Why Did Chef Leave South Park? What Truly Happened?

Before Parker and Stone were household names, one member of South Park’s voice cast was already solidified as a star. The gold-certified soul singer Isaac Hayes played the show’s voice of reason, Chef, during the first nine years of South Park.

When Hayes abruptly left the show in 2006, reports were rife that he had done so because it was skewering Scientology, a religion he belonged to. The true story is so much more convoluted.

Why Did Chef Leave South Park?

On March 13th, 2006, a statement released in the name of Hayes seemed to suggest he had asked to be released from his contract with American TV channel Comedy Central.

This was due to recent episodes satirizing religious beliefs, including the controversial “Trapped in the Closet” episode of November 2005, which lacked Hayes’s voice.

However, on March 20, 2006, a journalist for Fox News, Roger Friedman, reported that the March 13 statement had been in the name of Hayes but had not been issued by Hayes, stating that someone had “quit for Hayes”.

Now, there might be some element of truth in those assertions as the Hollywood Reporter revealed back in 2016 that Hayes’s son Isaac Hayes III, 45, said the decision to leave the show was taken by Hayes’ Scientologist entourage after Hayes suffered a stroke which left him vulnerable and unable to take such decisions on his own.

Who Did Isaac Hayes’s Voice in South Park?

Already a legend, Hayes found new fans as the voice of Chef on South Park.

Isaac could take advantage of his musical ability to voice a cafeteria worker at South Park Elementary, one who sang of soul.

Chef was usually depicted as the wiser of the two adult characters and was very understanding to the kids Stan, Kyle, Eric, and Kenny who went to him all the time for advice.

So much was the warmth from fans to the show that a song from the series performed by Chef, “Chocolate Sal-ty Balls (P.S. I Love You)” actually reached number one on the UK and Irish singles chart.

Final Thoughts

The controversial episode of South Park, “Trapped in the Closet,” aired on November 16, 2005, in the middle of the ninth season. It includes Stan taking a Scientology audit, only for the Church of Scientology to decide that he’s the reincarnation of founder L. Ron Hubbard.

In the process, it takes a strong swipe at a lot of the ideals of Scientology and lampoons the high-profile actors who are members of the cult, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

It concludes with Stan baiting the Church to sue him, and the credits roll with every name being “John Smith” or “Jane Smith.” Hayes himself was a member of the Church of Scientology and was not pleased with this episode.