While passively watching an episode of South Park,1 my spidey sense tingled - something was amiss, and it wasn't the barely surviving buttons on Cartman's pants. I grabbed the remote from the huz and rewound to the spot that caught my eye2 - a young kid, Token Black, is singing in front of an audience at the Miss Colorado pageant.

I noticed that the audience seemed to have an inordinate number of redheads, so I paused the show, grabbed a pencil and paper, and counted the various hair colors on screen.3 From a simple count of the audience I obtained the following hair color data:

24 red
29 blond
24 black
19 mauve
34 brown
15 grey/blue
135 total

In general, pigmentation of hair is due to two types of melanin, pheomelanin (responsible for red) and eumelanin (brown, black and blond).  Red hair occurs in about 2-6 percent of the U.S. population, blond in about 2 percent, black in about 25-30 percent, and brown about 60-65 percent.5 Grey/white (or, if you're a little old lady, blue) hair is actually the lack of pigment, not a color in and of itself. Let's say people go almost all grey/white in their mid- to late-60s - say 65, cause that's easy to find in census data - which makes up 13% of the population.

This exhaustively researched epidemiological data can now be compared to Trey Parker and Matt Stone's laughable attempt at recreating our country's melting pot in their n=135 person audience. As I suspected, the hair color ratio was way off from traditionally accepted epidemiological data.

Hair color    South Park %        US %
Red              17%, or 32%*        2-6%
Blond           21%                       2%
Black            17%                       25-30%
Mauve          14%                       0%
Brown           34%                      60-65%

Grey/blue, of the total n=135 population: 11%, versus 13% of the US population
*If you include mauve in with red - perhaps they were going for strawberry blond - it's 32%. If you keep red and mauve separate, red is 17%.

The only thing the satirists got about right was the percentage of blue-hairs. Otherwise, they either were way off,6 or L'Oreal, Clairol and Garnier did a bang-up marketing job in this particular square state. I think this requires a letter writing campaign. Or that I get out more.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 For inquiring minds: Episode 903, "Wing," original air date March 23, 2005.
2 I love DVR.
3 The huz, fresh off his dinner food coma, said, "Hey, Russell Crowe, what are you doing? Want to consult a newspaper too?" He's a funny, funny guy.
4 This refers to naturally occurring hair color, of course.
5 See comment #4.
6 "Samsonite? I was way off!"