Smiling Friends: A Refreshing Comedy


Adult Swim and HBO Max

“The Renaissance Men are coming to town really soon,” said Charlie (Center Left) from Episode 7 of Smiling Friends.

Samuel Pappas, Lifestyle Editor

In the decades since The Simpsons took over television, the status quo of adult animation slowly became more and more cynical. Family Guy’s popularity exploded, South Park made every offensive joke possible and weathered the storm of cancel culture, and Rick and Morty took things to the most logical conclusion, in a cartoon universe where nothing matters and versions of the main characters from alternate dimensions regularly die in gruesome and downright cruel ways. 

Nothing matters. Everyone dies, and characters who attempt to change this, for better or worse, become the butt of the joke in every episode. 

Is it funny? Yeah, I think so. I still get a laugh out of Rick and Morty. 

But has not caring become the norm? Has indifference become the default response to every good and bad thing?  

Smiling Friends is the remedy to this problem. Eight episodes, eleven minutes each, are produced by Adult Swim and watchable on HBO MAX, which all CCSU students get to watch for free. 

The series follows the misadventures of the Smiling Friends Charlie and Pim, whose mission is to make people smile. The general vibe of the series reminds me of the Regular Show or Adventure Time, where things are so unpredictable you never know how an episode will end. 

Much of the comedy contrasts the colorful and bizarre characters and the unique conversational dialog, reminiscent of older, more obscure Adult Swim shows like Home Movies. 

“These crazy colorful weird, looking characters… They’re real: that’s the joke,” said Zach Hadel, co-creator of Smiling Friends on The Create Unknown podcast. “They blink, and they have heart problems and ADD… These characters don’t hit a wall and flatten out.” 

While Pim may be enthusiastic and Charlie can be a bit of a pessimist, sometimes, both characters slide between exaggerated and relatable moments without feeling like they’re breaking character. There are moments of crudeness and violence and good-natured jokes that make the edgier moments feel earned. Smiling Friends’ absence of malice or cynicism in any of its episodes makes it refreshing. 

“The show’s point was just not to make anybody even think… The show doesn’t think it’s making a statement…the show isn’t trying to change the world. It’s just trying to be funny.” Hadel said. 

Zach Hadel, better known by his internet alias “Psychicpebbles,” worked with friend and fellow Newgrounds animator Micheal Cusack to create Smiling Friends. Cusack and Hadel’s creative energy and chemistry flow endlessly in their vocal performances as main characters Pim and Charlie, respectively. The two revealed much of their dialog was improvised as they worked through each scene and figured out what direction they wanted to take each episode as it was produced. 

The show also delves into some surprisingly poignant moments that rock back-and-forth from comedy, horror, uplifting slice-of-life, and back to comedy in ten minutes. 

Smiling Friends isn’t a genius series that will make you reevaluate animated media or change your views, but at less than 90 minutes to watch the entire show, something is sure to make you smile.