Ever since ‘The Simpsons’ entered our living rooms 30 years ago, or should that be we entered theirs, it became clear cartoons were not just for kids and had something to say.
And perhaps now more than ever, adult animation has taken the baton of pushing the boundaries of comedy, satire and commentary on the real-world through its unique lens. (Let’s just say it’s probably harder to cancel an alcoholic horse than a human one.)
With the explosion of streaming, there has been unprecedented investment in the genre and more eyes on it too. Here are five of the best animated comedy shows with some choice clips to enjoy.
An all-time television classic. Although more family-friendly than some of the other shows on this list, ‘The Simpsons’ is a pioneer of the animated world, and undoubtedly inspired all of the shows that came after it in one way or another. Following the clumsy and mischievous Simpson family as they meddle with their unpredictable community in the small town of Springfield, ‘The Simpsons’ started it all. The first seven to eight seasons are some of the funniest and smartest TV you’ll ever see, and it still feels relevant, more than 30 years on from its television debut.
Watch on Fox
A show that continues to push the boundaries of animation and television writing. ‘South Park’ is told from the perspective of four ten year olds who live in a small town in Denver, Colorado. And while the show is completely outlandish on the surface, it also constantly toys with serious and current issues in the world. Built around the same hilarious ensemble cast for over 20 seasons now, ‘South Park’ takes aim at everything ridiculous about the world we live in. It’s genius.
Watch on HBO Max
This is not like any other animated show on the air, now or ever. Lets just say this… The main character is an alcoholic has-been actor, and he’s a horse. ‘Bojack Horseman’ is a dark, dry LA satire, as the title character (voiced by Will Arnett) tries to make ends meet and stay relevant. ‘BoJack Horseman’ is an incredibly original concept, and demonstrates a level of character development that hadn’t previously been achieved in American animation, tackling subjects such as depression, addiction, past trauma and more. Like ‘The Simpsons’ before it, it has changed the game.
Watch on Netflix
‘James Bond’ meets ‘American Pie.’ Half bad-ass and half alcoholic goofball, Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) leads the way in this brilliant, quick-witted comedy about a perilous CIA-inspired top-secret agency that attempts to fight crime of the highest order, but doesn’t always succeed. Although the show takes full advantage of the merciless explosions and rapid car chases that come with the territory, Archer’s backbone is its wonderfully crafted ensemble cast of two-bit ‘secret agents’ who just can’t seem to make life any easier for themselves.
Watch on FX
RICK AND MORTY
‘Back to the Future’ on steroids. The show follows Rick, a burping, wrinkly scientist that drags his grandson Morty (both voiced by the show’s co-creator Justin Roiland) along on an array of bizarre excursions across a never-ending universe. In an absurd and chaotic manner, ‘Rick and Morty’ explores a variety of deep-rooted themes along the lines of existentialism, personal crises and depression. Morty is terrified of the unfamiliar, whereas Rick embraces the fear of the unknown and stares it in the face. ‘Rick and Morty’ dives deep in the psychology of being, and the ways in which humans choose to, or believe they have to, live their lives. And because of the eccentricity and limitlessness of animation, ‘Rick and Morty’ get to explore these ideas in a host of thrilling ways.
Watch on Adult Swim