While animated TV shows and movies were originally considered to be exclusively for children, the 90s the saw the creation of the modern animated sitcom, which showed the world the infinite possibilities that the format allowed to create hilarious, smart comedy aimed for adults. Taking away budget, location or even metaphysical limitations, animation allowed comedy writers to explore all sorts of storylines and jokes that would never be possible in live action television series.
Since the 90s, animated comedies have evolved to deliver some of the finest biting satire and parody, crazy sci-fi and fantasy adventures, absurdist and raunchy humor, and plenty of heart to humanize them and make us empathize with the characters and their situations – no matter how cartoony they may get.
While there have been dozens of fantastic animated comedies throughout the years, particularly on Fox’s Animation Domination and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, let’s take a look at the 5 animated sitcoms that have truly perfected the medium.
More than just another James bond parody, Archer is a gut bustlingly hilarious spy genre spoof/work place comedy about the misadventures of the world’s greatest spy, Sterling Archer. On the surface Archer might look like another martini drinking, tuxedo wearing, roulette Playing, secret agent out of the 60’s spy tropes, but in reality he is a childish, alcoholic narcissist with deep rooted mommy issues. Did we mention that his mother runs ISIS, the unfortunately named low rent spy agency he works for?
Created by Adult Swim favorite Adam Reed, and featuring a brilliant voice cast including H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter, Chris Parnell, Judy Greer, Archer is filled with some of the most infinitely quotable, witty spitfire dialogue in the business, filled with references ranging from pop culture (Danger Zone!) to obscure ancient Greek fables.
Adult Swim’s creative push for animated comedy series didn’t just stop with Archer; in 2005 with the help from creator Aaron McGruder they premiered The Boondocks. The politically and socially charged series addressed the then current social news head on. From classic episodes on Martin Luther King, R. Kelly, and even an uncut episode aimed at the BET Network became something many have never seen from a animated series. The series got so popular that it drew in a cult following until it’s unfortunate end in 2014. Before it’s end; the show went on to feature the late Charlie Murphy, rapper Mos Def, John Witherspoon, Katt Williams, and Samuel L. Jackson apart recurring talent.
Rick and Morty
Who would have thought that a pair of Back to the Future inspired voices that Justin Roiland would put on for his friends would eventually become the most consistently brilliant comedy currently on TV?
Following the wacky, high concept sci-fi adventures of the titular Rick Sanchez – a cynical, foul mouthed, alcoholic scientist considered the smartest mammal in the universe- and his dim witted grandson sidekick Morty, Rick and Morty successfully mines nonstop laughter from their explorations into sci-fi tropes, pop culture, and some of the darkest existential questions of the universe.
Created by Community’s Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, who voices both of the title characters, the show also features the talents of Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer, and Sarah Chalke, as well as a stable of cameos from comedians like Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Jemaine Clement, and the king of the nerds himself, Patton Oswalt.
Although Rick and Morty has only produced two seasons and an episode so far, with the rest of the third season premiering this summer, in its mere 21 episodes it has already managed gain a massive following, and quickly cement its place in animated sitcom history. Just ask McDonald’s.
Howdy ho! Thanks to 3rd graders Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, Stan Marsh and Kenny McCormick, the quiet, tiny mountain town of South Park, Colorado is not quite as quiet as it used to be. Frequently beset by mass hysteria and end of the world scenarios, the town of South Park has managed to converge the national conversation around it for almost 20 years now, with the boys routinely facing off against religion, politics, celebrities and ridiculous cultural trends adopted by the masses.
The most topical, irreverent, and foul mouthed of all the animated shows on this list, South Park’s ability to produce an episode within days of being written has allowed creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone to mercilessly lampoon current events with their unique brand and incisive satire within days of them having occurred. Their willingness to fearlessly tackle sensitive topics such as the religion, gun control, abortion, or even Bill Cosby just goes to show why they are considered the best at what they do.
Finally we arrive at the show that started it all. Matt Groening’s highly dysfunctional Simpsons family, a subversive take on the loving nuclear families that filled TV throughout the ages, immediately made a splash like nothing TV had ever seen before, becoming a undeniable cultural phenomenon.
Featuring razor sharp writing, a defiant anti-authority streak, a fully realized town populated by all sorts of wacky three dimensional characters, and a warm heart that brought it all together. Currently in their 28th season, The Simpsons are now set to become the longest running American scripted primetime television series. While it’s true that the past 15 seasons or so have been considered subpar to their predecessors, it is impossible to discount the Simpsons as the veritable institution of the comedy world.