You probably do, but don’t want to.
Netflix’s new show, “Big Mouth,” takes one of the most horrific periods of every person’s life and transforms it into a vulgar, honest, and delightful animated series.
On “Big Mouth,” every teen has a “hormone monster” who follows them around and fuels their sexual desires, explaining new body hair and other changes. “Big Mouth” will remind you of some of those terrible memories you’ve probably repressed all these years, but will help you look back on them with some joy rather than pain.
And it has been a hit with critics, snagging a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes to become Netflix’s highest-rated animated show.
Business Insider recently talked to Andrew Goldberg, a former “Family Guy” writer who co-created “Big Mouth” with comedian Nick Kroll (his best friend since childhood), Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin. We talked about what it was like making a semi-autobiographical show about the most awkward period of your life, the freedom of working with Netflix, and an awful moment he had at a bar mitzvah that actually made it onto the show.
Carrie Wittmer: It’s crazy to think that there’s never really been a show or movie that focuses on puberty in this way before. How’d this concept come to life?
Andrew Goldberg: One of the reasons it was interesting to us is like you said, there haven’t really been shows that take a real deep, authentic dive into it [puberty], and certainly not any comedies. And there was a real breakthrough at some point . . Mark and Jen are married and they have a son who at the time was about 12, and was really going through this. And he was saying, “Is there a way to use animation to create a character out of all of the fear and neuroses surrounding puberty?” And I said, “like a hormone monster?” And he said, “Yeah exactly.” And later that day I just I said those words “hormone monster” to Nick [Kroll]. And just immediately he had the voice and really had such a beat on that character. For us, that was a big breakthrough. And then we were quickly like, “Well, there has to be a female hormone monster.” So once we added that and Maya Rudolph, it did really help us hone what the show is about. I’m sorry that was such a long answer.
Wittmer: I love long answers. You addressed this as a joke in one of the episodes, but was it hard for you guys to find a home for the show since it is this gross sexual humour involving kids? Were there ever any points where you felt you were maybe drawing the line?
Goldberg: There was more than one place that wanted it, and we chose Netflix. One of the reasons chose Netflix — and I’m so glad we did — is we anticipated that they give creators freedom to push the envelope. And we were right that they would be the perfect place to let us do a really honest show. The whole first season, there was only one instance where Netflix was like, “You probably shouldn’t do that.” And we were actually 50/50 on it ourselves anyway. So it was very easy to say “OK, you’re right.”
Wittmer: Is it hard for you and the writers to go back and dig deep in this time of your life?
Goldberg: It’s super fun and occasionally it’s torture. But the nice thing about it is our writers room often feels like you’ve sat in a day of therapy. It’s really cathartic because you’re in this group of people — and hopefully people watching the show get the same experience — where you’re reliving these memories that are traumatic or embarrassing or awkward, but you’re getting the feeling that other people have been through it, too.
Wittmer: Did you learn something new about anyone else’s experience with puberty? Like women or even another guy’s experience that you hadn’t thought of before?
Goldberg: Oh yeah. Constantly. Especially with the female-driven episodes. Those were such a learning experience for me. Early on, Jen [Flackett, co-creator] was very focused on giving equal time to girls. And Emily Altman and Kelly Glesca, two of our writers, wrote a lot of those female-centric episodes and were also super helpful. And then Jenny Slate, Jessi Klein, and Maya Rudolph also brought so much to that. Nick and I had a very good friend growing up who later told us that she did in fact get her first period at the Statue of Liberty on a school trip.
Wittmer: How about the “girls are horny” episode?
Goldberg: That was another learning experience just for the men on the staff. The women talked about how much less linear it is what turns them on versus what turns men on, which was really fascinating for us. And then something we didn’t get to in season one that really is something is what it’s like to get breasts. How boys react to you, and how boys react to girls getting harassed, and how other girls react to that girl . . . and kind of doing something like that, with all the female characters in our show. That’s something that we’d like to feature.
Wittmer: When you think about your vision for the rest of the show, will it be like most animated shows where the characters are always the same age? You’re in a unique situation since this show is about kids who are growing up fast, so they kind of have to change, right?
Goldberg: I think we imagine a combination of the two. This show is about changes. They definitely will age. Our plan is to age them up, but not necessarily every year. I don’t feel like we’ve finished all our seventh grade stories yet.
Wittmer: Is there anything else puberty-related, besides women growing breasts, that you want to cover in upcoming seasons?
Goldberg: We have a big bulletin board of puberty ideas that I’m even looking at right now. Like, odor is something that we didn’t get in this season. Like, some sort of hygiene episode. That’s definitely on the horizon. One of the nice things about doing a show about this time of life is that it is so fraught with dramatic and comedic issues that it feels like we have a lot more to mine.
Wittmer: And it’s such a short time. Only a couple of years. This show made me really think about how much happened during puberty for the first time. So much happens.
Goldberg: It’s a wild time of life. And it’s tough. Everything feels so important in the moment. What drama, packed into just a couple years.
Wittmer: The characters are loosely based off yourself and Nick [Kroll]. What things in the show are things that actually happened to you guys?
Goldberg: I did in fact c— in my pants at a bar mitzvah. So that was based on reality. My mother was very upset because she was upset that I didn’t come to her afterwards and tell her that. And we actually did have a friend who used to f— his pillow. That was one that I was mesmerised by in real life. And like I said our good friend had her first period at the Statue of Liberty. A lot a lot of it is exaggerations and embellishment of stuff that that really did happen to us.
Here is the trailer for “Big Mouth,” which is available to stream on Netflix:
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