Much like Salisbury steak and sloppy joes, Chef will remain on the menu at South Park Elementary. For at least one week, anyway.
Despite a very public spat between musician Isaac Hayes — who's voiced sage cafeteria worker Chef on "South Park" since the show's inception in 1997 — and creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker over the show's religion-skewering humor (see "Isaac Hayes Wants Out Of 'South Park' Due To Religious Jokes"), "South Park" will kick off its 10th season Wednesday with an episode called "The Return of Chef."
Details on the episode were scarce as of press time — Chef returns to town, but his erratic behavior worries Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny — though Comedy Central did confirm that contrary to previous reports, Hayes will provide the voice for Chef, however all his lines will be taken from previously recorded material.
Stone and Parker were unavailable for comment, a network spokesperson said, since they were still working on the episode.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Hayes said the singer was aware of the show's intentions to use his voice in the episode, and that he had no further comment on the matter.
"Isaac did ask to leave his contract early, so there's not much he can do," Hayes' spokesperson said. "He was under contract when he recorded the vocals, so they can do anything they want with them. He's really done with the whole situation. He's already stated what he's stated, and he's sticking by it."
Hayes' original statement, in which he asked to be released from his contract because of the show's "bigotry towards religious beliefs of others," was greeted with pessimism from Stone and Parker, who said the singer's decision had little to do with bigotry and "everything to do with the fact that Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist."
In its ninth season, "South Park" prominently mocked Scientology in an episode called "Trapped in the Closet." Comedy Central had originally planned on re-airing the episode last week but mysteriously pulled it in favor of one of the show's most popular episodes, "Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls."
Soon, rumors began circulating that the network had pulled "Trapped" after noted Scientologist (and "Trapped" co-star) Tom Cruise threatened to not promote his upcoming "Mission: Impossible 3," the big summer release from Paramount Pictures, which is owned by Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central and MTV. A spokesperson for Cruise denied that he had ever made such a threat.
Stone and Parker are refusing to let the whole thing go, issuing a statement to Daily Variety that pokes fun not only at Hayes and Cruise, but Scientology as a whole.
"So, Scientology, you may have won this battle, but the million-year war for Earth has just begun!" the statement read. "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!!!"