Big Mouth, a new animated comedy on Netflix that premiered Sept. 29, takes a look at one of the most terrifying stages every person's life — one that no one really seems to talk about. Big Mouth's creators used a true story to inspire the show, which is the story of their own lifelong friendship. Because despite the fact that every adult on Earth has through puberty at some point, puberty itself is a very taboo subject.
Nick Kroll, co-creator and star of Big Mouth, tells Bustle over the phone that the show "is over 30 years in the making." Kroll and co-creator Andrew Goldberg first met in grade school, and decades later are collaborating on a show about their childhood. "We became best friends by middle school and have stayed closed ever since," Kroll says. Since their high school days, Kroll has been seen on Comedy Central's The Kroll Show and on Broadway in Oh, Hello, among many other things, and Goldberg worked as a writer on Family Guy. Eventually, the two were approached to co-write a series based on their experiences growing up, and they decided to base story around their two very different experiences with puberty.
"Andrew was a very early bloomer, some could say he was ravaged by puberty," Kroll says. The real Goldberg serves as the basis for Andrew Glouberman, played by Kroll's Oh, Hello co-star John Mulaney. Kroll plays a Nick Birch, a fictionalized version of his teenage self who has the opposite response to puberty. Kroll explains, "I, on the other hand was a very late bloomer. What was scary, in my case, is that it wasn’t happening to me." The difference between Andrew and Nick's relationship with puberty serves as the cornerstone of the series, but the show focuses on much more than just these two boys.
"It is important us to show that it’s not just boys going through puberty," says Kroll. The characters based on the creative forces behind the show share focus with Jessi, a girl who is having a much different puberty experience than her male peers. Kroll credits another co-creator, Jennifer Flackett, with being an invaluable resource as a mother of a girl who just graduated high school and a son who is just starting it. Her voice helped ensure that both sides of the puberty spectrum were covered, "She has had her own experience and also been the mother on the parenting side of that. It was important to us to explore both sides of it — It’s all fascinating and all so rich," he says.
When pondering real-life inspirations for the series, Kroll mentions one episode in particular when Jessi, played by Jessi Klein, gets her period for the first time while on a field trip to the Statue of Liberty. "That actually happened to our friend," Kroll remembers. By using real life stories to inform Big Mouth, Kroll hopes that it will allow others for be more open about their own experiences with puberty. "Because [puberty] seems gross or however people describe it, it becomes something that people are afraid to talk about and address and because of that kids feels unbelievably alone going through it," he says.
Kroll and Goldberg are using Big Mouth to tell stories inspired by their own experiences with puberty, but hope that the show speaks to everyone who feels embarrassed about their own. "Our show is an attempt to demystify all of that stuff and make you realize that everybody’s going through it. You are normal and what is happening to you and your body and your emotions is normal," he says.
While real life doesn't feature hormone monsters or talking vaginas, Kroll and the show's other writers hope that Big Mouth can help make real puberty seem a lot less scary.