Remember middle school? Those integral years when everything was so painfully awkward and each day felt like a small uphill battle? Or have you buried those memories so deep inside the recesses of your brain that all that's left are foggy images of Aéropostale T-shirts and iPod shuffles? If memories of adolescence still haunt the corners of your mind, Nick Kroll will surely drudge them up to the surface with his newest Netflix cartoon series.
Big Mouth is an animated sitcom created by Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett. The Netflix series is only 10 episodes long, and is loosely based on Kroll and Goldberg's collective experiences growing up in a New York suburb.
Not only was the show created by some famed comedy savants, it features the voices of too many others to count. They include John Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, Jordan Peele, Paula Pell, Andrew Rannells, Kristen Bell, Chelsea Peretti, Kristen Wiig, Nasim Pedrad, Jon Hamm, Jack McBrayer and so many more. I won't bore you with all the names. Just trust me, it's a lot.
The series follows Nick Birch and Andrew Glouberman, voiced by Kroll and Mulaney, respectively. The two boys have just begun to navigate the horrific battlefield that is puberty, and largely must rely on each other to provide humor and solace when faced with the awkward realities of their changing bodies and minds. They're surrounded by a diverse cast of characters, ranging from school pals to parents to an absent-minded gym teacher to the ghost of Duke Ellington himself.
What's great about Big Mouth is that its subject matter is so universal yet so rarely dealt with. Big Mouth is like seventh-grade health class on ecstasy, finding humor in the dirty secrets everyone keeps while dealing with growth-related changes, and portraying these scenarios in ways that are painfully relatable.
Big Mouth also does a great job of giving its female characters space to live out their own middle school struggles. Jessi Glaser, the show's female lead, has a narrative that runs parallel to those of Nick and Andrew. The series details the humor and struggle involved in Jessi experiencing the beginnings of female sexuality, a theme that is rarely covered realistically anywhere in television, let alone in cartoons.
The show even characterizes pubescence in a funny and fresh way. Male and female hormone monsters, huge horned hairy beasts that guide the teens along the ins and outs of puberty, allow the characters not only to grapple with their changing psyches but also to literally speak with an exaggerated version of them.
Big Mouth is an animated comedy that brings something new to the table. Shows like Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman have proven that animation can be both funny and poignant, and Big Mouth, with its joke-heavy script and subject matter teeming with taboo, fits right in.