Cartoons have often been stigmatized as media exclusively for children, dismissed by a lot of adults who don’t realize animation is meant for everybody. To that end, several parents often put on any random cartoon for children to keep them entertained. They often fail to realize that the creators of many cartoon shows managed to sneak in adult humor.
This type of humor, while going over most kids’ heads, clearly has an effect on both the adults who might tune in and the kids who have grown up and are revisiting them. While far from explicit, these little touches re-contextualize many moments to make them even funnier.
The little sea sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea is known for wholesome, carefree fun. But he is no stranger to humor that borders on the risky. In the episode “My Pretty Seahorse,” SpongeBob ties his adopted seahorse Mystery outside the Krusty Krab while he works.
Two fish find Mystery, mistake her for a kiddy ride, and attempt to try her out. But when one of them seemingly finds her “coin slot,” the camera cuts away, the audience hearing a painful yell, a kick, and the fish flying through the air.
‘Ed, Edd, N Eddy’
This Cartoon Network icon followed boys sharing the same name living in a cul-de-sac neighborhood. The series was somewhat crude in style and humor, which extended to the characters’ behavior. In the episode “The Luck of the Ed,” Double D and Eddy go under the latter’s bed to see some of his stuff.
The items under the bed are cans of soda, a magazine named “Jiggy Jiggy” and a full box of tissues. In the case of the magazines, they are a gift from Eddy’s older brother, confirmed in the series finale to be a bad influence.
Tea Warner Brothers (and the warner sister, Dot) engage themselves with humor that even the characters knew flew over the audience’s heads. Perhaps no more infamous example came in the short “Hercule-Yakko,” where Yakko takes on the role of a detective investigating a stolen necklace on a cruise ship.
Prince in her arms. When Yakko clarifies he wants fingerprints, Prince looks at Dot with a smile that’s perhaps a little too eager. Dot just chuckles and replies, “I don’t think so.”As it continues, Yakko asks Dot to go and look for prints. She comes back holding music superstar
Beloved by many audiences for its sophisticated storytelling and mature view of the characters, Justice League was not above the occasional innuendo. The Flash was a frequent example, flaunting his success with the ladies.
Of course, this has led to one of the most savage roasts in cartoon history in the episode “Injustice for All.” When he mentions he’s the fastest thing alive, Hawkgirl snarks, “maybe that’s why you can’t get a date.” The Flash objects before Batman interrupts to continue the story.
Another Cartoon Network classic that followed a young boy genius attempting to create great inventions, only to frequently fall victim to the antics of his oblivious older sister Dee Dee. In the episode “Dee Dee and the Man,” he finally tires of her behavior and fires her.
He then looks for a replacement, deciding on a beautiful woman with a rather curvaceous figure named Candi. To fill the void Dee Dee left behind, Dexter asks Candi to dance, to which she replies, “ok, but it’ll be 50 bucks extra.” Dexter simply wanted a new lab assistant, but it’s clear this woman is more used to a more mature line of work.
‘The Powerpuff Girls’
Three girls were created as a lab experiment gone wrong and became Townsville’s favorite superheroes, The Powerpuff Girls. This series is beloved by many who grew up with it, even if certain moments flew over their heads. The episode “Superfriends” revolves around the girls attempting to juggle their crime-fighting and new friendship with a girl named Robyn.
When talking to their father figure, Professor Utonium, Bubbles tells her how she and her sisters were created by accident, to which Robyn responds, “it’s ok, professor, I was an accident too.” The professor is understandably shocked at this little girl casually revealing she was an unwanted pregnancy.
‘Rocko’s Modern Life’
This Nickelodeon stronghold perhaps managed to sneak more adult jokes under (and sometimes over) the radar than any other series on the network. When Rocko is stuck looking for a job in the episode “Canned,” finding a service as what the newspaper ad describes as a “specialty phone operator.”
He doesn’t seem to realize the type of work he’s doing, confusedly saying, “oh baby, oh baby, oh baby,” as rather pointed descriptions hang on the wall next to him make it clear this is a different kind of hotline. It goes even further when it’s revealed his client on the other end of the line is Mrs. Bighead.
‘Superman: The Animated Series’
One of the most risky jokes from the DC animated universe was seen in the third episode of Superman’s opening story arc “The Last Son of Krypton.” When looking at captured images of Superman for the first time, the editing staff of the Daily Planet looks on in fascination.
In a moment that emphasizes her city-smart nature compared to that of Clark Kent, Lois Lane makes a pointed comment, remarking, “Nice S.” One can assume she just means the S on his costume. Still, those who follow her eye line may recognize she’s noticing a specific area of his anatomy.
Tea Teen Titans have faced many enemies that have played on their weaknesses and teenage insecurities. But sometimes they may be reading too much into them. In the episode “Switched,” the Titans receive a package delivered to them (anonymously) by a villain called “The Puppet King.”
Inside are several wooden puppet replicas of the group. Robin and Beast Boy look at their puppets, with Robin making a note of how accurate the toys are. Beast Boy then lifts his toy’s pants, looks downward, and simply replies, “speak for yourself.”
‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’
This was a hilarious moment in the otherwise serious episode “The Southern Raiders,” dealing with Zuko traveling with Katara to get revenge on her mother’s killer. Zuko goes to Sokka’s tent to try and talk with her, he bumps into Suki, who quickly darts away.
Zuko opens the tent to find it has been laid about with candles, and Sokka is lying with his legs curled and a rose in his mouth. Sokka quickly eats the rose, then after an emotional scene where he reveals the truth about Katara’s mother, is all too eager to get Zuko out so he and Suki can get some… alone time.