We often consider cartoons to be something for the kids. Classics like Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies are often enjoyed by children today, but they were actually originally intended for adults and shown in theaters before movies started along with the newsreels. Even though these days are no more, there are still some cartoons on television intended for adults only, and here are some of the best:
This is one of many of the shows from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim on this list. My husband and I avoided this cartoon for a very long time, although we enjoyed other Adult Swim programs, because it just looked incredibly weird. We eventually watched one of the episodes, however, and we were hooked. If you live in the South, you will really enjoy this cartoon. It’s about a family of squids who live in the backwoods and do what folks in the backwoods do: make pinecone liquor, go muddin’, start a bunch of “bull mess” whenever possible, enjoy NASCAR, and hate the “chalkies” (white people). Early Cuyler, the main character (who is voiced perfectly by Unknown Hinson), is constantly in trouble with the law, though the sheriff is pretty inept and usually lets him off easily. Early wears a different trucker hat in every episode that all have various sayings on them, such as “booty hunter”, or “guns don’t kill people, I do”, or “no habla jibber jabber”. Early also has his own language when it comes to big words and often makes up his own (kind of like George Bush). I could go on and on about this show, but you really just have to see it to “appreciatize it”, as Early would say.
This Adult Swim cartoon is created by Aaron McGruder. His comic strip has become very popular over the years and is a part of many of the nation’s newspapers’ funny pages. (I live in a small town in Texas, so there’s no way we would ever get it.) It has a lot to do with race, and it does a great job of making fun of all races equally. Ten-year-old Huey is the voice of reason on the show, with his brother and grandfather often making him shake his head in despair with their actions. Huey and his brother Riley used to live in the South Side of Chicago until their grandfather moved himself and the two of them into a rich white neighborhood. Huey’s younger brother Riley still attempts to be a little thug, along with his two much older white friends (spoiled rich guys who try to act like thugs) who rob banks and convenience stores, terrorize citizens, and even attempt to kidnap Oprah, among other things. They always get away with their illegal activities because Ed (one of the two “thugs”) has a very powerful, rich, (and very crooked) grandfather who can buy his way out of anything. The best character on the show, however, has to be Uncle Ruckus, an old black man who tells everyone he’s really white (he just has the opposite of what Michael Jackson does), and he’s incredibly racist against black people. I’ve never seen any character that better portrays how ridiculous racism really is.
This is a dubbed-over Japanese cartoon about a brutally honest kindergartener, his friends, and his dysfunctional family. Many of the jokes are very dark in nature (dealing with issues like child and spousal abuse and abortion), but they are very funny. Shin’s character is always getting into trouble and upsetting his parents, school teachers, neighbors, and friends with his obnoxious and sometimes gross comments and antics. There are a lot of American pop culture references in the re-write of this show’s script so U.S. audiences can appreciate it. It’s a bit like South Park in that its stars are very young children who have a very adult sense of humor. It turns their childish games, like playing house, into reenactments of abusive, alcoholic parents. It’s another Adult Swim show that didn’t look like it would be very good, but after watching it awhile, my husband and I couldn’t wait for the next episode.
I really miss this show. It’s another Adult Swim show that many people would probably find blasphemous, because it really attacks Christianity and how hypocritical and silly many Christians are. It’s done in the claymation style that many of the classic Christmas specials are, but it’s definitely not a feel-good family classic. Orel is a young Christian boy who does everything he can to be a good Christian, but it always backfires. For example, there are a few episodes that involve wastefulness: one where he decides that peeing is wasteful, so he starts selling his urine as a sports drink; one where he decides that he shouldn’t waste his semen, so he saves it and impregnates all of the women in town with it; and another where he decides dead people are wasting the life God gave them, so he brings them back to life as zombies. It’s pretty twisted, and Adult Swim had difficulty getting some of the episodes aired. But if you know any annoying, stereotypical, hypocritical Christians, you really would appreciate this show.
This is the most “brutal” cartoon on Adult Swim. It’s about a heavy metal band called Dethklok, which seems to be loosely based on the band Metallica. It’s composed of Americans and Scandinavians, who aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but their band has become so powerful that whatever they do seems to impact the whole world. Their fans are so crazy about them that they don’t seem to mind that a lot of them get maimed and killed at Dethklok’s concerts, thanks to the band’s crazy mechanical stages and dangerous special effects. The band’s every move is followed by a secret society called the Tribunal, who believe that Dethklok’s actions will lead to an apocalyptic event that fulfills an ancient prophecy. There’s a lot of blood and gore in this cartoon, which I’m not that big of a fan of, but the dark humor is great and it’s interesting waiting to see what kind of destructive event the show will end with.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
This Adult Swim show is great to watch if only for the reason to see what kind of off-the-wall, unpredictable thing will happen next. The Aqua Teens are living food items: a meatball, a box of fries, and a milkshake, that live in a house together. The show doesn’t have much of a storyline, with bizarre things happening to the team in every episode: aliens and robots show up on their doorstep; blood starts filling their neighbor’s pool and flowing from the walls of his house; they discover a frightening spider-like creature living in their attic. It’s all about the weird factor here, but it’s what makes this show great. That and Carl, the Aqua Teen’s neighbor, with his bald head, mustache, and flip flops. He often becomes entangled in the Aqua Teen’s misadventures, whether he likes it or not. He enjoys porn, junk food, sports, and is so lazy he urinates in cans in his living room. If you enjoy being surprised by where a show goes, this show is for you, because there’s no way of predicting what will happen from minute to minute.
This is yet another Adult Swim ‘toon that follows the crooked cop Assy, who is literally a big ass. I mean that the guy has no head: he’s a big talking butt with legs. I’m guessing he’s drawn this way because he’s based on all of the bad cop characters from movies and television shows: assholes that will often injure innocent people while trying to get the bad guy and that drink, do drugs, visit “massage” parlors, and are just generally not very nice people. Assy will often randomly start shooting people, and he is always on the verge of getting kicked off the police force, but, like all of the bad cops before him, his actions end up being overlooked because he nabs the crook, and he gets to keep his badge. He has the typical bad cop’s companion: a partner that isn’t quite as dirty as he is and that is very patient with him and puts up with all of his illicit behavior. It’s a great parody of cop shows and has some pretty hilarious moments.
This is one of Adult Swim’s original short cartoons that takes animation from the old Sealab 2020 Hanna-Barbera 1970’s children’s cartoon and uses it to make a very different kind of cartoon. The Sealab characters seem to all be a little loony from spending so much time cooped up in an underwater research facility, and they do some very strange things to pass the time (and very little actual research, or whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing). They wonder what it would be like to have robot bodies; they adopt some mysterious creatures as pets that multiply very quickly; they get attacked by Chupacabras, and they are always bickering with one another. The show is no longer on television, but you can buy or rent the DVDs. Oh yeah, if it wasn’t great enough, Erik Estrada voices one of the main characters.
I love Family Guy, but only the episodes Seth McFarlane writes. It hasn’t been as great recently because McFarlane quit writing episodes during the writer’s strike, so I’m glad that’s finally over. This show basically took the premise of The Simpsons, focusing on the life of a family along with their neighbors and friends, and took it to a whole new level with dirtier jokes and more extreme gags. This show is more mainstream than the Adult Swim shows, but Adult Swim is really the reason it exists today. After it was cancelled on FOX, Adult Swim started showing reruns. The public really seemed to enjoy watching these old episodes, so FOX decided to start airing new ones again, making it one of the only shows in history to make a comeback with new episodes after being cancelled.
This is the cartoon that paved the way for all of the dirtier, edgier, and more controversial cartoons to come. It’s another cartoon that uses the innocence of children to intensify the effect of the show’s adult humor on the audience. The show was very controversial when it first aired for depicting children in very adult situations, but it has become very popular since. South Park is great because it will often focus on current issues, like attacking scientology, defending Britney Spears, and really giving it to Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck back when they were dating. I don’t enjoy it quite as much as I used to, but I do still look forward to the new episodes. (The shout-out to Heavy Metal was great this last season!)
So if you are an adult, have a somewhat twisted sense of humor, and enjoy animation (but not the serious anime stuff), then you should give some of these shows a shot. I originally thought I wouldn’t like a lot of these cartoons when they first came out, but now I really look forward to new episodes and enjoy watching reruns of the older ones. They may just seem like silly cartoons, but I believe many of them are some of the best shows on the air.