It’s not easy to describe Big Mouth. Every time you think you have it nailed down, there’s another little stray issue bouncing away from you. Let’s try anyway.
Big Mouth is an animated Netflix series from real-life childhood friends Andrew Goldberg and Nick Kroll. It focuses on two middle school students named Nick (voiced by Kroll) and Andrew (voiced by John Mulaney) and how puberty throws chaos into their lives and the lives of their friend circle, for boys and girls, equally. The first season was funny and sweet. And filthy. Dear God, was it filthy. Each major character gets a hormone monster. The hormone monsters guide them through puberty and put awful ideas in their heads and, at the end of season one, Andrew’s hormone monster, Maury (also voiced by Kroll), decapitated Garrison Keillor and defiled his disembodied head and also there were songs and the Ghost of Duke Ellington shows up and…
See what I mean? This is why, when people ask me about Big Mouth, I usually just say “It’s good. You should watch it… with your headphones in.” Again, it is super filthy. But really, honestly sweet. And so funny. And… okay, I’m about to careen off the rails again. You get it. Let’s get to season two.
Season two of Big Mouth is relentlessly funny. It is probably the funniest show I’ve seen this year. The jokes are big and small and dumb and smart. Coach Steve (also voiced by Kroll) gets the spotlight for a bit and it is awesome. There are more songs. There are kind of a lot of songs, which is not a complaint at all, not even a little, especially since one of them is an “I Will Survive”-esque anthem about female body positivity sung by Maya Rudolph, in character as the female hormone monster, and she really goes for it. She really goes for it. And that’s not even her most “going for it” moment. She gets a lot of work in while the girl she’s assigned to, Jessi (Jessi Klein), hits a rebellious streak. She should win an Emmy just for her pronunciation of “bubble bath.” Maya Rudolph is the greatest.
(An important note: Every voice actor on this show really goes for it. It’s delightful. Kroll as a bunch of other characters, Mulaney as perpetually embarrassed Andrew, Jordan Peele as the aforementioned Ghost of Duke Ellington, Jenny Slate as the naive but secretly wise Missy, Jason Mantzoukas as a pillow-humping maniac. It’s like a Who’s Who of your favorite comedy figures. Half the fun is figuring out who is doing some of the voices. You know you’re watching a good show when you excitedly proclaim “Hey, that pubic hair is Jack McBrayer!”)
The show is more than just jokes, though. It’s also the most honest portrayal of puberty and hormone-ravaged early teens on television. The first season was mostly about hard-charging libidos. This season introduces the flip side of that coin, shame, as physically embodied by an evil wizard voiced by David Thewlis, who takes all those awkward teen moments and gives them the darkest possible spin. Your skin might crawl a little here and there, less because the humor is cringe-y than because the things the characters experience are so accurate and universal that you’ll feel those feelings all over again.
I would say it’s the perfect show for parents to watch with their kids because it’s weirdly educational — there’s a Planned Parenthood episode this season that is as helpful as it is funny — and it explains difficult emotions really well. But again, just super filthy. Semen everywhere and extensive cartoon nudity. And awkward. A new female character (voiced by Gina Rodriguez) develops breasts and it throws all the other boys and girls into deviant/gossipy chaos. Maybe you and your kids should just watch it separately and absorb the lessons to appreciate the difficulty of navigating that stage of life and then never, ever talk about it. Up to you.
In a way, the show works as a companion piece to Netflix’s other big teen-centered comedy, American Vandal. That show also covers the teenage experience and uses juvenile humor as the entry point to its more serious commentary. But while that show is more of a 16-18 “on the cusp of becoming an adult” show, Big Mouth is more of a 13-15 “no longer just a kid” show. It’s also a little like BoJack Horseman, in that it’s a star-studded animated comedy that hops back and forth from silly to serious at will. And it’s kind of like a Hard-R version of The Wonder Years crossed with, like, Monsters, Inc. And it’s also like…
Dammit. I knew this would go off the rails again. What I’m saying it that Big Mouth remains good. And sweet. And funny. And so very filthy. One of the hormone monsters, a mangled abomination named Rick who means very well but gives awful advice and is my absolute favorite character on the show, attempts to teach one of the boys to masturbate by telling him to “grind that pepper” while making a twisting motion with his hands. I cringed and laughed when it happened and I just cringed and laughed thinking about it again now.
Big Mouth is a very good show. Just watch it.
Season two of ‘Big Mouth’ debuts Friday, October 5th on Netflix.