If you were to look back at all the old cartoons that you used to watch as a kid, you wouldn’t believe the kinds of things these filthy minded creators got away with. Back when I was a kid, the cartoons that I grew up with were not nearly as bad as shows like Ren & Stimpy or what have you, but shows like Spongebob Squarepants, Rockos Modern Life, and the like all got away with things that blow my mind now. It’s unfortunate that the shows they show on TV today have really been dumbed-down or they’re remaking the shows we used to love and ruining them entirely.
While today’s kids won’t ever get to experience the true beauty of adult humored cartoons, I still want to take you on a stroll through memory lane and remind you of why those shows were filled with as much adult humor as they could get away with. On a side note, but still relevant, go back and watch the very first season of Rocko’s Modern Life that ever aired on TV. The amount of sick, twisted, adult humor that the creators got away with in the first season is mind-blowing. Unfortunately, it started to get less nasty in the later seasons, but there’s so much good stuff in the very first that the others are hardly worth mentioning. Anyway, let’s move onto what I consider a pretty good list of the most adult-focused parts of cartoons that we all grew up to love much later in life.
And while we’re focusing more on Nickelodeon shows, I’d like to throw out there that Cartoon Network and Disney Channel were not innocent. If you look through the shows on those networks, I’m sure you’ll find just as many if not more adult related humor much like Nickelodeon. Ed, Edd, n Eddy, Powerpuff Girls, Dexters Laboratory, all of those are filled with humor that’s fit more for adults.
15. Rocko’s Modern Life – Sex Line
If you for whatever reason thought that Rocko’s Modern Life was your run-of-the-mill innocent cartoon, throw all those thoughtsout the window and read on. As I mentioned earlier, the very first season of Rocko’s Modern Life was filled with so much adult humor that it’s questionable how us as kids got away with watching it, especially with parents in the room. At one point, Rocko made an interesting career choice during the show. Unfortunately, he ended up working for a sex hotline for singles looking for some action. He even had a note with a helpful reminder that said, “Be Hot, Be Naughty, Be Courteous,” written in plain sight in a cartoon. There’s no way by any stretch of the imagination that the cartoonist would be able to get away with showing this on a children’s network today. But back when Rocko was on, they took a hilarious risk and it paid off.
14. Animaniacs – Finger Prints
Come on now, did you think I was done with the adult humor? I’m just getting started. Alongside Rocko’s Modern Life, there was Animaniacs and although Animaniacs was made three years earlier, the first season of Rocko’s Modern Life still takes the cake for having some of the most foul adult humor in any cartoon. However, there were some little gems here and there that made Animaniacs really stand out. More specifically, I’m talking about the episode with Prince when they were investigating a crime scene, and they started looking for fingerprints. They ended up finding Prince and the conversation implied that Dot should look at finger prints, but the joke was seen as “Finger Prince” which flew over many of our heads as a kid, but when you look back on it when you’re older, you think to yourself “how in the world did they get away with that?” But, much like Rocko’s Modern Life, they got away with it.
13. Hey Arnold – Woodstock
Woodstock jokes never get old, and sometimes they even get told through the medium of a cartoon. While people were probably more interesting in why Grandpa Phil had a head shaped like a you-know-what, there was also the joke told here and there explaining the wild childhood Phil lived. When I was a kid, I wouldn’t have thought twice about what they were saying here because I didn’t know what Woodstock was, though I’m sure our parents did. Apparently Grandpa Phil took part in the use of marijuana as is explained through the dialogue displayed in this particular episode. This is one of those instances where the joke was being told in a more subtle way that it’d be hard to pinpoint it upon first glance, but thanks to the internet, its been handed to us. Hey Arnold wasn’t just there for subtle weed jokes or phallic shaped heads, there’s plenty more adult humor in this show that is explained further in this article.
12. Rocko’s Modern Life – Heffer & The Family of Wolves
Have you ever sat down and thought about the fact that Heffer lives with a family of wolves? If this hadn’t been pointed out to me later in life, I never would have second guessed it. This falls in with morbid jokes and not so much adult related humor, though I suppose both can be intertwined. If you aren’t understanding the morbid humor shown here, think about how wolves survive in the wild. While they don’t eat cows specifically, they do eat moose, elk, and caribou which fall under the same grouping of “large hoofed animals.” This is just part of what makes Rocko’s Modern Life so special and, as we have proven a number of times in this article, the show’s first season was the proprietor of inappropriate humor. We’ve come to accept this and enjoy it for the filth it is. Let’s not think about how Heffer came to live with this family of wolves and remember that it is just a cartoon made for our enjoyment.
11. Patrick & Spongebob – Unspoken Relationship
Please, don’t tell me I’m the only one thinking that Spongebob and Patrick are meant to be a couple throughout the first few seasons of this show. It’s basically thrown in your face with the physical and emotional undertones thrown around throughout the show. If you’d rather not have the show ruined for you, feel free to move to the next part of this article, but for now I’ll continue to press forward. First off, we have an episode where Spongebob leaves for work and Patrick admits that he waits anxiously for him to get home, implying that he borders on depression when he doesn’t see him. Secondly, on a number of occasions they’re seen holding hands implying they have a physical attraction to one another. Thirdly, they’re inseparable. And please, don’t get me started on the reef blowers episode; that one can be explained on its own. It’s been clear through the show’s existence that the two are meant for one another romantically.
10. Spongebob Squarepants – Swearing
If the example before wasn’t obvious, maybe this one will convince you of the things the creators of this show got away with. I’m of course talking specifically about the “Sailor Mouth” episode where you watch as Spongebob and Patrick dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole with their foul language. Although they tried to distract you from this with the dolphin sounds brushed over the actual words, you can fill in the blanks yourself, with the context given. For example: “Hello, Patrick. Lovely [dolphin chirp] day we’re having, isn’t it?” To make matters worse, instead of blatantly telling us that they’re swear words, they cover it up by pinning them as “sentence enhancers.” Nice try creators, but we know what you’re really up to. In its defense, the episode is quite good, and one of my personal favorites if not just for the silliness that ensues. Nowadays, it’s even funnier to watch knowing it’s meant to be full of swear words.
9. Ren & Stimpy – Entire Show
There is absolutely no chance that I would be able to pick just one instance in Ren & Stimpy where adult humor was present. You can watch the entire show and it’d be almost like watching something on the X-rated channel. People know this by now that Ren & Stimpy is easily the most inappropriate cartoon that has even been aired on television and on Nickelodeon no less. Whoever made this show got away with some serious crap and they must have cojones the size of bowling balls to even attempt the type of things they tried in this show. The creators definitely got away with it too, which is more-so the fault of the directors of the show. I assume they said something like “Ah, screw it, let it happen.” I strongly suggest that you don’t show this to your kids, unless you want them to see inappropriate cartoon humor at its finest.
8. Spongebob Squarepants – Pornography
We’re you aware that Spongebob Squarepants showed pornography? No I’m not talking about naked girls, or intercourse, or anything like that. The creators of this show were much more subtle. During the second season of the show, there’s is an episode where you find Spongebob sitting on his big red chair and he starts viewing some “questionable content.” The minute his pet snail Gary walks into the room, he quickly switches the channel. Although what is shown on the TV is some underwater life swinging back and forth, you can only imagine what was going through Spongebob’s mind while he was watching such a thing. Not only that, but I didn’t realize they allowed pornography to be shown on public television. Whether the creators knew what they were doing when they made this episode is up for interpretation, but then again, most of the shows back then were up for interpretation.
7. Rugrats – Space Vixens
What came off as an innocent cartoon, Rugrats had a number of adult references throughout. This particular one is older than I am, but it’s a classic. This example barely touches the amount of adult humor the creators got away with. During an episode of Rugrats, you see grandpa bring the babies in some movies for them to watch, but if you look closely, he rented himself something special. Judging by the cover alone, you can imagine he rented a pornographic film for his own viewing pleasure. I mean, the name “Lonely Space Vixens” just has pornographic film written all over it. Of course, the quote “Aaha uh, that’s for after you go to bed,” is basically stating that he needs to be able to watch this alone. Jokes about sexuality, murder, and the like were all prevalent during the show. So, if you originally thought Rugrats was an innocent show about babies, well you’d be wrong in that regard.
6. The Fairly Oddparents – Paper Towels
The Fairly Oddparents wasn’t necessarily known for its consistent adult humor, but there were jokes here and there that made you look back. The one I’m talking about is the masturbation joke being told over the course of a couple seconds. Timmy’s parents are watching an episode of “Dr. Bill” where he explains what your kid could be doing with a roll of paper towels in his room alone and Timmy is mimicking what the TV show is explaining leading the parents to believe that Timmy is up in his room doing the nasty. It should be disclosed that the only reason this particular joke is evident now is thanks to the internet once again. As far as I’m concerned, this type of humor is really easy to get away with especially when shows like this are more catered to children, so it’s to no surprise that the creators got away with it.
5. Hey Arnold – Girlhood
You know what would go great with your morning helping of cartoons? Something uncomfortable and cringe worthy. I’m talking of course about the love affair between Helga and Arnold on Hey Arnold. Not only is it love at its creepiest form, but there are certain things about it that make it borderline inappropriate. During the episode where Arnold loses his hat, Helga finds it. During this time, she takes it to her “Arnold Shrine” where she seems to worship the being that he is. While this is happening, she starts spouting such things as “Arnold, you make my girlhood tremble.” Of course, not so innocently, the parrot that she has in her room for whatever reason catches her saying this and continues to repeat it until it gets to Arnold’s house. Thankfully for Helga, Arnold never heard the bird say this, but imagine the repercussions in Helga’s life if he had.
4. Spongebob Squarepants – Perfect Censorship
Although some of the things talked about in this article were subtle, there are other instances in cartoons where the joke is thrown right in your face. For example, during the art episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Spongebob is responsible for making art out of a piece of marble, and what results is a statue of a man with a shell on his private parts. Although this may have been overlooked when we were kids, I’m sure we all knew exactly what it was hiding. The best part about this episode is at the point when the art connoisseur comes and grades Spongebob’s work, he explains the excellent use of censorship, further supporting the claim that this was an intentional stab at censorship in cartoons. Though, I’m sure given the opportunity, the creators of this show could have not censored the statue, and could have gotten away with it with little repercussion.
3. Rugrats – Depressed Stu
Depression is never a joke, though the creators of Rugrats saw fit to throw a bit of it into a children’s show. During an episode of Rugrats, Stu and Deedee are responsible for Angelica while she recovers from a broken leg. While caring for Angelica, Stu decides to wake up in the middle of the night and starts making a pot of chocolate pudding at 4am. We’ve all been there. However, when confronted about it, he explains that he’s lost control of his life and even his facial expression is soulless. This is further confirmed through an incredibly convincing theory that Stu has been struggling his entire life and has done whatever he can to keep his family afloat. At the same time, he’s having to deal with babies in the house all the time, a failing career, and a nagging wife. The result is that he no longer cares and will do whatever he sees fit to attempt happiness again.
2. Spongebob Squarepants – Yellow Underwear
Spongebob Squarepants is a recurring theme on this article, but for good reason. Next to Rocko’s Modern Life, I’m of the impression that the entire Spongebob Squarepants series got away with a lot of things they should have never been able to get away with. While this one is much simpler than the rest, it’s still worth mentioning for its pure silliness and complete disregard for what it means to be an adult. During the fry-cook episode, Spongebob and Patrick are wrestling it out for the title of “best fry-cook.” When it all falls apart and goes to crap, you’re left with two extremely buff characters in nothing but their underwear. This further confirms the theory that they we’re meant to be seen as a couple through their underwear matching the other persons color. Though, the silly part of this is the quote at the end where Patrick states his yellow underwear were, “White when he bought them,” assuming he pissed himself while wrestling.
1. Rocco’s Modern Life – Chokey Chicken
A lot of Nickelodeon shows got away with jokes regarding sexuality and masturbation, that should come to no surprise given the nature of this article. Now, there aren’t many instances where a masturbation joke is thrown right in your face without feeling sorry about it. Rocko’s Modern Life of course did this and did it well. Given the nature of this article, I feel it’s alright to mention the Chokey Chicken restaurant. Throughout this show’s existence, you see the Chokey Chicken which is where Rocko and Heffer regularly eat out. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Chokey Chicken refers to masturbation. Possibly my favorite thing about this is that it’s meant to be a parody of real life KFC restaurants. I’m unsure as to whether or not the people making this show intended that this be as overlooked as it was, but hopefully me talking about it shines some light on it and helps people truly realize how much this show was filled with adult humor.