Smiling Friends: 10 Similar Adult Animated Shows Worth Watching

Created by Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack, ‘Smiling Friends’ is a hit adult-animated workplace comedy that follows the adventures of a group of employees at the titular agency, tasked with bringing happiness to its clients. The eccentric employees, including optimistic Pim, laid-back Charlie, sarcastic Allan, little Glep, and Mr. Bossas frequently encounter surreal scenarios while trying to fulfill their client’s needs. Each episode of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim show features a new client with new desires and challenges, ranging from supernatural phenomena to existential crises, and brings the employees’ quirky personalities to cause mishaps.

‘Smiling Friends’ received critical acclaim for its creativity, originality, offbeat humor, subject matter, maturity, and visuals that constantly rotated stylized traditional animation, flash animation, CGI, stop motion, rotoscoping, and even live-action. The show solidified viewers’ interest in unconventional adult-animated comedies with surrealistic themes, quite similar to ‘Smiling Friends,’ some of which can be found here.

10. Hazbin Hotel (2024-)

Created by Vivienne “Vivziepop” Medrano, ‘Hazbin Hotel,’ is a dark-fantasy comedy series set in Hell, where demons seek redemption through a rehabilitation program run by Charlie, the princess of Hell. The plot finds Charlie asserting efforts to reinstate sinners while dealing with the chaotic and humorous idiosyncrasies her clients and staff cause. With themes of redemption, forgiveness, and personal growth, the series explores complex moral dilemmas and challenges societal norms.

After sitting on YouTube for nearly five years, the creators finally found an investor in A24 who resumed the pilot with an entire critically acclaimed season. With praises showered at its bold storytelling, imaginative world-building, unique animation style, witty dialogue, and memorable characters, the success of ‘Hazbin Hotel,’ stands on the same pillars as that of ‘Smiling Friends,’ with both shows exploring the idea of a ‘workplace.’

9. Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2000)

‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ is a surrealist animated series known for its absurd humor and unconventional storytelling. Created by Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, the show features anthropomorphic fast food items as main characters: Master Shake, a milkshake who is a pathological liar; Frylock, a box of French fries and the only rational member of the group; and Meatwad, a childlike piece of shapeshifting ground meat. The trio live together in New Jersey and frequently engage in supernatural occurrences. The narrative follows their interactions with other beings and the absurdity of those confrontations.

One of Adult Swim’s earliest original productions, the series developed a dedicated cult following and became the network’s longest-running series. Much like ’Smiling Friend,’ the show embodies a blend of traditional animation and experimental visuals to challenge conventional storytelling standards. Furthermore, ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ similarly explores themes of everyday life, friendship, identity, and existentialism amidst its off-the-wall humor and surrealism.

8. The Midnight Gospel (2020)

‘The Midnight Gospel’ is a sci-fi adult animation series created by Pendleton Ward, best known as the creator of ‘Adventure Time,’ and comedian Duncan Trussell. A blend of fantasy and adventure, the show concerns Clancy, a spacecaster who travels through alternate dimensions using a multiverse device. Despite the fanciful nature of its animation and premise, the show mainly focuses on thought-provoking themes in a surreal and imaginative manner.

Each episode sees Clancy interviewing the inhabitants of different worlds, often engaging in philosophical discussions on life, death, and existentialism. Similarly to ‘Smiling Friends,’ the show also touched upon the complexities of human emotions, albeit in a less humorous and satirical manner. It also embodies exaggerated character designs like the former but in a more vibrant and psychedelic manner.

7. Superjail! (2007-2014)

‘Superjail!’ is another workplace comedy animated series from Adult Swim created by Christy Karacas. The series is set in the surrealist world of the titular jail, a maximum-security prison located in an alternate dimension. The show revolves around the sadistic Warden, who oversees the facility, aided by his loyal, robotic assistant, Jailbot. The series features a diverse range of supporting characters, including Alice, an ultra-violent prison guard who engages in S&M activities with inmates; accountant Jared, who fails to recover from all sorts of addictions; the Doctor; and the gender-fluid alien Twins.

Every episode features vibrant and psychedelic visuals as Warden’s wild imagination leads to increasingly absurd and violent escapades. ‘Superjail’ also pushes the boundaries of dark humor and graphic violence. The series relates to ‘Smiling Friends’ in its depiction of day-to-day life in an organization and the discussions of mystery, manipulation, and the absurdity of authority.

6. Squidbillies (2005-2021)

Also an Adult Swim series, ‘Squidbillies,’ was created by Jim Fortier and Dave Willis and is set in the fictional Appalachian community in Georgia. It follows the Cuyler family, a dysfunctional clan of anthropomorphic dirt squids. Led by the dim-witted, alcoholic father, Early Cuyler, the family goes on various quirky adventures.

The comedy also offers social commentary, tackling the issues of poverty, addiction, rural life, environmental degradation, and cultural decay while retaining its dark humor and sharp satire. In addition to its mature themes, ‘Squidbillies’ shares its flash-animation appearance with ‘Smiling Friends’ as well as ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force,’ in a deliberate attempt to increase the impact of its offensive content.

5. Solar Opposites (2020-)

‘Solar Opposites,’ created by Justin Roiland (‘Rick and Morty’) and Mike McMahan (‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’), is an adult-animated series at Hulu, suggested to take place in the same multiverse as Rick and Morty. The plot follows a group of four aliens who escape their doomed planet and crash-land on Earth. The aliens, Korvo, Terry, Yumyulack, and Jesse, attempt to embody human society while learning and surviving through its many challenges.

The show blends science fiction elements with humor and satire, often delving into alienation, friendship, and cultural differences. Each episode features absurd yet surreal storylines, with the aliens encountering bizarre characters, making it their objective to make sense of human behavior. The series is said to have inspired ‘Smiling Friends’ co-creator and voice actor Zack Hadel, who also voices the character of Reggie in ‘Solar Opposites.’

4. Inside Job (2021-)

‘Inside Job’ is a sci-fi sitcom animated series created by Shion Takeuchi, known for his work on ‘Gravity Falls.’ The show follows the everyday exploits of a shadowy government organization called Cognito Inc., which, alongside the Illuminati, Atlantians, Reptoids, Catholic Church, and the Juggalos, operates behind the scenes to manipulate world events. Lizzy Caplan voices the main character, Dr. Reagan Ridley, an eccentric robotics engineer who seeks promotion while struggling to manage her irresponsible coworkers.

The team comes across a world of conspiracy theories, secret experiments, and supernatural phenomena that meet reality. The series explores themes of control, consequences of unchecked ambition, and changing the world. One crucial plot detail that hooks viewers is the discovery of a powerful artifact that threatens to unravel reality itself. Like ‘Smiling Friends,’ the series extensively features office life and takes jabs at corporate power dynamics and conspiracy theorists.

3. Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (2022)

A surrealist horror-comedy, ‘Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared’ is created by Baker Terry, Becky Sloan, and Joseph Pelling, who based it on their 2011 web series of the same name that had gained a cult following. The animated series revolves around Red Guy, Yellow Guy, and Duck as they encounter bizarre and unsettling situations while examining creativity, conformity, and the dark side of media consumption. Each episode features a sinister teacher who aims to manipulate the three with their lessons, succumbing to them in the depths of existential dread and psychological horror.

Though the lectures reek of important subjects, including career, death, family, friendship, transport, and electronics, the trio manages to subvert them comically. ‘Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared’ combines colorful puppetry, catchy songs, and dark humor to deliver a thought-provoking viewing experience. Despite its seemingly innocent appearance, the series has a unique blend of surrealism and social commentary, putting it in the same category of shows as ‘Smiling Friends.’

2. Ballmastrz: 9009 (2018-2020)

A joint venture between American and Japanese studios, ‘Ballmastrz: 9009’ is created by Christy Karacas. Set in the distant future, the show follows a team of athletes in a popular, violent, and chaotic sport called “The Game.” Led by Gaz Digzy, a former superstar of the game whose career derailed due to her indecent nature and alcohol use disorder, the Leptons compete in the cutthroat world of professional sports while facing off against rival teams and resolving their inner conflicts. ‘Ballmastrz:9009’ offers a satirical take on sports culture from the lens of over-the-top action sequences, colorful characters, and adult-oriented humor. Similar to the employees of Smiling Friends Inc., the Leptons learn the meaning of teamwork and coordination.

1. Human Resources (2022-2023)

A spin-off to the hit series, ‘Big Mouth,’ ‘Human Resources’ debuted on Netflix in 2022 as an adult-animated series that offers a humorous and satirical take on corporate culture. Set in the offices of a fictional megacorporation, the show follows a diverse cast of hormone monsters from the original series as they assist their clients, teenage humans, through puberty, along with their own mundane office life. Created by Kelly Galuska, Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, the representations of feelings include lovebugs, logic rocks, shame wizards, addiction angels, ambition gremlins, and others, alongside their hippopotamus manager and a zombie electrician.

Despite its comedic approach, ‘Human Resources’ also touches on deeper themes such as identity, ambition, and the pursuit of happiness in a corporate environment. Much like ‘Smiling Friends,’ each episode of ‘Human Resources’ explores the themes of workplace dynamics, office politics, and the struggles of balancing personal life with professional obligations.

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