The best kid shows are the ones that are also fun for adults to watch, so that supervising parents won't be bored out of their minds.
That's why cartoons in the early 1990s started to include pop culture references that kids wouldn't recognize but parents would find funny. They also occasionally snuck a few jokes past stringent network censors, turning adult heads and earning a few snickers.
Over the years, many kids shows have experimented with boundaries, pushing against censorship to see how far they could take the humor of a kids show. Turns out, they could take it pretty far!
Here are my favorite instances of adult jokes in kids shows that infamously made it past censors and will remain memorable forever.
5. Asking Dot to "Finger Prince" (Animaniacs)
Putting the Warner siblings—Yakko, Wakko, and Dot—in a detective story was bound to rouse chaos, but nothing tops this hilarious moment from the classic Animaniacs episode.
In "Hercule Yakko," the siblings search a crime scene for clues. Yakko sets Dot on a quest to "dust for prints" while he interrogates the victims. A brief musical number later, Dot claims she has "found Prince" and holds up an animated rendition of the Purple One.
When Yakko clarifies that he wanted "fingerprints," Dot makes a flippant remark that no way was that happening.
What makes this bit beautiful is that it's clearly the writers pushing the envelope to see what they can get away with.
The initial gag is a simple pun that would've amused parents of the era, and the added line by Dot should've been caught and cut in editing—which makes its presence all the more delightful.
4. Rocko Gets a New Job (Rocko's Modern Life)
We've all been between jobs before. In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Canned," our favorite animated wallaby loses his job at the comic book store and has to search the personal ads.
He finds a job as a specialist phone operator and we're treated to a clip of him on the job, giving the driest rendition of dirty talk we've ever heard.
If that wasn't enough to clue you in to what kind of job Rocko is holding, the signs in the background encouraging Rocko to "Be Hot. Be Naughty. Be Courteous." should clarify things: he's working on a phone sex line.
It's a "blink and you'll miss it" cutaway gag that kids wouldn't understand but grown-ups certainly would. It's so blatant that you almost wonder if you heard it right the first time.
3. The Flash's Dating Troubles (Justice League)
Justice League is one of the best DC cartoons ever made, striking a great balance between action and humor.
In the episode "Injustice for All," the team is on the Watchtower while Flash brags about how fast he put out a fire. After boasting that he's the Fastest Man Alive for the 100th time that day, Hawkgirl remarks that that's probably why he can't get a date.
The shade of this line is incredible and delivered with such force that you know Hawkgirl has been sitting on that one for a while, waiting for the perfect moment when Flash makes that predictable comment.
This dig at the superhero's prowess in bed wasn't subtle, but it wasn't explicit enough for the censors to kick it back, resulting in this wonderful exchange between the two characters.
2. Gary Walks In on SpongeBob (SpongeBob SquarePants)
Here's a joke that's certainly a relic of its time. The internet has transformed how we consume adult films, so younger viewers might not understand SpongeBob's panic as his pet snail Gary slides into view.
Older fans know that there's only one reason why he would be so afraid of being seen watching that nature film.
The best part of this joke is how it plays with the aquatic world in which SpongeBob lives. He's caught watching a video of a real-life sponge doing whatever it is that sponges do—and he's clearly fixated on it.
It's a strange bit of meta-humor in a show that isn't known for it, but when he claims he was just looking for the sports, there isn't much question about what he was looking at.
1. Chicks Galore (Ed, Edd, n Eddy)
Even in the world of Ed, Edd, n Eddy, Big Ed is a weird one. His obsession with buttered toast and gravy permeates the dialogue between the three main boys, but it's his affection for chickens that brings us to this absurdist twist on adult humor.
While searching Ed's room, Eddy finds a magazine titled Chicks Galore, which is—to his disappointment—just pictures of baby chickens.
Everything about this setup makes you think it's going to be adult entertainment: the whistle when the magazine is discovered, the zipper sound effect when it's picked up, Eddy's excited laugh as he opens the unexpectedly sticky pages.
It all screams that this is a dirty magazine and we're all left scratching our heads when it turns out it isn't. The absurdity of the humor probably helped it slip past the Cartoon Network censors at the time.