Scholars of popular geopolitics ponder how and why cultural media become important commentaries on real-world events. Cultural geographers are wrestling with technology that mediates the experience of consuming popular culture. I bring these two literatures into dialogue by explaining how audiences and animators of the popular animated cartoon Archer are linked. I begin by outlining the cultural materiality of the animated cartoon through an assemblage-based framework where Archer’s political satire emerges from the relationship between writers, audiences, animators and nonhuman animation technologies. Second, I use this framework to analyse how Archer responded to a real-world event: the rise of the Islamic State in 2014. I show how fans interpreted this decision and conclude that the geopolitical meaning of satirical cartoons – and their ability to resonate and affect audiences – should be understood as a socio-material effect that is emergent, unpredictable and relational.