Being on cable has its perks. Debuting in the early days of Cartoon Network's original programming, Dexter's Laboratory was afforded creative freedom that was less common on major networks. In particular, Dexter's adventures had an animation style that still holds influence in today's cartoons. Maybe most importantly, the kid genius' odd accent is probably still helping kids spell out "lab-or-a-tory" correctly to this day.
That said, not being on broadcast television was probably a big help to the creators when it came to sneaking by some risque jokes. Sometimes these gags were literally encoded, as was the case in the episode where Dexter and his sister DeeDee both get decoder rings.
If you're rusty on your word scrambling skills, DeeDee is pretty clearly telling Dexter that he and his rival decoder club are a bunch of D-I-C-K-S. Dexter's threat of parental intervention is the exact kind of thing a little brother would say if his big sis just called him a penis.These kinds of dirty jokes are often subtly signaled by these kinds of pointed reactions after the fact, placed as a way of the creators saying "Yes, we totally said what you think we said."
A good rule of thumb for finding an inappropriate gag in a kids cartoon: If you spot one, there's probably more where that came from.
Later in the exact same decoder ring episode, DeeDee is at a tattoo parlor (long story). On the wall of sample tats, you can clearly see a hand giving a middle finger; a product of a sly background artist, to be sure. The rude easter egg is so blatant that it's actually edited out of the episode on Hulu.
There are plenty more of these in-jokes if you know where to look.
In the episode "Eww That's Growth," the family travels to a theme park to ride a roller coaster. We get a quick shot of the line, which has an array of weirdly-shaped people you were never meant to actually examine. But pause at the right moment and you can clearly see one park-goer ogling the ample bosoms of the woman in line behind him (dead center in the frame above). You might reasonably brush this off as a quirk of rushed animation, that it only happens to look like there's a perv taking some mental snapshots... but look at the other people in line. Their pupils are all ambiguously centered, and our man is the only one who appears to be actually focusing on something. Or somethings.
The creative team got even more brazen for the movie "Ego Trip," which introduces Dexter's parents like this:
Nobody needs the joke spelled out for them here, but here it is anyway: Dad's right hand is no where near the green circle, and he should be disqualified. Hard to believe they got away with such a blatant lie in a kids show, huh?
Everyone knows that Nickelodeon cartoons from the 1990s were chock-full of "adult" humor. If you've been on the internet for any length of time, you've seen dirty jokes from the usual suspects: Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Ren and Stimpy, Rocko's Modern Life, Spongebob, etc. It's not like Granpa Pickles renting Lonely Space Vixens isn't funny -- it's just not new anymore.
But just because you might have moved on when you got older, that doesn't mean Nicktoons have ceased their vulgar tomfoolery machine. The Fairly Oddparents is a show known for a flagrant masturbation joke, but that was so last decade. The show has continued on since then, and has gotten even more daring.
Yes, that is a super-timely one-liner about a scout leader being percieved as gay and therefore dangerous around kids. This episode was made in 2013, but boy, suddenly it feels like the 90s again!
Just a few minutes later, Mr. Turner spouts something that doesn't need the context of the Clinton Administration.
It would probably be funnier if dad didn't sound like he was recalling a traumatic sexual assault.
But hey, what about boobs? People like those. People like Jimmy Neutron's nerdy friend, Carl.
Again, note the reaction shots here. Those are faces that know that Carl just confessed that he constantly dreams about Jimmy's mom's mom-boobs and did a sorry job of covering it up.
The same Rule of Reaction applies to a joke with Jimmy's mom herself, after she and her husband regain consciousness while tied up.
The knowing smirk on dad's face says it all.
But neither of these shows come close to the insanity of Sanjay and Craig. The show about a boy and his snake not a universal favorite like Spongebob Squarepants, in part because it's even more off-the-wall than a restaurant called the Krusty Crab in a town called Bikini Bottom. But because the series is something of a cult favorite compared to the other giants of Nicktoons, that means a Sanjay and Craig has gotten away with an unbelievable amount of dirty stuff in a show that the TV ratings board says is good enough for seven-year-olds.
Scores of sketchy background details can be seen in the show's heavily-featured video game emporium, the Frycade. The made-up arcade games are chock-full of double entendres, like Fire Universeity (aka F.U.) or Buns With the Runs, which we imagine plays something like BurgerTime plus uncontrollable diarrhea. Pictured above on the left you can even see the very suggestive "Pickle Sword," a game that is undoubtedly a reference to what UrbanDictionary would call swordfighting. Remember those pickles -- they'll come into play later.
The most important game here is the one we've so cannily pointed out with an insulting red circle. The mascot of "Come At Me, Bro!" looks shockingly familiar.
Ah yes, Dickbutt, the mischevious creature shaped like penis with another smaller penis coming out of his butt-shaped testicles. This literal cockgoblin has become an Embassador of the Internet, ruining GIFs across the web. It would be something of a shock to see Dickbutt on an PG-13ish show like Family Guy, much less in a cartoon scheduled between Scooby Doo reruns.
Yet, in the exact same episode ("Serpentco"), Dickbutt rears his heads again.
Can't see it? Let's zoom in a bit.
Yep, that's our good friend Dickbutt once again, this time with what looks like a pickle for a butt. Even more disturbing is the taped-up glory hole, complete with bloodstain. Again, the TV classification board cleared this show for first-graders.
It gets even more bonkers. Check out the background from this scene in the episode "Ting."
We already know that cartoon backgrounds are a smut goldmine, and this is no different. Let's examine the hieroglyphics on the bottom right.
So we have a pickle, which we have already seen Sanjay and Craig use as a stand-in for a penis (multiple times). Then there's the "finger in hole" hand signals, the universal gesture for sex. Then there's the cat, which at this point we can be pretty confident in calling a "pussy." Put it all together in order and you get "Dick Fucks Pussy." Or, since the show has demonstrated a fondness for memes, maybe "Fuck Her Right in the Pussy."
These hieroglyphics are basically using emojis to sext an audience of children. I'm not sure if the person who did this should be high-fived or placed on a list somewhere.