‘Big Mouth’ continues the animated comedy renaissance
Adam Ramos | Tuesday, October 24, 2017
With every new project, Nick Kroll seems to get sharper. The 39-year-old funny man has transcended his “Rodney Ruxin” persona made famous on FX’s hit comedy “The League,” and his latest project may be his best direction to date.
“Big Mouth,” created in conjunction with long-time friend Andrew Goldberg, is Kroll’s first foray into the increasingly popular animated comedy format from both a voiceover and production side. The Netflix original traces the various stages of puberty and adolescence through the lives of five middle school friends residing in the suburbs of New York City, sparing no awkward, raunchy or uncomfortable detail. At the center of the friend group is two best friends, the semi-autobiographical Nick Birch (Kroll), and the painfully awkward and hormone-drunk Andrew Glouberman (Mulaney).
Fresh from their starring roles in the skit-turned-hit-Broadway show, “Oh, Hello on Broadway” Kroll and Mulaney bring an undeniable chemistry to “Big Mouth’s” already funny script. Every dialogue between Nick and Andrew has an air of improvisation, creating the feel of an organic and believable friendship. Kroll and Mulaney’s standout performances says a lot, considering just how impressive the rest of the cast is. Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Jordan Peele, Jason Mantzoukas and Jenny Slate provide each of their characters a distinct comedic appeal. From Rudolph’s hilariously assertive “female hormone monster,” to Armisen’s overbearingly touchy father character, at every corner the show finds new ways to entertain, utilizing the strengths of each of these comedy veterans.
Yet, despite all of this humor, the show really does effectively tackle the true face of puberty. Episodes like “Am I Gay?” and “Girls are Horny Too” genuinely investigate the often taboo areas of growing up in ways that are rarely attempted in the “irreverent comedy” format. Equally admirable, the show is concerned with spending equal energy tackling the feminine and masculine components of puberty; each side given a “hormone monster” — or embodiments of the developing hormones within the minds of the pubescent tweens. These “monsters” (the male voiced by Kroll) are easy sources of comedy, but they also present an interesting take on the effects of hormones on the young mind.
But don’t let the young age of the protagonists discourage you, the show is layered with humor for all most every demographic. Regular characters like the eerily hilarious Ghost of Duke Ellington (Peele) and the admittedly slow gym teacher, Coach Steve (Kroll), seamlessly offer respite from the middle school age group. And while the show certainly caters towards a more modern, social-media savvy audience, it still never shies away from more nuanced references — “Head Push,” a clear standout episode, even features a lengthy Seinfeld parody.
Inevitably, some will find the humor too vulgar. While the show does have a tremendous heart, it often enters territories that will challenge even the most jaded of viewers. Again though, don’t let this caveat scare you off, as “Big Mouth’s” charm, wit and cast provide enough context to justify the raunchiness.
Even at a time where animated comedies have entered into a renaissance period, ushered in by increasingly more thoughtful works like Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” and Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman,” “Big Mouth” is a can’t miss.