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6 Animated Shows That Changed the World of Comedy

These animated shows took comedy to new heights.
by David Young on May 6, 2022

Animation has always been a source of great creativity. Some have helped paint the mystique behind fairy tales like Snow White, while others have been the source of learning, drama, or even political debate. But the one thing that animated shows have transformed the most is comedy.

From time-honored classics to newer staples, there’s a clear element of commitment to comedic form that evolves from animation. Whether it’s geared toward kids or a more adult audience, you’ll find that the examples below have proven to be important installations in the world of humor.

The Simpsons

There’s scarcely anything that stands out to people as much when talking about hilarious cartoons as The Simpsons.

In an age when sitcoms dominated the airwaves, this one began to reign supreme as the true “nuclear family,” one where the breadwinner actually worked in a nuclear power plant — and where the outlandishness of animation could reflect the equally odd and hilarious nature of people in ways that didn’t have to be grounded.

The Boondocks

Outlandishness isn’t always based on looks — in fact, many times, it comes from characters’ actions. That’s the philosophy behind The Boondocks, and this show does it quite beautifully.

After all, this show about two kids from South Side Chicago living with their grandpa in the suburbs uses an anime-style art direction. This type of art turns this sitcom into an expressive display where adult situations have an intense impact: violence, racism, manipulation, and more are explored in this expressive style, shedding light on real emotions and surprising actions using the drawing styles found in many anime.

Rick and Morty

This newer comic series does a great job of fitting no molds. It’s not modeled to the specifications of a family sitcom like The Simpsons, but it does celebrate a lot of the same freedoms that Futurama has.

The art style is decidedly unique, with the original character designs a clear parody of Doc Brown and Marty McFly from Back to the Future. However, Rick and Morty share a very different relationship, and this show’s willingness to improvise and riff makes them a uniquely hilarious show for those who brace themselves.

Futurama

The success of The Simpsons gave way to the creation of another show from the same geniuses — a show about the future.

This sitcom, called Futurama, is an ensemble comedy with a lot of time on its hands. Thanks to the outlandishness of its setting in the year 3000, Futurama is able to make informed timely references to real-life events while still maintaining a degree of separation, as they do with the use of Richard Nixon’s disembodied head.

Futurama also makes it easy to give its own spin on everything from Greek mythology (the Amazonians) to folk legends (Robot Santa) for a world and comic style that is still, to this day, completely its own.

South Park

Nothing has to be high-res, beautifully rendered in 3-D, to make someone laugh. It just needs to be its own thing. That’s a clear philosophy that came into practice with South Park, a show animated first with construction paper in stop-motion.

Eventually, traditional methods would not work, and the show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, needed a new way to create hilarious hijinks and jokes at everyone’s expense using the fictional town of South Park, Colorado.

This show’s distinctive look is by far the most recognizable of any animated show today, and its irreverent and persistent topical comedy has formed some of the most gut-busting and controversial episodes of television to date.

Bob’s Burgers

While the not-for-children shows that dominate the comedy landscape have made their impact, there are still projects that have proven (somewhat) family-friendly while still using hilarious jokes about cannibalism, personal hygiene, and financial failure that connect with adult audiences.

If you’re looking to fall in love with a family while laughing the whole time, Bob’s Burgers is the show for you. This is another sitcom family, but this time they're running a burger joint — and proving a lot less egregious for younger audiences, despite a lot of the jokes still connecting with adult viewers.


David Wayne YoungDavid Wayne Young is an independent film producer and screenwriter with years of experience in story analysis, even providing coverage for multiple international screenwriting competitions. David's obsessions include weird fiction and cosmic horror, and he's formally trained in the art of tasting and preparing gourmet coffee in various worldly traditions, from Turkish coffee to hand-tamped espresso — all enjoyed while writing, of course.

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