The Funniest Adult Swim Shows, Ranked

Cartoon Network is a genius of animation and storytelling for children by day, and a madcap, raunchy, and caricatural treasure by night. Declaring “All kids out of the pool,” Adult Swim takes over the family-friendly Cartoon Network as its late-night, zany, experimental, and often surrealist alter-ego. The programming block includes reruns of universal favorites like Family Guy or Futurama, broadcasts great anime such as Cowboy Bebop, and has put out a slew of original series that proceeded to become some of the best-animated shows for adults ever, even tapping into live-action on a channel devoted to cartoons.


Adult Swim is more than a niche television bloc, as its crude sense of humor, gonzo gags, and reverence for violence established a prominent presence in pop culture, influencing animation, comedy, and countless memes; for instance, Insider describes the TikTok trend of creating replicas of something called bumpers, short branded clips that aired between the shows on Adult Swim. So, let’s look at the list of the funniest Adult Swim shows that helped the alternative block become its own beloved network of sorts.


12 Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule

Spawned from the Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim show universe, Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule is adorably obnoxious. This parody of a talk show in the visual style of an old VHS tape is hilarious and more than a little bit disturbing. It dives into the personal life of Steve Brule as he discusses family issues, money, and health through a comedic lens. In addition, Brule interviews a number of individuals with different fields of expertise and in return, offers his one-of-a-kind reactions.

What Makes it Great

John C. Reilly has many brilliant performances in his bag; however, he is, simply put, pitch-perfect as the titular character. His character’s quirky antics and complete ineptness come across as authentic — and C. Reilly’s ingenious improvisation skills make him a genuine knee-slapper. The show has its own take on comedy, offering a fresh approach to making people laugh on a low budget. The production values are low, and the editing is basic, but it still manages to grip its viewers, showing that when comedy is done right, it’s enough to keep you watching.

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11 Moral Orel

Moral Orel

Moral Orel

Release Date
December 13, 2005

Cast
Carolyn Lawrence, Jay Johnston, Scott Adsit, David Herman, Britta Phillips

Genres
Animation

Moral Orel walked so that the other sad-coms, such as BoJack Horseman, Rick and Morty, and Anomalisa, could run. Appearing as a typical satire of Christian fundamentalism, Moral Orel grew more somber in later seasons in a sincere attempt to bring up heavy themes like family dysfunction, depression, and addiction — which probably made it the most heartbreaking cartoon of all time and eventually caused the series’ downfall. Set in the fictional state of Statesoda, Orel Puppington is an 11-year-old religious Christian boy who wants to do good in the world. However, his naïveté towards the religion and misunderstanding of the teachings of the Bible had disastrous consequences. In the process, he exposes his dysfunctional family and the hypocrisy of his town.

What Makes it Great

This stop-motion comedy-drama gem pioneered a new approach to adult animation: not a raunchy dark comedy full of high jinks and f-bombs but candid and funny in heartbreaking ways. It also dares to discuss religion and offers a fresh perspective on the way it affects our lives, be it for good or bad. It’s also highly relatable as faith and religion are interpreted differently all around the world, with people leaving certain faiths, converting to certain religions, or not believing at all. Here, Orel is a character that is thoroughly developed throughout his quest to be a devoted Christian. Many Christian viewers of the show praised the religious satire and found it deeply original.

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Related: Best Stop-Motion Animated Movies, Ranked

metalocalypse

metalocalypse

Release Date
August 6, 2006

Cast
Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell

Genres
Fantasy, Music Video

Main Genre
Fantasy

Metalocalypse is like a satirical limerick of heavy metal culture crammed into an 11-minute-episode format. The show centers around Dethklok, the world’s most successful death metal band, who are dealing with the pressure of fame, and an organization that is out to destroy them. In the midst of these events, the show highlights the heavy metal culture in a dark yet comedic way. Despite the parody, the show’s dedication to metal culture and attention to detail, with great artistry, is worth noting.

What Makes it Great

The soundtrack is written by guitarist Brendon Small, who also serves as a show creator. The animation is faithfully synced to the music, and each shot crafted so that the fingers are positioned in the correct chord placements, adding to the authenticity of this fun homage to death metal; the fictional band from the show even toured and is part Scandinavian and part American.

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9 Aqua Teen Hunger Force

aqua teen hunger force

Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Release Date
December 30, 2000

Cast
Dave Willis, Dana Snyder, Carey Means, Eric Wareheim

Genres
Animation, Comedy

Seasons
12

Aqua Teen Hunger Force was released in the first original Adult Swim lineup back in 2000. This bonkers malarkey of a show managed to lock in the much-desired 18-to-34-year-old viewership, as The Guardian notes. It follows a gang of anthropomorphic junk food people who are just hanging around New Jersey. These are fries, a meatball, and a milkshake who live together and occasionally interact with their next-door neighbor.

What Makes it Great

The early episodes had loose superhero/detective vibes but later on, ATHF settled in as a laid-back trip with a hot hip-hop soundtrack. Since it aired, ATHF has been considered everything from comic gold to trash, to a hare-brained object art (and even a terrorist scare) — but most importantly, an audience darling and the longest-running show on Adult Swim until Robot Chicken took its place. Its uniqueness is in its randomness and ability to still have the viewer follow through the hilarious chaos and completely embody the soul of Adult Swim.

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8 The Eric Andre Show

A fever dream in a bottle, The Eric Andre Show bludgeons its viewers with a non-stop train of absurdist and gross skits — these moments are outrageous and revoltingly amusing at the same time. The Eric Andre Show has been a perfect meme-generator even before the meme appeared as a concept in the public psyche. In the show, comedian Eric André invites guests on his show under the false pretense that he will interview them, only to prank them in the most bizarre ways.

What Makes it Great

Perhaps due to Eric Andre’s deranged off-hand charisma, this unsanitized punk-rock parody of a talk show catapulted from its niche to a mainstream satire of celebrity culture. It is also highly unpredictable, with the show going from scary to funny all the time. Andre does the opposite of what talk shows usually do and that is not caring the slightest about what he does and how he appears, which, a lot of time, reveals more about the guests than normal interviews.

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7 Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

Release Date
December 30, 2000

Cast
Gary Cole, Stephen Colbert, John Michael Higgins

Genres
Crime

Main Genre
Crime

Seasons
4

Taken out of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, ex-superhero Harvey T. Birdman finds himself as a defense attorney, a damn good one at that. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, is a masterclass in using nostalgia to lure in viewers without destroying the original characters.

What Makes it Great

Familiar animated characters, like Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, and Captain Caveman, are re-purposed into an unexpected, goofy setting resembling a modern world with modern problems. Harvey Birdman consistently has old cartoon characters as his clients and manages to save the day with his attorney skills. It may also be one of Stephen Colbert’s best ventures into voice acting.

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6 Rick and Morty

rick and morty

Rick and Morty

Release Date
December 2, 2013

Cast
Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer, Sarah Chalke

Genres
Animation, Comedy

Main Genre
Animation

Seasons
4

What essentially started as a Back to the Future parody, Rick and Morty broke all viewing records at lightning speed and became Adult Swim’s number one most-watched series and is one of the most highly rated shows in the history of TV. It follows the domestic family life of a mad scientist and his grandson and their adventures around the globe.

Related: If You Liked Rick and Morty, You’ll Enjoy These Shows

What Makes it Great

Fan theories, breakdowns of episodes, explanations of gags, and hidden meanings have set YouTube and Reddit on fire. By playing this game of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references and jokes, Rick and Morty becomes a truly postmodern tale, the kind that quite literally invites the viewer to join the titular characters on their adventure. Not only are the episodes humorous and well-paced, they are deeply engaging and intelligent. It is not actually the sci-fi elements that made this show so well-loved, but rather the dark philosophy of Rick and Morty, which is a blend of existentialism, nihilism, and absurdism coupled with characters representative of different lines of thought.

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5 Space Ghost Coast to Coast

Space Ghost Coast to Coast is one of the weirdest talk shows ever, and its affinity for surreal humor essentially gave Adult Swim its trademark lunacy. Eric Andre, in particular, is known to be inspired by it, trying to emulate the feel of this sheer insanity in The Eric Andre Show. Once a famous superhero, Space Ghost uses his network of celebrity friends to become a spaced-out talk show host with a talent for witty quips.

What Makes it Great

The magic of photomontage makes it possible for legendary guests, from Tommy Wiseau and Jack Black to Zoe Saldana and Conan O’Brien, to appear for an interview with a cartoon character, which all go extremely awkwardly. The show birthed several spinoffs, such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show, and others.

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4 Robot Chicken

robot chicken

robot chicken

Release Date
February 20, 2005

Cast
Seth Green, Breckin Meyer

Genres
Animation, Comedy

What happens if Teletubbies are chosen as the Power Rangers? The end result is repugnant and ridiculous TV, a stop-motion parody of everything that an average American viewer holds dear. A surprisingly successful (and Emmy-winning) modern classic by Seth Green, Robot Chicken mercilessly parodies American pop culture. The stop-motion animation features a mad scientist who, upon finding a dead chicken on the road, takes it back to his laboratory and transforms it into a cyborg. Not only that, he forces the robot chicken to watch popular shows and movies, and cartoons.

What Makes it Great

The sketches are hit-or-miss, but when they hit, they are incredibly quick-witted. In addition, over the years, the show has had its own original characters, such as Gary the Stormtrooper. The show went on to win six Primetime Emmys and has become an adult swim classic.

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3 Tuca & Bertie

Tuca & Bertie

Tuca & Bertie

Release Date
May 3, 2019

Genres
Animation, Comedy

Cast
Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong, Steven Yeun, Nicole Byer

Seasons
2

Netflixs decision to cancel Tuca & Bertie caused a ruckus on Twitter. Thankfully, Adult Swim saw the incredible potential of the series and picked it up. The once-canceled surreal show followed the lives of two bird ladies while focusing on their relationship with each other. It delves into the human condition and even more specifically discusses sexism, anxiety, and trauma.

What Makes it Great

A daring show about women for women, Tuca & Bertie struck a chord with a generation of 20-30-somethings who tried to survive in a gig economy while simultaneously dealing with the crippling comprehension of being alive — through grim, often self-deprecating humor, of course. Even though the show is mostly focused on the female psyche, the show has also been successful with males, who also managed to relate to it. It was created by the production designer of the cherished show BoJack Horseman.

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2 The Boondocks

the boondocks

The Boondocks

Release Date
November 6, 2005

Cast
Regina King, John Witherspoon, Cedric Yarbrough, Jill Talley, Gary Anthony Williams

Genres
Comedy

Too often, race-conscious creators end up making colorblind shows, which is, honestly, not the best representation. The show zooms in on brothers Huley and Riley who move from Chicago to live with their grandfather in the suburbs. However, their presence together is far from peaceful as the brothers prove to be too wild for their grandfather, often stirring tension in their new neighborhood but in a good kind of way. The show uses humor to discuss the issue of race.

What Makes it Great

Politically charged and beautifully animated, The Boondocks rammed through this sanitized depiction of the Black experience, instead offering multifaceted Black identities and discussing Black cultural authority, referencing hip-hop, Tyler Perry, R. Kelly, Martin Luther, Oprah, and so much more. As a result, The Boondocks has its jokes and soul in equal measure, standing out from all other Adult Swim shows.

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1 The Venture Bros.

the venture bros

the venture bros

Release Date
August 7, 2004

Genres
Action, Adventure

Cast
Patrick Warburton, James Urbaniak, Michael Sinterniklaas, Lisa Hammer

Main Genre
Action

Seasons
7

The Venture Bros. presents a ridiculous world of superheroes and villains bound by bureaucratic red tape. This Adult Swim staple deconstructs superhero tropes, expertly holding viewers’ attention by parodying clichés of the genre but always in clever and inventive ways. It zooms in on Dr. Venture, a scientist, and his two sons, who are constantly threatened and attacked by villains.

What Makes it Great

Amazing storytelling coupled with crisp, stylized animation elevates The Venture Bros. from a simple parody that is dependent on its source material and into a great standalone experience of wonderful character development, clever humor, and opulent absurdity. In this epic show, the good guys are as edgy and humorous as the villains. If you’re an avid Marvel Comics reader, then this show will be a delight as all the references will land smoothly for you. It’s also one of the shows that oozes nostalgia and gets better with each episode. To top it off, the voice acting is phenomenal.

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