absolutely deserve to be toward the top of the list.

4. Mr. Mackey

There is so, so much more to Mr. Mackey than his balloon-shaped head and saying "drugs are bad, mmkay?" Mr. Mackey is the only adult who has consistently been at South Park Elementary since the very beginning, with everyone else either leaving, dying, or identifying for a few years as the president of the United States.

For all his faults, Mr. Mackey is the adult the kids turn to most frequently. Granted, he's not very good at his job, but he tries his best, and the kids obviously trust him enough to seek his guidance. We've learned little things here and there about Mr. Mackey over the last 25 years ("Insheeption," "Proper Condom Use," "Mystery of the Urinal Deuce"), but he's never been used to his full potential. Considering his longevity and importance in the lives of the boys, Mr. Mackey deserves more screen time and character exploration, mmkay?

3. The Moms

Sharon Marsh, Liane Cartman, Sheila Broflovski, and Carol McCormick are some pretty unsung heroes of "South Park." Over the last 25 years, any of the episodes that center on one or all of the moms ("Crème Fraiche," "Dead Kids," "It's a Jersey Thing," "City People") have been some of the best in terms of storytelling. Unfortunately, the moms/wives often play second fiddle to whatever hijinks their sons and husbands have gotten themselves into. Sharon Marsh has been put through the ringer by Randy's madness; Liane Cartman is parenting a sociopath; Sheila Broflovski is mocked for being an overprotective mother but is shown to have a fascinating past; and Carol McCormick keeps her family running smoothly even though her husband is an abusive drunk.

"South Park" has never been a show that prioritizes its women, but recent years have given them a lot more to do, and that's a good thing. Not only does it keep the show from feeling too repetitive, but it also allows richer character development for those that interact with the women. "South Park" did give them all a bit of time in the "Turd Burglars" episode with a running bit called "One for the Ladies," but it took them 25 years to give Liane Cartman a win. Keep it up, boys. The show is better for it.

2. Tolkien Black

"The Big Fix" of season 25 is one of the show's all-time great episodes, because it not only retcons one of the most poorly aged jokes in "South Park" history, but it serves as the "Butters' Very Own Episode" mark of Tolkien Black having a more prominent role in "South Park" moving forward. For a good chunk of his run, Tolkien Black's major trait has been being the only Black kid in South Park. Things change when Nichole Daniels moves to town, but of course, that only inspires Cartman to try and play Cupid with the duo in "Cartman Finds Love," because he's a racist idiot.

Tolkien is easily the most well-adjusted kid in school, but was often only used in episodes that deal with race issues like "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson." Fortunately, as the years have gone on, we've finally gotten to see Tolkien as a fully realized character. It's pretty clear Adrien Beard, who voices the character and also serves as the art director and lead storyboarder on "South Park," has had some influence over the handling of his character while having been a part of the "South Park" family since 2000. If Tolkien became the new "fifth man" of the group, I doubt anyone would have a problem with it. Well, except maybe Butters.

1. Ike Broflovski

Ike Broflovski is, in my opinion, the most perfectly designed character on the entire show. It's legitimately impressive how wide a range of emotions this very simple and silly design is able to convey, and how painfully cute he is while doing it. Ike is such a little weirdo who has his own hobbies and interests that are never fully fleshed out or explored, but that's almost the fun of it. The adopted Canadian little brother of Kyle, Ike is said to be a genius, and frequently proves it by being one of the smartest people in town. Ike's voice has consistently changed over time, with his current voice belonging to Betty Boogie Parker, Trey Parker's daughter.

Ike doesn't often get to be the center of attention, but when he does, it's consistently "South Park" gold. "Ike's Wee Wee," "Splatty Tomato," "Royal Pudding," "Taming Strange," and even the wildly uncomfortable "Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy" are all some of the smartest episodes. What truly makes him an underrated great, however, is how effortlessly Ike steals absolutely every scene he's in, even if it's just to show an angry eyebrowed expression or to scream in the doorway. Ike is a perfect character and he deserves to be as appreciated as the main cast.