Cartman Gets an Anal Probe is the pilot episode of the animated television series South Park. It first aired on Comedy Central in the United States on August 13, 1997. The episode introduces child protagonists Eric Cartman, Kyle Broflovski, Stan Marsh and Kenny McCormick, who attempt to rescue Kyle's younger brother Ike from being abducted by aliens.
At the time of the writing of the episode, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone did not yet have a series contract with Comedy Central. Short on money, the creators animated the episode using paper cutout stop motion technique, similarly to the short films that were the precursors to the series. As such, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" remains the only South Park episode animated largely without the use of computer technology.
Part of a reaction to the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s in the United States, South Park is deliberately offensive. Much of the show's humor, and of "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe", arises from the juxtaposition of the seeming innocence of childhood and the violent, crude behavior exhibited by the main characters. The episode also exemplifies the carnivalesque, which includes humor, bodily excess, linguistic games that challenge official discourse, and the inversion of social structures.
Initial reviews of the episode were generally negative; critics singled out the gratuitous obscenity of the show for particular scorn. Regarding the amount of obscenity in the episode, Parker later commented that they felt "pressure" to live up to the earlier shorts which first made the duo popular. Critics also compared South Park unfavorably with what they felt were the more complex and nuanced shows, such as The Simpsons and Beavis and Butt-head.