In the early days of motion pictures, cartoons for adults were the norm.
Then the breakfast cereal cartel took over. These sugar pushers realized they could market directly to kids through crappy Saturday morning cartoons. The funniest cartoons for adults gave way to the lowest form of brainless entertainment. Sorry, we’re still a little bitter about growing up in this era. Even as children, we thought these cheaply made atrocities were, well, atrocious.
Luckily, some really funny and creative forces have rescued the medium. New outlets, better technology and a wider range of perspectives bring new depth to a brilliant art form. Anything is possible in these two dimensional worlds. And the funniest cartoons for adults play up on this fact for the biggest payoffs possible.
What makes adult cartoons different than kids’ shows?
Well, I mean, that seems pretty obvious. Who’s asking these dumb questions? Oh, right, we’re writing those, too. Anyway, some cartoons are for kids. They have awful dialog and silly, repetitive songs and bright colors. Actually, those attributes can kind of describe some of the funniest cartoons for adults on our list.
Let’s try again. Cartoons for adults are pretty much crazier versions of the adult humor we all love so much. And you’re sure to find plenty of risque topics covered on these programs. Whether it’s sex, violence or profanity, the best cartoons for adults are not afraid to push the envelope. Sometimes, they choose to detonate a nuclear bomb inside of the envelope and shock everybody. That can be a risky move, but in the cartoon world has a pretty good rate of return.
Here’s what we were looking for:
There are a few things that made the shows below stand out to us. First of all, we have odd senses of humor. But we also love classic jokes and gags, so we looked for a mix. And here are a few other qualities we like in the funniest cartoons for adults.
- Great writing. Just because it’s a cartoon doesn’t mean we will let bad scripts slide. If anything, writing might be more important since we don’t get to see actual facial expressions. And voice actors are more respected than ever. So it’s insulting to ask them to recite garbage.
- Interesting animation. Notice we didn’t say good animation. It doesn’t have to be Disney to catch our eye. In fact, sometimes the worse it’s drawn, the more we’re drawn to it. But the only thing we can’t stand is boring.
- Actual characters. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous they are. Even the most bizarre senses of humor can’t follow a show for long if there isn’t some character development somewhere.
And now, our list of the best cartoons for adults
If you don’t think adults should laugh at cartoons, no worries! It just means you don’t have a functioning sense of humor, that’s all. You’re not alone. And there is hope. Take an evening and watch some of the shows listed below. If you still don’t get it, we hear people can live full lives without knowing the joy of cartoon humor. We don’t recommend it, though. So here’s our remedy, in no particular order.
1. South Park
Let’s start with an obvious one. We all knew the longstanding Comedy Central hit would be on the list of best cartoons for adults. Biting social commentary and laugh out loud dialogue keep it interesting. And it stays current because writers are always crafting shows at the last minute. The result is a Colorado town with a strange cast of residents we never want to leave.
2. Ren and Stimpy
Wait, wasn’t this a kids’ cartoon? Well, here it is on our list of the funniest cartoons for adults. So there’s that. Granted, this might not be as obvious a choice as “South Park.” But if you’ve watched this ridiculous show and its stars’ crazy expressions, you get it. This is definitely a show with writing and animation aimed at entertaining grownups. There was also a blatantly adult-oriented spin-off in case the original series wasn’t clear.
3. Beavis and Butthead
We’ll admit to being huge Mike Judge fans. So any list we’re able to put one of his creations in is a win around here. But MTV’s early animated hit is a sure fit among the best cartoons for adults. The two dimwitted lead characters mixed antics and music for a rowdy experience. Decades later, we still remember watching as kids. Revisiting the series as an adult has given us a new appreciation for its humor.
4. Bob’s Burgers
The clever writing and inimitable voice of H. Jon Benjamin made this show an instant classic. We think “Bob’s Burgers” is one of the funniest cartoons for adults. It features well rounded plots with sufficiently absurd twists. All of the characters — especially the kids — have their own developed personalities. If you’re one of the few fans of animation who hasn’t been watching, check it out. We think it’s a great balance of edgy and traditional.
5. Rick and Morty
A complex series of events and characters keep fans engaged in this show. It takes more than jokes to end up on the list of funniest cartoons for adults. And the level of time investment folks devote to “Rick and Morty” proves its power.
The funniest cartoons for adults: Honorable mentions
Of course we can’t fit all the best cartoons for adults in such a short list. And we’re too lazy to keep writing. So we’ll throw in a few categories we really didn’t explore above.
- The Oldies – Just because there’s a renaissance of adult animation, it’s not new. Classics like “The Flintstones” and “Rocky & Bullwinkle” paved the way.
- The Adult Swimmers – Perhaps no block of programming did more to revive cartoons for adults. Cartoon Network took a risk with “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and others. It paid off big time.
- The Big Boys – You might notice a few missing names. “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “Futurama” and “King of the Hill,” specifically. We felt that they went without saying. You could argue the same for “South Park.” But we wrote that one when we were more ambitious about the size of this list.
- The Future Classics – “BoJack Horseman,” “The Venture Bros.” and “Archer” are among those we think will deserve a spot on our next list of best cartoons for adults.