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The Cosmic Comedy of Rick and Morty

In our quick-witted, critical 21st century culture, it seems that the satirical comedy may have become stale and redundant. With shows such as South Park almost monopolising the genre, it's hard to imagine the success of others that endeavour to replicate its effect. This is just one reason why Rick and Morty, an Adult Swim comedy produced by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, has become so popular. With its rapidly growing fan-base, this unique brand of humour has arguably paved the way for existential science fiction satire.

In order to understand its success, one has to acknowledge the various levels that it provides. On the surface lies a landscape of fart jokes and toilet humour, appealing to our more juvenile side; this level loosens up the audience ahead of the dry, somewhat mind-blowing themes that await. With a crafty nod to the intellectual layers that accompany comedies like The Simpsons, Rick and Morty parades itself, almost ironically, as unintelligent fun. However, with a not-so-subtle wink to our more cynical sides, the series adopts a nihilistic approach, featuring repeated jabs at the crushing pointlessness of human endeavour. Unlike South Park, which satirises contemporary culture and societal behaviour, Rick and Morty's sci-fi premise takes a different direction, criticising not only the genre it belongs to, but human behaviour in general. Rick and Morty is, in essence, comedically critical of both ego and id.

Within the series, there are heavy themes of both absurdism and existentialism. In numerous episodes, primary characters are either killed, replaced or live out entire lifespans in a simulated reality, only to repeat the same monotonous adventures the very next week; all with total nonchalance as to the ridiculous proportions in which they live – or don’t live – their lives. Whilst most shows provide their characters with a plot, a task, or something to overcome, Rick and Morty continuously illustrates an eternal struggle with the theoretical other and with our own lifelong pointlessness.

Abundant with philosophical themes, science fiction references and challenging concepts, there is simply nothing thoughtless or lazy about this show. It offers an almost poignant comedic timing and a humour that appeals to the more whimsical side of us, and despite its lofty intellectual substance, what makes the show so irrefutably funny is just how grounded it is. It encourages its viewers to seriously think, whilst, sometimes painfully, bringing us back to earth again. Much like the comedically cliché spaceship piloted by the show's protagonist, Rick, this show transports its viewer from their humble beginnings, through a cosmic, philosophical performance, only to touch down again, allowing contemplation whilst the proverbial dust settles.

Finally, beneath the crude comedy and quick wit, further enveloped in layers of philosophical wonder, there is an emotionally engaging narrative. The concept of a dysfunctional family has been illustrated as a humorous device throughout numerous sitcoms and cartoons, and Rick and Morty certainly follows this framework. However, it does so whilst simultaneously acknowledging and illuminating the damaging reality that surrounds them. With its intriguing plot-lines and far-out themes, the show maintains with impressive integrity a focus on human issues within a community as well as individually. This creates an empathetic environment allowing its viewers to not only engage, but totally immerse themselves, within the narrative. Conclusively, Rick and Morty is a truly unique specimen of comedy, without being niche. Providing a thought-provoking framework for both the impressionable generations and the more experienced, this is a series that simply should not be underestimated.

 

Written by Jennifer Richards


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