Cartoons are no longer just for kids. They’ve turned into a viable medium for, in most cases, comedy, perhaps because the sight of an anthropomorphic horse (Bojack Horseman, to be specific) dryly commenting on his self-loathing chimes uneasily with our typical childhood association of cartoons with a spectacle of mindless, cheerful brightly-coloured fun. With a plethora of adult cartoons to choose from (Archer, Bojack Horseman, King of the Hill, Boondocks, Daria…) it’s difficult to single one out for special mention, but thanks to a love for dialogue punctuated with burps and a weakness for morally dubious characters, Rick and Morty is my cartoon of choice.
Inspired by Back to the Future, Rick and Morty, written by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, follows the adventures, a term which I use very loosely, of the alcoholic genius scientist Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty across dimensions and planets. But with multiple dimensions comes multiple opportunities to piss off people, all of whom eventually end up wanting to puncture Rick’s body with multiple bullet holes. Alongside the homicide tally that climbs with each episode is dark humour which starts with a single gag. From this spawns a sequence of embellishments, repetitions and refinements until the tension becomes almost unbearable, and then something happens which leaves me wondering if I’m a bad person for laughing.
It isn’t all hijinks and aliens, though. There’s some serious morbidity in Rick and Morty: calling his family dysfunctional would be an understatement and Rick has brought me close to tears on more than one occasion. Punctuating the bright colours are lines like ‘sometimes science is more art than science Morty, that’s what a lot of people don’t get’, a comment you can imagine Einstein nodding his head to whilst sitting beside Rick’s friend Mr Poopybutthole. That name is ridiculous but it quickly becomes the norm as in Rick and Morty nothing is really taken for granted; having more than one dimension brings its complications and these are things which Roiland and Harmon acknowledge and build upon. The duo manage outlandish situations with what seems at the time like a sensible solution until they introduce Rick into the mix, who with his dysfunctional family finds a way to unravel any semblance of common sense that previously existed.
If this article has whetted your appetite for some inter-dimensional generational hijinks, good news! AdultSwim have the first two series available to stream for free on their website. Whilst you’re there, take a look at Robot Chicken and some of the other series they have which are in the same vein as Rick and Morty in terms of their ability to break the mould. With Christmas being around the corner and family reunions on the horizon, just be glad you don’t have to be the Morty to a grandfather like Rick.