How do you make an episode of Netflix's Big Mouth about Planned Parenthood that, as Coach Steve suggests, is "entertaining and informative, but also not too preachy"? According to co-creator Jennifer Flackett, you focus on the facts first and worry about the jokes later, always knowing they'll have to be really good to pull this balancing act off. "I do think if [the episode] felt like, 'Here's your vegetables,' then that's no good," Flackett tells Bustle. "If it's not funny, that's a fail."
Luckily, Big Mouth's episode about Planned Parenthood in Season 2 doesn't just serve you vegetables. Instead, it finds humor in some of the most cringeworthy aspects of sex ed without ignoring the actual educational parts of it. Watching the fifth episode of Season 2, viewers — some of whom are not that much older than Big Mouth's puberty-stricken tween characters — will laugh, but they'll also understand exactly what it is Planned Parenthood does. And despite what Jay Bilzerian says, the organization does so much more than provide access to abortion services.
Obviously, Planned Parenthood does that, too, and the episode touches on that in a heartwarming and hilarious segment set to, of all things, Deee-Lite's "Groove Is In The Heart." "I remember spending a significant amount of time talking about the slide whistle in that song and how silly it would be to imagine somebody playing that particular part," Emily Altman, who wrote the episode, tells Bustle.
Altman, who interned at Planned Parenthood when she was 15, says the 1990 song was essential to the dialogue-free sketch in which Andrew's mom Barbara chooses to have an abortion after a one-night stand with the band's slide whistle player. "I guess I just love that slide whistle man," she says laughing.
But Big Mouth wanted to do more than prove "Groove Is In The Heart" is still a bop after all these years. (Which it is and it does.) It wanted to show why for the last 100 years Planned Parenthood has been the go-to source of information and education on reproductive and sexual health. "For a huge amount of women in America, that’s where they get their health care," Flackett says. To be more specific, Planned Parenthood reports that they provide 5.4 million people worldwide every year with sexual and reproductive health care, education, and outreach. "We’d really like to amplify that," she continues, "because I think that so gets lost in the shuffle."
In fact, it was a comment from Sue Dunlap, the head of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, that inspired the episode. After the 2016 election, Flackett went to a meeting with her husband Mark Levin — who also helped create Big Mouth alongside Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg — at which Dunlap was speaking. It was one of those "'Oh my god, what’s going to happen now?'" kind of meetings, Flackett says, where so many in attendance were worried about the future of Planned Parenthood since the Trump administration has long vowed to defund the organization.
Dunlap's biggest concern was that many people didn't know about the other services Planned Parenthood provides beyond abortions, and she wanted to tell those stories. too. So, that's what Big Mouth did, creating an episode that is basically one of those "I Went To Planned Parenthood And All I Got Was" tote bags come to life. While Flackett says Planned Parenthood did not have "any kind of say" in the content of the episodes, they did offer the show access to their L.A. clinic and gave a final view of the episode. "They let Big Mouth do their Big Mouth thing about it, which I respect," Flackett says of the experience.
That thing includes a Star Wars-meets-The Magic School Bus parody in which Missy (Jenny Slate) is the captain of a ship that helps screen for cervical cancer since Planned Parenthood reportedly does 270,000 pap smears per year. Later, the episode puts the kibosh on the Blue Waffle urban legend, which no, isn't a real STD — something one of Big Mouth's younger writers was surprised to learn.
Big Mouth even pokes fun at The Bachelor with a sketch that shows Nick's older sister Leah (Kat Dennings) trying to find the perfect contraception. It's a search that is nearly as hard as finding a forever love and accounts for 28 percent of all Planned Parenthood's health services. Bachelor fans should be happy to know that the anthropomorphized IUD, condom, and birth control were inspired by real character types from the reality show.
"Knowing what happens on The Bachelor and Bachelorette, there are some [suitors] that are very nervous and uptight and some that are sloppy," Altman says, noting there were definitely Bachelor fans in the writer's room making sure she got it right. "We can sort of map those personality traits on these birth control methods, so that’s fun." And she's right, there's nothing more fun than watching a past-her-prime Diaphragm steal coconut shrimp and mango salsa "for later." Obviously, she's not there for the right reasons.
Flackett and Altman are prepared to get hate tweets over this episode, ones that Kroll's character Nicky jokes will be "mean and threatening and weirdly personal." For them, it feels worth it since they worked hard to make sure it was an accurate representation of what Planned Parenthood does. "I know as I was writing, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I don’t want to get a single fact or anything wrong,' because this is so important in that way," Altman says.
In the end, Big Mouth managed to create an episode featuring a vasectomy, an abortion, and an over-eager IUD that is so factually accurate that it could one day be shown in a high school health class. Flackett admits that would be nice, but still suggests going straight to the source.
"I think part of the reason Planned Parenthood exists is because it’s this place that will give you answers," Flackett says. "It's this place that will really speak to you in a very respectful way and deal with you on your level about your issues." And those looking to laugh about their sex-related issues? Well, they can just watch Big Mouth.