Absurdism, as a philosophy and artistic movement, is about humanity’s inability to find meaning in our strange, chaotic universe. Instead, we seek to embrace the bizarre, finding comfort in the things that exist outside of our reality. Given the state of the world right now, is it any wonder we might need that?
Here’s a list of several shows that embrace the absurd, reveling in their own ridiculousness instead of trying to be grounded. It could be through the art, storytelling, or both—but no matter what, it’s guaranteed to help you escape this mortal coil for 22 blissful minutes at a time, delighting in everything weird, unsettling, and wacky.
Sentient bricks, rats and cockroaches making out, an entire street of people having a simultaneous orgasm.
DC Universe’s HBO Max’s Doom Patrol isn’t afraid to draw from the weirdest regions of its comic book origins to tell a wild story that’s also relatable. The absurdism running rampant in Doom Patrol makes it feel like one of the most realistic superhero shows out there, because it understands that comic book shows and films are, by their nature, kind of ridiculous. Also: sex ghosts.
Created by Bojack Horseman producer Lisa Hanawalt, Tuca & Bertie took the surrealism of a show about a horse actor and cranked it up to 11. Not only is it a story about anthropomorphic birds living in an apartment together, but it also featured mountains shaped like boobs and a neighbor whose head was a houseplant. Even though the show is a bonafide Where’s Waldo of strange sightings, it told extremely poignant stories of systemic discrimination, anxiety, and coping with a history of sexual assault. Netflix canceled the show after one season, but luckily the birds will fly again next year on Adult Swim.
If you told me the show about a fake Doctor Who (starring an actor from Doctor Who) who traveled through time to stop the man who murdered his wife and child would one day become the most ridiculous show on the CW, I would’ve told you to go home and sleep it off. But alas, that’s exactly what’s happened. Legends of Tomorrow has grown to embrace its own silliness, with the fate of the world hinging on a group of misfits who constantly jeopardize the spacetime continuum and transform into giant stuffed animals that hug demons to death.
Look, this is a show that caused thousands of people to wait in line at McDonald’s for Szechuan Sauce. If that doesn’t make it the most absurd thing on television, I don’t know what else to tell you.
One of the best places to look for absurdism on television is children’s shows. This goes all the way back to the days of Rocko’s Modern Life and Aaahh! Real Monsters, among so many others. Nowadays, we’ve got shows like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls giving us an escape from reality, but the one that really took up that classic ‘90s mantle is Adventure Time. It’s about a boy and his adoptive brother, who also happens to be a dog that can change his size and shape at will. Together, they venture through the Land of Ooo—courting royalty and hanging out with a pseudo-Gameboy that was so popular he got his own spinoff movie.
The afterlife can sure be a chaotic place, huh? The Good Place was a series that took four characters, who could be classified as the Four Temperaments, and put them in a world of livable chaos—run by a demon (Ted Danson) who was keen on torturing them for eternity with the absurdity of everyday obstacles. It was about Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and her companions finding themselves in the philosophical embodiment of “the Absurd” to find purpose again, meaning the good in themselves and each other.
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