If you’ve seen Big Mouth, then its appeal isn’t a mystery, but actress Jenny Slate pretty much hit the nail on the head when I spoke with her, series co-creator Nick Kroll, and actress Jessi Klein about the just-released second season of the show. “A lot of us, I think, have really direct connections to what these experiences are,” Slate said, adding, “for me, going into season two, it was nice to know that I could be as earnest as I was wild.”
That relatability and that mix are all supercharged going into this new season, and in the interview that follows, Slate, Kroll, and Klein go into detail on the show’s evolution, one of the season’s most unique episodes, and pushing both their own and the audience’s boundaries.
The Planned Parenthood episode could be shown in schools. Letters would come, but did you set out to make a show that had a kind of extra value? I don’t want to say it’s educational, but it’s definitely informative for kids. Even though it’s not a kid’s show.
Jessi Klein: The number of people, strangers, who gush about this show to me, but specifically tell me that they’re watching it with their kids, is remarkable. That they’re watching it with their 12-year-old or 13-year-old or upward. I couldn’t have watched this show with my parents, but it’s a different time. The facts seem to be speaking for themselves to me, in terms of how people say they’re watching it. I think it’s really useful to have something funny that can make everybody laugh, and that’s [also] the entry point for everyone into topics that can be really difficult. I think any time you can lighten them up, as the way in for people, it helps the conversation.
Nick Kroll: I think our intention, first and foremost, is to be funny. And if there are messages that come out of the stories that we tell, then that’s like a huge bonus. And we’re very aware of the messages that we could be sending if there are kids or younger folks watching the show. As far as the Planned Parenthood episode goes, to be honest, this woman, Sue Dunlap, who works for the Planned Parenthood Los Angeles — I believe she’s the CEO — she basically came to a bunch of different writers and producers and said, “It’s wonderful that you guys give money to Planned Parenthood, but it would be really amazing if you guys could tell some stories involving Planned Parenthood.” And we took that as the opportunity to tell stories and figure out what those stories would be around Planned Parenthood, eventually settling on a real kind of, a change in narrative structure from what we normally do with the show in that it’s these five vignettes. And we realized that it would be super fun and exciting to tell a different kind of story and tell five different versions of stories of the different services that Planned Parenthood offered. So, for any number of reasons, it was a real fun departure for us.
I think the show has focussed more on the girl’s side of the story from the end of season one going into season two. Would you agree and was that part of the plan or is it just something that evolved?
Klein: I definitely was really happy with everything that they had installed for Jessi in terms of the journey that she’s on, in balancing out the vibe of the show with getting to see a girl who’s going through stuff that has as much depth and prickly corners to it as the stuff that the guys are dealing with.
Jenny Slate: When you’re talking about puberty and development, in general, there are just sort of limited avenues for what the female experience is and how that is described. And I really enjoy that this show has just given wider margins.
It makes the show that much more impactful.
Slate: Yeah, I think we need it. And it’s also really exciting that that happens through comedy because another thing I think about stories about women or girls and stories about puberty, reproductive justice, whatever, are… because those narratives are so underserved, they’re usually done in more serious venues. This, to me, is something I’m attracted to that it’s like, yeah, these stories belong everywhere just like men’s stories belong everywhere.
Was that a planned evolution?
Kroll: Even though the seed of this show was the relationship with two boys who were at different stages of puberty, the idea was always to tell equal sides both boys and girls, stories of puberty. And it’s something that, over time, and as more real estate became available in the show… as you’re establishing the show, these two best friends were both boys, then as you sort of introduced these other characters (both boys and girls and men and women) that it would give more space and breathing room to tell different kinds of stories. And that was always our intention and always something that we felt was missing… in very crass terms, missing in the marketplace. And I think it’s been very gratifying. Like, I hear from women all the time, “I thought this was gonna be a show about boys jerking off and I wasn’t interested. And then my friend made me watch it and I realized this is as much about my experience as anyone else’s.”