BY PAUL SCHRODT
By its very nature, animation takes us to places that live-action material can’t. It’s typically associated with entertainment for children, or those of us who enjoy toking up before tucking into a classic episode of The Simpsons.
But in 2019, there are more animated options for TV shows and movies than ever before. Shows like Archer and BoJack Horseman are rewriting the rules of what you can do with so-called cartoons. Though perhaps not expressly designed to be stoner TV shows, these series make for seriously fun viewing when paired with a bowl or two. Each animated work on this list speaks to different moods and moments, and there are a few throwbacks are in the mix. But they’re always perfect for a night on the couch when you’re enjoying cannabis and craving something not quite of our world. Without further ado, our curated cribshert to a half-dozen excellent choices for your stoned viewing pleasure.
BoJack Horseman The more original programming that Netflix forces down the streaming hub, the harder it can be to find the real gems—there are fewer movies and shows from the tech giant that stand out among an increasingly crowded platform. BoJack Horsemanis a low-key jewel in the crowded television landscape. You may or may not have heard about it from your most discerning TV-loving friend.The premise is wild and somewhat depressing —the titular anthropomorphized horse-actor (voiced by Will Arnett) struggles with identity issues as he ages and faces irrelevance—but rest assured, BoJackis hilarious as hell, thanks in no small part to Arnett and castmates Amy Sedaris, Aaron Paul and Paul F. Tompkins. Netflix has kept the series alive as it developed a cult audience, which is devoted to the show’s ability to reinvent the nature of TV, as in the astonishing, nearly silent season-three episode “Fish Out of Water.” It’s genius.
Archer The stereotype of “cartoons for adults” is that the genre is overstuffed with pleas to college stoners who like rainbow colors and raunchy jokes. FX’s Archerisn’t that (well, except for some of the more salacious punchlines), creating a convincing, genuinely thrilling spy-action universe that stands out from its competition. The spies in question are smart, funny, delightful, capable at their jobs, and generally horrible people—which makes each episode that much more fun, especially when they try to one-up each other with recurring “phrasing” jokes.
SpongeBob SquarePants Yellow, rectangular SpongeBob has long crossed over from Nickelodeon cartoon character to internet phenomenon. It could have something to do with the inexplicable setup of the show, or its soft-hearted emotional core, but SpongeBob is a meme with staying power who’s now semi-regularly name-dropped by rappers. While the episode arcs more or less follow in the tradition of animated sitcoms on Nickelodeon, the creators’ penchant for absurdity (shared by some of their previous efforts, including the brilliant Rocko’s Modern Life) and the bizarre underwater renderings of the characters become even more charming when cannabis has you tuned into its left-of-center frequency.
Beavis and Butt-head Mike Judge didn’t invent stoner comedy (shoutouts to the ‘60s-’70s counterculture icons who brought us I Love You, Alice B. Tolkas andCheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke), but he may have perfected it. Beavis and Butt-head isn’t about weed at all (it really isn’t about much of anything, to be real) and its subject matter is actually tepid by today’s standards. But Judge’s iconoclastic MTV animated sitcom shocked ‘90s parents in a way that you could never properly explain to Gen Z. That’s in large part because of the explosion of new kinds of programming on cable TV at the time, but also because Judge dared to empathize with his anti-everything suburban New Mexico drifters. They relish their time together, free from expectations, in order to mock music videos and burn stuff—and we in turn relish them. The two dufuses’ windy, screw-common-sense adventures (not to mention sterling supporting characters like Daria, debuting here before she got her own show) hold up, speaking to all open minds, whether substance-stimulated or not.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force When Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a spinoff of its mainstay, Space Ghost, first gained steam, it seemed like a surrealist send-up of adult-minded cartoons: It follows the trials and tribulations of three talking, extremely McDonald’s-unapproved fast-food products: Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad. The cohabitating greaseballs get into shape-shifting and impossible-to-make-up shenanigans that would make followers of the Dadaism art movement proud. Which is to say: by all means, light up before bingeing on this absurd series.
Spirited Away One of the most pleasurable parts of being high is appreciating certain aesthetics and textures that we otherwise take for granted. The anime mastermind Hayao Miyazaki is a universally beloved artist from Japan who directed films like My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle, which have enjoyed long-running popularity here in the U.S. But none of his other movies match the insane level of visual detail and surrealist ambition of Spirited Away. While rooted in the simple story of a girl moving to a new home, it brings endless imagination to its conjuring of the fantasy-world where its heroine arrives. The bathhouse scene, which depicts the cleaning of a polluted river-man, is jaw-droppingly beautiful.