REVIEW: Adult Swim’s Smiling Friends

This wacky series has an equally wacky logo.

This wacky series has an equally wacky logo.

Maggie Bonfiglio, Team Editor A

My friend recently bought an HBO Max subscription (without ads!), and in her infinite generosity, she shared it with me! Though I was excited to start binging South Park or discover if the hype behind Euphoria was well-deserved, there was one show at the top of my watch list: Smiling Friends.

Smiling Friends is an adult animated cartoon that stars Charlie and Pim, two friends that work at Smiling Friends Inc. We watch them on their journey (and company mission) to spread joy and happiness along with coworkers Alan, Glep, the Boss, and Smormu. (The show rarely follows these constraints. Instead, going off on ridiculous tangents).

Youtubers and online artists taking over the animation industry is no new phenomenon. From Hazbin Hotel to Adventure Time, talented creators from all over the world can make pilots in the comfort of their own homes, and if they get lucky, be noticed by big studios looking to make their vision a reality. The creators of Smiling Friends, Zach Hadel and Micheal Cusack, got their start online with projects like Sleepy Cabin and Oney Plays. I think the online experience helps give Smiling Friend’s some of his power with the fast-paced humor and episodes (only 11 minutes) the internet favors and the ability to see what fans enjoy after many years (reoccurring gags and esoteric references).

Smiling Friends is seriously funny. The show isn’t blow-air-out-of-your-nose laughs, it’s seriously knee-slapping, chuckling out loud, material. It reminds me of SpongeBob in how quotable it is. I often find myself thinking of “How do I look yellow man?” or “I love kids Charlie, I LOVE KIDS!” 

The show also really uses its strange animation to its advantage. Many adult cartoons nowadays (Like Family Guy or American Dad) don’t use the medium to all its capabilities. Smiling Friends uses surreal comedy, out-of-this-world situations, and multimedia (Claymation, traditional animation, CGI, and live-action) to turn the hilarity up to 11. 

It’s hard to recommend comedy because different people laugh at different things, but this show was almost nostalgic for me. It takes me back to staying up late in middle school, forcing my eyelids open so I could get through the King of the Hill theme and watch some Adult Swim. If you like Adult Swim humor, I would seriously recommend at least trying out this show. It’s devoid of boring fat or filler, and there are jokes almost every second. No matter what, you’ll find at least one thing you enjoy. 

The characters (especially for a comedy) are surprisingly fleshed out. Our two leads play off each other well, and everyone’s personality is very distinct. Charlie’s cynical, practical nature contrasts well with Pim’s happy-go-lucky attitude. Side characters aren’t exempt from this special treatment either, the Boss’ insanity and dark doings and Alan’s sarcastic personality and cheese addiction would spice up even the dullest of side plots.

If I had to recommend the episodes, I would have to say “Mr. Frog”, “A Silly Halloween Special”, “Who Violently Murdered Simon S. Salty?”, and “Charlie Dies and Doesn’t Come Back” are my favorites and a great intro for new viewers.

Mr. Frogs’ unhinged behavior and benders were simultaneously funny and concerning. The twist and terrifying ending in “A Silly Halloween Special” were so unexpected, and the fact that they hinted at in the beginning made it all the more horrifying and hilarious. The kooky fast food mascots in “Who Violently Murdered Simon S. Salty?” and the crazy characters Charlie meets in hell in “Charlie Dies and Doesn’t Come Back” (Like his grandma, the punch demon, and Satan) were both memorable and laugh-out-loud funny.

The only episode I didn’t like was “Enchanted Forest”. I thought it dragged (especially when Pim and Charlie were fighting), and the twist was lame. At the beginning of the episode, various funky characters advertise fun adventures our leads could go on.  It’s a bummer we couldn’t get an episode about the aliens or witches and instead got this lame Rankin/Bass Hobbit parody. Not to cry “Simpsons did it”, but South Park did it first.

This show is an undiscovered gem, through and through. Recently, it got renewed for a second season, and the internet was ablaze in excitement. I can’t wait to see what else Micheal Cusack, Zach Hadel, and Adult Swim have in store!