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Are Adult Cartoons Relying on “Gross-Out” Humor?

Before you call me a party pooper: I’m the first to laugh at a potty joke, and the last to stop laughing. From a young age, I’ve found them enjoyable, and to this day I live by the code, “never too prideful for potty jokes.” 

But there’s a point where you need more. One pattern that I’ve noticed in TV shows, especially in adult cartoons, is the tendency to lean into potty humor as the show progresses. In later seasons, plots begin to lack substance, and rely entirely on “gross-out” imagery– trying their very hardest to create the most vulgar, most vile content imaginable. 

A season 5 episode of Rick and Morty, “Rickdependence Day,” is being targeted for its reliance on cheap comedy. One critic, Dani Di Placido, writes for Forbes, that the vulgar episode was a “mediocre sex joke” that was dragged out for too long. He continued to compare it to “a forgettable episode of South Park, far removed from the clever narrative twists and turns that define Rick and Morty.”  While I am an avid Rick and Morty watcher, I have not seen this recent episode (or any episodes in the fifth season). This review has me concerned for the show’s future. I hope that this episode was a mere blip, and that the rest of the show maintains the depth and wit that brought it to success. 

Di Placido, in his criticism, brings up a very good point– while vulgar humor certainly has its appeal, it seems to reveal a lack of ideas in the writer’s room, like the creators have run out of quality content, and are using overly grotesque humor to stall. 

I noticed a similar occurrence in the most recent season of Netflix’s Big Mouth, which also leaned heavily into disgusting imagery (more so than in its past seasons), featuring one plotline where young Andrew shares dialogues with his poop, which eventually ends in a graphic childbirth-esque scene of his friend helping him with his “delivery.”

Sometimes, potty humor works when you’re trying to appeal to a broader audience – younger children may be drawn to “gross out” humor in itself, but a more mature audience calls for a bit more depth. I would rather see a show end early then see it write itself into complete nonsense. 


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