Nick Kroll On Figuring Out Adulthood, ‘Big Mouth,’ And His New Stand-Up Special

Nick Kroll‘s focus on childhood and adolescence has been central to the success and expanding universe of Big Mouth (which just returned for its 6th season after the debut of its spinoff, Human Resources). But in his recently released Netflix stand-up special, Little Big Boy, the focus expands to ponder matters related to his own child in addition to personal analogies and jokes about love, heartbreak, moms, snacking, and hypnosis, among other things.

It’s a mix that speaks to the life changes going on in Kroll’s life over the last couple of years after getting married and having a kid, and why our first question when we spoke with him recently was a check-in on the state of his arrested development. Kroll is upfront about being an in-progress adult. He’s also candid in explaining the nuanced approach to whether he wants future standup material to weave in stories about his wife and child, people who aren’t on stage with him, while also giving his thoughts on when people should show their kids Big Mouth, his favorite Mel Brooks films, and what it’s like to give notes to the legend while working together on the History Of The World Part 1 sequel.
Where are you on the sort of journey toward adulthood right now?

I mean, I think I’m further along in that journey than I was when I started the special. I started it in 2019, but a bunch of the material is much older than that. And then obviously with the lockdown, I then got married and had a baby, and I’ve taken on obviously more adult responsibilities. Theoretically, we become adults at 21 or 18, but I think most of us spend a lifetime actually trying to figure out how to be an adult, and I feel like I’m still very much on that journey.

Getting married and having a kid, these things are starting to play into your material. Is that something that you welcome? Are you looking forward to exploring that more?

It’s weird when you’re doing standup, so much of it is about your life. But your partner, your child, they’re not up on stage with you, and the child truly has made no choices about being involved in your material. So it’s something that I’m going to have to figure out going forward. I think it’s an ongoing conversation with my family about how and what I share, and what the material becomes.

Have you been on the road since your son was born? Are you starting to make decisions about your career based on having a kid?

I haven’t really been on the road much. A few weekends here and there. And I’m not sure, it does really change. Having a family really changes every decision you make professionally because you have other people to consider and take into account. And so I have to now figure out what that means. Definitely, conversations that have to have happened when I was a younger single man, I didn’t have to have those conversations. I could just take jobs or not. But the joy and benefit of that, of having a family so outweighs those conversations.

In terms of Big Mouth, do you have it planned out how far you want to take this? Are you thinking past adolescence at any point with this? I know you popped up in an episode last season, is that something you want to do again?

I don’t know if I’ll come back. That was a great idea from my partners. I would never pitch that, to be like, “Hey, you know what would be awesome? If a live-action me was on the show.” But my partners, Mark and Jen and Andrew and I, and our writers, I think we have we have innumerable stories to tell because puberty and sexual development and just being a teen have provided so much material. But ultimately it’s up to Netflix how many stories we tell, how many episodes and how many seasons we do.

How old is your kid going to have to be before you let him see Big Mouth?

Andrew Goldberg’s kids are older than mine. His take, which I think is a smart one and it’s what I tell basically any parents who are like, “When is it okay for my kids to watch?” I say what Andrew said, I repeat which is, when kids are the age of the kids on the show, then I think that’s when I would let my kid watch, I think because kids are going through all that stuff. It would be false to say that the kids who are the age of the kids on the show don’t know how to get access to a lot of content on the internet that is much less responsibly thought about than what we’re putting out, is what I will say.

Do you look at peers and judge yourself versus what they’re doing, are you competitive? Do you look at up-and-coming comics and does that light a fire under you, or is it all just self-contained as far as what’s driving you toward your goals?

I mean, it’s a combo. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sort of keeping tabs on my peers. I mean, slightly competitive, but also inspired by and excited to see what other people are doing, and try to figure out what my version of something is. That said, I also barely watch standup. It’s not fun for me to watch standup. I love comedy, but it’s not relaxing, because all I’m doing is watching like, “Oh, that’s how they did this, the special starts here or the camera work here.” And I also sometimes don’t want to see what other people are doing so that it doesn’t affect what I do.

One thing that’s been announced that I’m personally really excited about is the project with Mel Brooks and History Of The World, which is my favorite Mel Brooks movie. I’m curious what your three favorite Mel Brooks movies are.

Let’s see. I mean, History Of The World was huge for me growing up. Massive. The Producers was my favorite movie for much of my life. Blazing Saddles, is massively important to me, as was, later in life, Young Frankenstein. Those are four movies I would say are in my top 10 movies. The idea that I’m working with Mel Brooks, and specifically working on History Of The World: Part II is something that I barely can fathom as a reality.

Do we get Jews In Space, is that happening?

You’re going to have to tune in to see.

Oh don’t worry, I’ll be tuning in. What’s your favorite part of the film though?

I mean, The Inquisition is unstoppable musical comedy. The jokes, the visuals, it’s so unstoppable. I have so many favorites, but I would say The Inquisition really hits me. And unemployment spelled with a V, Bea Arthur as the unemployment officer.

“You’re a bullshit artist,” yeah.

“Did you bullshit today?”

Have you gotten to the stage yet where you’re kind of batting it around with him? Do you give him feedback? What’s it like to give Mel Brooks a note?

He’s narrating the show, and so I’ve been sort of filling him in about what we need and stuff like that, and it’s crazy to try to give direction to Mel Brooks. But to his credit, first off he’s still so funny it’s crazy. And two, he has been very nicely open to hearing an idea or a suggestion, which is beyond wild.

I think he’s taken direction before. From Sid Ceasar. Same thing right?

Sure. I think that was his last and only boss.

‘Big Moth’ and ‘Little Big Boy’ are both streaming on Netflix