Harry and Meghan v South Park: there’s only one winner

Donald Clarke: The duke and duchess are reportedly annoyed by a South Park episode. For all their torments, they should have kept shtum about it

South Park: the Princess and Prince of Canada on their World-Wide Privacy Tour

South Park has just broadcast an episode that was not about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The instalment, titled The World-Wide Privacy Tour, concerns, rather, the red-bearded Prince of Canada and his white-hatted wife. The couple, after frustrations elsewhere, move into the eponymous Coloradan town while controversy bubbles about the prince’s tell-all autobiography. The volume is called Waaaagh and, like the memoirs of so many UFC combatants, snooker players, celebrity gardeners and professional drug smugglers, its cover features the alleged author staring sombrely into an unflinching lens.

South Park’s perennially harassed Kyle, still wearing his green ushanka, even with pyjamas, is disturbed to discover the couple letting off fireworks outside his house while prancing before enormous signs saying “Respect our Privacy”. When he phones Park County Police Station, he is asked: “Oh is it the Prince of Canada and his wife who just want to be left alone?” It is.

If you are still in any doubt that this is not about the Sussexes, seek out the guest stars’ visit to Good Morning Canada. “It’s so awesome to be here. It’s great,” the princess says in a voice that could – at a wild stretch – be mistaken for that of an archetypal southern Californian media pro. The prince starts to tell his story, but she abrasively butts in: “I told you you should totally write a book because your family are, like, stupid and so are, like, journalists!”

There are certain accidental similarities to Harry and Meghan. The off-pink ensemble worn by the Princess of Canada does not look entirely unlike the one Meghan wore to Trooping the Colour in 2018. Waaaagh could be mistaken for the princely book that, a year or two from now, will, in blocks the size of mobile homes, occupy the space charity shops once gave over to Fifty Shades of Grey and The Da Vinci Code.

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But we know these two are not the duke and duchess of Sussex. How? Because, when speaking, their heads separate into two independent cups just as all Canadian heads have done on South Park since Terrance and Phillip began farting at one another 25 years ago. (Yes, it has been so long.) That is how Joni Mitchell, Margaret Atwood and JK Galbraith would appear on South Park. The jury will be aware, your honour, that neither of the plaintiffs was raised in that country.

Anyway, rumours nonetheless bubbled up that the couple were speaking to m’ learned friends. The Spectator went with the impossibly cautious “sources claim that Meghan ‘is annoyed by South Park but refuses to watch it all.’” Eventually a spokesperson popped up to deny flimsy suggestions that Sussex’n’Sussex were heading to the courts. “It’s all frankly nonsense. Totally baseless, boring reports,” the voice of Harrghan clarified.

It is hard not to have some sympathy for the couple. Few serial killers have generated the degree of vitriol that has come their way over the last few months. So vituperative was a recent column on Meghan Markle by Jeremy Clarkson that the Sun newspaper – not easily cowed – had to admit it regretted publication. The pair could be forgiven for feeling unduly sensitive about any implied criticism.

Had the South Park episode actually been about them (which obviously it wasn’t), then they would, for all their torments, have been well advised to maintain absolute silence. Few targets of satire have emerged well from engagement with their tormentors. If you take the “good sport” line you risk looking disingenuous. If you object you can’t help seeming humourless. The former error was exemplified by Harold Macmillan when, in the early 1960s, the fading UK prime minister went to watch himself impersonated by Peter Cook in Beyond the Fringe. The comic spotted his target and improvised accordingly. “When I’ve got a spare evening there’s nothing I like better than to wander over to a theatre and sit there listening to a group of sappy, urgent, vibrant young satirists with a stupid great grin all over my silly old face,” Cook said in Macmillan’s grouse-moor drawl.

It looks even worse if you object. Should you decide to pipe up, never, never, never try to argue the material “just isn’t funny”. Recall the responses to Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s immortal Smashie and Nicey. The ageing DJs, all cod-American consonants and witless banter, caught BBC Radio 1 perfectly as it passed into dotage. But Dave Lee Travis, a veteran of the station when the parody arrived in the early 1990s, just wasn’t having it. “This Smashie and Nicey crap that they keep bringing up. Is that funny? It doesn’t raise a smile with me,” he said. Which is exactly how Dave Nice would have responded.

All of which is, for Sussex’n’Sussex, worth keeping in mind if South Park ever does come for them. Pretend it’s not happening.