(S1408) When Talladega Nights came out in 2006, poking fun at NASCAR and its accompanying culture already seemed kind of stale. Four years later, South Park hasn't done anything to freshen that idea up.
Was "Poor and Stupid" making fun of NASCAR itself or was it more focused on laughing at the people who refuse to call it a sport? I honestly couldn't tell you because the ultimate target was pretty unclear. As for my opinion, NASCAR is definitely a sport, it's just an exceedingly boring one. I once had a friend try to defend it by saying that contrary to a common notion, being able to drive a stock car at speeds an excess of 100 miles per hour for 500 miles is extremely difficult. I don't disagree with this. But you know what else is difficult? Solving really long, Good Will Hunting-style math problems. Doesn't mean I want to spend my afternoon watching it. (Now the second post-season no-hitter in MLB history? That's another story. I still hate the Phillies, but that was an amazing feat to behold.)
Anyway, the one person I was sure South Park was making fun of tonight was Cartman. When he is given an essay assignment with the topic, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", Cartman becomes upset because his dream is to drive in NASCAR, but he doesn't think he is poor and stupid enough to succeed. Stan and Kyle (who only appear briefly in the opening scene) convince him that he actually is poor and (especially) stupid enough.
Cartman then recruits Butters (who is vastly underused in this episode) to help him get even stupider by eating various concoctions of Vagisil feminine hygiene products (because a commercial says it can cause short-term memory loss). Efficiently moronic, Cartman sneaks into a stock car pre-race (by having Butters convince the driver his wife had been raped... yikes) and immediately crashes into everything in sight.
You'd think his ambitions would be satisfied, but alas, they live on. The president and inventor of Vagisil shows up because the company has been getting a lot attention after the incident at the track. To keep that gravy train rollin', he buys Eric his own Vagisil-sponsored car and somehow gets him back on the circuit. I have to imagine in the real world that trespassing, grand theft auto, false rape allegations, and thousands of dollars of destruction would get you banned from competition, but I guess logic and South Park aren't mutually exclusive.
Preparing for the next race, Cartman acts even stupider (I know, can you believe it?) because he's concerned that the intelligent-sounding NASCAR drivers like Jimmy Johnson and Danica Patrick are actually really stupid. An Obama-bashing podcast follows and then thankfully it's race day and we can get this episode over with.
Kenny, meanwhile, is concerned that Cartman's behavior is giving real NASCAR fans like him a bad name. So he attends the event and after Cartman begins the race in the most disastrous way possibly, he jumps on the hood in an attempt to stop the destruction (of both the track and NASCAR's reputation). Eventually, though, all of the other cars are destroyed and Cartman is about to be named winner (again, throw logic out the window on this one, kids) when the Vagisil president's wife jumps into Jimmy Johnson's car and wins the race for some godforsaken reason.
In the end, Cartman realizes he just wasn't poor and stupid enough and that's why he couldn't succeed in the sport. Of course, the clumsy ultimate joke is that Cartman is too stupid for NASCAR, he's just too ignorant to realize it. Unfortunately, this episode felt much the same way.
Here's a few more things about "Poor and Stupid":
Video: South Park, "Poor and Stupid"
Check out the episode in full from South Park Studios, while available: