Why “Smiling Friends” Has Changed Adult Animation


Hannah Barham

Smiling Friends released its pilot episode on Adult Swim in 2020 before streaming the entire first season in January of 2022. Smiling Friends was created by Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack. The show depicts a company that is dedicated to making other people happy, with two of the main characters being Charlie and Pim. Along these two are other characters such as Boss, Glep, Alan, etc. The show was notable for its noticeably disturbing art style and how gruesome some of the scenes can be. In one episode, a crowd of people attacked a forest demon, ripped off its limbs, and straight up ate it. In another, Charlie cut down a tree and got crushed underneath the tree, leaving him a bloody gory mess. 

The show doesn’t follow the standard adult animation jokes with excessive swearing and an uncomfortable amount of inappropriate jokes. The humor comes naturally, and the jokes pretty much land every time. They don’t force humor like usual adult shows do. The show was extremely well received by audiences everywhere, and it sparked attention all across the media. 

Now, I watched the pilot when it first aired in 2020, and that was probably one of the best cartoon pilots I had ever watched. I was in tears by the end of it, and I was shocked when I saw that it had only one episode. I didn’t touch the series again until I heard it came out with its first full season, and immediately I watched it. 

Each episode just got better after the next, and it left audiences begging for a season 2, which has been confirmed. Smiling Friends will return for a Season 2 some time in the future. The show doesn’t really follow a giant plot line, each episode just happens. In my opinion, this is the best kind of show, where there is no lore and you can watch the episodes in any order you want to watch them in. All you need to know are the characters. Each episode introduces a new character that the Smiling Friends company needs to help, such as Mr. Frog, Shrimp, Desmond, etc. 

The best episode by far has to be the “Shrimp’s Odyssey” episode. Shrimp is a guy whose girlfriend, named Shrimpina, ironically, dumped him. While Pim tries to fix the relationship, he ends up falling in love with someone he thinks is Shrimpina, but it ends up being a completely different woman named Jennifer. Meanwhile Charlie aids Shrimp in becoming an “alpha male”, which doesn’t go so well. Plus. The screaming. Just the screaming. 

The show likes to poke fun at pop culture icons, like for example Jimmy Fallon. The second episode depicts a very obviously traced Jimmy Fallon, and the erratic movements, the way he talks, and the sudden burst of laughter and slamming his desk is honestly very accurate. There is also a joke toward the YouTuber Chills, who is known on the internet for his.. Noticeable voice. These jokes are very well played out and got a laugh out of audiences who tuned in.

Smiling Friends is no doubt one of the best shows on Adult Swim. It doesn’t force comedy and it doesn’t contain heavy language or extreme adult jokes. The comedy just happens. This show sets the standard for adult animation and we only hope to see more in the upcoming years.