TV animation has no shortage of great animated comedy series geared towards adults. One of the uncontested gems of the genre is South Park. Trey Parker and Matt Stone created this Comedy Central classic about potty-mouth grade schoolers in a tiny mountain town where anything can – and often will – happen.
South Park‘s not the only adult animated series that’s unafraid to be unapologetically chaotic and weird. The rise of Adult Swim and streaming services has made adult animation even more prevalent. From twisted takes on comic book characters to trippy explorations that push the boundaries of TV animation, there’s something for every taste.
9 ‘Family Guy’ (1999)
One of the most enduring Fox adult animated sitcoms, Seth McFarlane‘s immortal Family Guy has been a TV comedy staple since 1999. The Griffin family – dad Peter (McFarlane,) mom Lois (Alex Borstein,) son Chris (Seth Green,) daughter Meg (Mila Kunis,) baby Stewie (McFarlane) and dog Brian (McFarlane) – are always finding themselves in wacky situations in their Rhode Island hometown of Quahog.
Family Guy‘s humor is edgier than fellow Fox animated sitcoms The Simpsonsand Bob’s Burgers, with frequent use of surrealist cutaway gags and series-long running jokes involving the family members getting injured, scuffling with giant chickens, or breaking out into song and dance. The series hasn’t always aged well in some of its topical humor or punchline recipients, but the universally relatable characters and memeable moments make this show a chaotic staple.
8 ‘Beavis and Butthead’ (1993)
“Cornholio needs TP for his bunghole!” An MTV classic, Mike Judge‘s Beavis and Butthead follows the two titular teen slackers (voiced by Judge) on all sorts of ridiculous misadventures. When they aren’t providing snarky commentary on popular music videos, the boys are politically incorrect, rude, and crude to everyone they meet.
In the 1990s the series was an instant phenomenon, and spawned a popular spinoff (Daria) and the big-screen Beavis and Butthead Do America. The show has had a few renaissances since its heyday, but the characters have always remained popular. A new movie and revival series on Paramount+ ensures that these gross lads stay relevant for another generation of awkward young adults.
7 ‘Little Demon’ (2022)
An animated series starring Danny DeVito as Satan and his daughter Lucy DeVito as the Antichrist – that’s FXX and Hulu’s Little Demon, a horror comedy that twists the animated sitcom formula into something a little more hellish. The series’ premise is truly wild: young mother Laura (Aubrey Plaza) was impregnated 13 years ago by the Devil himself – now that her Antichrist daughter Chrissy is gaining control of her supernatural abilities, Satan wants custody of her. Chrissy now has to navigate the tricky world of middle school AND her demonic family problems!
The tone of the comedy on Little Demon is often zany and sweet, but given its Hellish inspiration, there’s also buckets of blood and gore galore among the sitcom scenarios. Still awaiting news on a season renewal, the show seems to have gone a bit under the radar. Despite this, fans of the voice cast and adult animation have a lot to love on this bonkers little series.
6 ‘The Boys Presents: Diabolical’ (2022)
The Amazon Prime superhero dark comedy The Boys is one of the most popular superhero shows on all streaming. In 2022, an animated spinoff series debuted, The Boys Presents: Diabolical. This side series is an anthology series of eight standalone episodes full of chaotic superhero mayhem in line with the live-action series.
The series dips into all sorts of animation and storytelling styles, from anime to Saturday morning cartoon to straight-up Rick and Mortyhomage. Seeing familiar characters from The Boys in a medium closer to the original comics is fun, and seeing stories that can only be told through an animated medium is refreshing. In a sea of Marvel and DC overexposure, having more The Boys in animated format is definitely, chaotically welcome.
5 ‘Hit-Monkey’ (2021)
Many comic book studios are making top-notch adult animated series. Marvel dipped its toes into the field with superhero animated Hit-Monkey, based on a character first introduced in the Deadpool comics. This wild animated Hulu series follows a Japanese monkey who is recruited by the ghost of an assassin to take down the Yakuza.
The voice cast on the series is stacked – Jason Sudeikis, Olivia Munn, and George Takei all star. The action is totally over-the-top, befitting a character from the most chaotic of Marvel franchises. A second season is in the works, so it’s nice to know more monkey-on-Yakuza animated action is on the horizon.
4 ‘Clone High’ (2002)
Chris Miller and Phil Lord‘s animated sitcom Clone High has a very fun concept. What if the US Government secretly cloned famous historical figures and made them go to high school together? This series cleverly riffs on traditional high school show tropes (running for class president, the school musical, house parties, and prom night) by having rowdy teen versions of Abe Lincoln (Will Forte,) JFK (Miller,) and Joan of Arc (Nicole Sullivan) involved.
The series has been a cult classic since its 2002 debut, and a long-awaited reboot comes later in 2023. The new refresh for the series adds new clones (like Frida Kahlo, Confucius, and Harriet Tubman) and ever more shenanigans for the clones to aggravate Principal Scudworth with. (Despite being a fan favorite character in the series’ first go-round, Gandhi (Michael McDonald) is sadly not returning due to controversy in India over the character’s depiction.)
3 ‘The Midnight Gospel’ (2020)
A collaboration between podcaster Duncan Trussell and Adventure Time‘s Pendleton Ward, The Midnight Gospel is a Netflix original series full of trippy imagery and existential storytelling. Clancy (Trussell) is a spacecaster – like a podcaster broadcasting throughout the universe – who travels via simulations throughout all sorts of worlds. On his journeys, he interviews the inhabitants of the worlds and ponders the state of the universe.
The series is full of hallucinatory visuals, but also makes for surprisingly deep viewing. Every episode’s audio is taken from episodes of Trussell’s The Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast; the show touches on themes of life and death, drug use, spirituality, and forgiveness. It’s one of the most entertainingly enlightening viewing experiences on any streamer.
2 ‘Moral Orel’ (2005)
Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block is full to the brim with bizarre and brilliant animated series. One of its funniest and most controversial of its original shows is Moral Orel, a dark spoof of faith-based media and claymation series like Davey and Goliath. The series follows optimistic little Orel Puppington as he struggles to understand the cynical lessons his teachers, family, and church try to impart onto him.
Moral Orel, like South Park, is an Emmy winner, winning a jury prize in 2008 for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation. Moral Orel shares a lot of the DNA that the more religion-skewering episodes of South Park have. The town of Moralton and its residents are just as dysfunctional as the town of South Park, though this series often goes to more emotionally bleaker places than the Comedy Central staple does.
1 ‘Harley Quinn’ (2019)
Batman: The Animated Series was a classic Saturday morning cartoon staple that appealed to kids and adults. The series introduced to the world one of DC’s most enduring creations: psychologist Harleen Quinzel, better known as her antihero alter ego, Harley Quinn. Her titular DC Universe and HBO Max animated series is basically the classic animated series… but geared to an adult audience in nearly every possible way.
The series follows Harley (Kaley Cuoco) as she breaks up with longtime boyfriend The Joker (Alan Tudyk) and decieds to take over Gotham herself, with the help of Poison Ivy (Lake Bell,) Clayface (Tudyk again) and King Shark (Ron Funches.) Over the course of the series’ three seasons so far (including a very twisted Valentine’s Day special) the show has become more and more about Harley and Ivy’s blossoming romance in addition to messing with the world of the Caped Crusader (Diedrich Bader.) In this adult animated masterpiece, teh humor’s over the top, the action’s explosive, and the irreverent tone is simply intoxicating.