In the beginning, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were a couple of scruffy college buddies who cracked each other up with their always irreverent and frequently scatological senses of humor.
Their shared sense of outrageousness is what drove them to collaborate on a movie musical about cannibalism (really!) while in film school in Colorado. In later years, their genius for social satire brought us the immortal teachings of Cartman ("Respect my authoritah!").
Now, heathens everywhere are rejoicing about the gospel according to Matt and Trey. From their long-running animated sitcom hit "South Park" to the Broadway blockbuster "The Book of Mormon," the smart alecky two have turned their penchant for the perversely funny into a pop culture empire.
An unholy mashup of the existential and the profane, "Mormon" has put Broadway on the radar for the next generation. In honor of the Tony-winning musical's Bay Area debut Tuesday at San Francisco's Curran Theatre, here are the top 10 things you need to know about "The Book of Mormon":
1The most important thing to know about the show of the year is that it's sold out. Tickets to the San Francisco run were gobbled up in less than two hours, making it one of the fastest-selling shows in Bay Area theater history. If you yearn to see the tuner, scalpers are charging up to $1,500 a pop. There is also a daily lottery you can enter to score $29 tickets. Or buddy up to a subscriber, fast.
2 It lives up to the shock value of "South Park," and then some.
In the showstopper, "Hasa Diga Eebowai," the African villagers sing about, shall we say, getting up close and personal with the Almighty via various orifices. Among the squirm-worthy topics explored in this extreme satire are female genital mutilation, baby rape and warlords.
3 It's far from the first musical that Stone and Parker have collaborated on. "Cannibal! The Musical" and "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" were also tuneful projects. And yes, they are flirting with the idea of reviving "Cannibal" on Broadway. Yummy.
4 Parker and Stone are newbies to Broadway, but "Book of Mormon" also has theat-uh veterans on its team, including Bobby Lopez, the composer of "Avenue Q," and co-director Casey Nicholaw ("Spamalot," "The Drowsy Chaperone").
5 Lopez says nothing is sacred to Parker and Stone: "They may not go out of their way to offend people, but they won't pull their punches for anyone. There's no such thing as holding them back."
Indeed, they once got death threats after an episode of "South Park" that portrayed the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit. For the record, Jesus is also a recurring character on the sitcom. As is Satan. That's what makes it such equal-opportunity mockery.
6 On whether or not the musical is actually offensive or just outrageous: "There's nothing mean about the show at all, and that surprises a lot of people," says Gavin Creel, who has been a "South Park" devotee since college. He plays Elder Price in the national tour.
7 The usually unflappable Parker on the topic of making a new musical being a lot harder than they expected: "Getting the last few gears to work was really tough. And unlike TV and film, it's never done. It's alive. It's still changing."
8 While some Mormons find the musical objectionable, church honchos have given the show their blessings. Indeed, there are now ads for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the program. Seriously.
9 Lopez says he has been shocked by the musical's phenomenal success, but he is not at all surprised that young people have embraced it.
"It's very rare to have a big, new, cool show that isn't a revival and isn't for kids and doesn't have stars in it," Lopez says. "It's rare to see that kind of risk on Broadway, and that's one of the things that makes 'Mormon' so exciting."
10 Critics practically died and went to heaven after seeing the musical, which won nine Tony Awards, including best musical. The New York Times described it as "something like a miracle," and snarky talk show icon Jon Stewart raved, "It's so good it makes me (epithet) angry."
Amen to that. Here's hoping we are all converts soon.
'THE BOOK OF MORMON'
Book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
Playing: Tuesday through Dec. 30
Where: Curran Theatre. 445 Geary St.,
Tickets: Regular seats are sold out, but $29 tickets in limited numbers are available through a daily lottery two hours before the show. For details, call 888-746-1799 or go to www.shnsf.com.