Timmy Burch, voiced by Trey Parker, is a mentally and physically disabled large-headed boy who uses a motorized wheelchair. He is based on an elementary school acquaintance of South Park
art director Adrien Beard
. Timmy's exact condition has never been specified in the show, though South Park
's official website describes it as "a strange combination of palsy
". Timmy's spoken vocabulary is mostly limited to the enthusiastic shouting of his own name, which could be conduction aphasia
.It's indicated in the episode "Up the Down Steroid
" that the adults can't understand what Timmy is saying when he speaks, though the rest of the children can.
Timmy first appears in the season four
(2000) episode "The Tooth Fairy's Tats 2000
". Parker and Stone had to push hard for the inclusion of the character, as Comedy Central
was originally reluctant to allow the show to feature a character with a cognitive disability. The duo asserted their intention of portraying other children as treating him as an equal, while stressing the importance of both including a mentally-disabled character who is "happy to be [himself]", and representing him "as part of the gang and not as the subject of cruel schoolyard humor". Two weeks after his debut, Timmy was a central figure in the episode "Timmy 2000
", where doctors and school faculty erroneously attribute his behavior to ADD
in the show's condemnation of the rampant diagnosis of the disorder. "Timmy 2000" also shows his parents, Richard and Helen, having similar disabilities and using wheelchairs, and their vocabularies being mostly limited to their own names. When Jimmy
is introduced in the season five
(2001) episode "Cripple Fight
", Timmy becomes jealous of Jimmy's popularity, and the two get into a violent brawl in a parking lot. The two make amends, and are depicted as friends in subsequent episodes.
Timmy quickly became a fan favorite, and was once voted "The Greatest Disabled TV Character" in a poll conducted by a BBC
, where he was more popular among disabled voters than among non-disabled voters. IGN
ranked Timmy second in a list of the "Top 10 South Park
Peripheral Characters", stating that "South Park
's most controversial character may be one of the funniest and most enduring". Parker noted that soon after Timmy debuted, fans he encountered began mimicking the character's exclamation of "Timmy!" as opposed to the show's other catchphrases.
Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
describes Jimmy and Timmy's capabilities and portrayal in the show as Parker and Stone declaring their opposition to political correctness as social restriction. When praising the show for both its depiction of Jimmy and Timmy and its coverage of disability-related issues, The Seattle Times
columnist Jeff Shannon, a quadriplegic
, describes Jimmy and Timmy as "goodwill ambassadors", while commenting that "Timmy appears, at first glance, to uphold the condescending disability stereotypes that are gradually fading from mainstream entertainment. But like everything else in South Park
, he's actually challenging preconceptions, toppling taboos and weaving his singularity into the fabric of the show".