There was a time when comedy fans thought that The Simpsons and South Park were the height of comedy. These shows remain on the air and with a dedicated fan base for a reason: they WERE revolutionary and hilarious. Over time, though, they became predictable and fans of this new genre of animated sitcom wanted something more. We were all excited when a few years ago the creator of Futurama announced he was coming out with a new animated series, but that ended up being a bit of a flop. Though many turned to Adventure Time to get their fill of animated comedy but at its core it is still a show fit for children. And of course Rick and Morty exceeded everyone’s expectations, but with their irregular and unreliable release schedule, viewers were left wanting more from the world of NSFW animated comedies.
When it was announced that Nick Kroll and other comedy writers had created an animated series that would be starring John Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, and Maya Rudolph, among others, comedy fans everywhere became….cautiously optimistic. They’d been burned a lot, but they were not to fear because Big Mouth would prove to be everything they’d hoped for and more in a truly special and truly cringeworthy depiction of puberty.
Get ready to relive your most shameful, locked-away adolescent memories, because today Scarlett Media presents the 10 ways that Big Mouth saved animated sitcoms. If you agree with our list, don’t forget to draw on the like and subscribe buttons or laugh at the dislike button if you disagree and don’t mind being wrong.
Number Ten. It’s relatable.
Shows like South Park are great at political commentary and shock factor comedy, but one of the things that sets Big Mouth apart is its relatability. Sure, we all love Cartman, but how many of us have actually gotten anal probes? Do please comment if you have. We’re willing to be wrong on this one. Big Mouth expertly, and hilariously, addresses all kinds of universal experiences of puberty like erections, female masturbation, periods, and much more. The best part is, since it’s animated, they can get as gross as they want and not worry about traumatizing child actors or being sued. Case in point, there are multiple scenes dedicated to Jason Mantzoukas’s character having an ongoing, sexual relationship with an anthropomorphized pillow. Though that may be a more specific experience, there’s something in the show for everyone to relate to, like questioning one’s sexuality, dealing with parents divorcing, being bullied, or just feeling alone. The trailer for the upcoming season depicts John Mulaney’s character begging his parents not to make him go to summer camp, and we all feel for him because we were him.
Number Nine. It has musical numbers.
Just because Big Mouth is more relatable than other animated comedies does not mean it’s any less outrageous. Sure, Rick and Morty has viewers thinking about things they never imagined or hoped they’d have to (Froopyland, anyone?), but are they set to musical numbers fit for the stage? One of the first times audiences were treated to Big Mouth’s Broadway side was in the episode where Jessi gets her period for the first time and a human sized tampon sings a song called “Everybody Bleeds.” There’s also the iconic “What’s it Like to Be Gay?” which appears in an episode where Andrew wonders whether he is gay. It is performed by the ghost of Freddie Mercury and it is as wonderful as you’d expect, with lines such as “You’re loved everywhere, except for North Caroline” and “The world’s your buff buffet.” Competing for most memorable, however, might be “Sex On A Lady” in which one of the show’s…slower, adult characters tries to understand the logistics of sex and never quite gets it. We have to, of course, acknowledge Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers for their pioneering efforts in animated sitcom musical numbers, but the deeply not-safe-for-work quality of Big Mouth’s hit differently, and we thank them for that.
Number Eight. It’s a safe space to process embarrassing things.
Everyone knew being able to binge shows on Netflix would be great, because we have become greedy content gluttons. But Big Mouth airing on Netflix has shown audiences a whole host of other benefits to being able to watch a show in your own time. Back in the day, you’d have to watch South Park at your friend’s house in real time as it aired and hope they didn’t talk about anything too personally cringey, especially if their parents were in earshot. Nowadays, viewers of all ages are safe to watch their highly inappropriate animated sitcom in their own time in the privacy of their own home and process all their weird feelings before talking about it with friends. Of course, they’ll hop on twitter to talk about it with strangers first, anyways.
Number Seven. It’s happening in the age of Twitter
Most shows, if not all, have some amount of social media presence even if they aired before social media was even a seed in the balls of evolving technology, but none have embraced social media in the way that Big Mouth has. The show and its creators have very active social media presences, frequently retweeting viewers and engaging with fans. It’s clear it’s not just part of the job for them – they actually enjoy it. Especially around Halloween when audiences dress up as the most ridiculous characters, such as Jay’s pillow or the hormone monsters. The show embraces its relationship with viewers and proudly shares photos of fans decked out in deeply inappropriate attire as a show of love. All the interaction makes fans even more excited for upcoming seasons. It is undeniable that Big Mouth thrives in the age of Twitter.
Number Six. It’s inclusive.
While shows like South Park have made a career out of famously not taking sides politically, Big Mouth is loudly feminist, pro LGBT, and in support of communities of color, going so far as to recast Missy’s voice actor for the last episode of the upcoming season when they and Jenny Slate felt that the right thing was to have a Black actress play a biracial character. They also take time to explain different sexual orientations and spotlight female centric topics. Viewers have gone so far as to say that Maya Rudolph’s depiction of the Hormone Monster is a feminist icon. Big Mouth cares deeply about its fans and making everyone feel seen and heard.
Number Five. But it’s not prudish.
Big Mouth may care about what some may refer to as political correctness, but don’t go rolling your eyes yet; the show may be inclusive, but it’s not prudish. They address bisexuality by having one of the main characters, Jay, discover that he is bisexual. But it’s not your average after school special. They depict this moment by having him alternate between having sex with a female pillow and a male sofa. It is, of course, also made clear that most bisexual people are as disgusting as Jay and do not in fact have romantic dalliances with multiple pieces of furniture, or humans, at a time. But it’s the humor they’re able to achieve in this scene that makes everyone feel okay about their own experiences of discovering their orientation, while also laughing until it hurts.
Number Four. It’s educational.
No one expected a show featuring the aforementioned love affair between a teenage boy and a pillow to be educational, but Big Mouth scores major points for not only including all types of people, but teaching viewers about different experiences as well. In addition to showing what it’s like to be gay or bisexual, or any kind of different for that matter, to viewers who may not have had those experiences, it breaks down more nuanced topics. In one episode, comedian Ali Wong plays the new girl in school who gains immediate popularity for being “pansexual.” The show doesn’t stop at just mentioning the term, though. Ali’s character explains to her classmates what the differences between pansexual and bisexual are, and of course Jay gets jealous that she’s the edgy one now. But he’s always got his pillow to keep him company.
Number Three. The cast is a group of comedians.
As we’ve already established, Big Mouth doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of comedy in its goals to be welcoming and relatable. This is largely attributed to the fact that the cast is basically just a group of top notch comedians. With that many talented, funny people in a room, they were never not going to end up with gems such as the tumultuous and saucy relationship between two of the show’s hormone monsters. It was incredible enough that the show decided to depict hormones as large, furry beings encouraging and counseling the children in sometimes less than appropriate ways, but to have the main hormone monsters played by none other than Maya Rudolph and Jason Mantzoukas was icing on the hormonal cake. The incredible cast and their depictions of adolescent moments doesn’t stop there. There is also Chelsea Peretti playing a cell phone, named Cellsea, that one of the kids gets far too attached to in an episode about the pitfalls of combining technology and teenagers. Of course the crowning glory is probably Kristin Wiig playing an actual clitoris. Top it off with Jordan Peele for some reason playing the ghost of Duke Ellington and you have a collection of incredible, hilarious characters we never knew we needed until they were played by some of the funniest people alive.
Number Two. It’s a Nick Kroll character showcase.
Actors playing many multiple iconic characters is not a new concept for animated sitcoms – just check anyone’s IMDB on Family guy and see their character list go on and on- and we are grateful that Big Mouth stuck to this successful formula. Of course a show that’s just a cast of wacky characters with no message or heart is garbage, but thankfully fans needn’t worry about that. Big Mouth is entertaining enough as is, and enjoying the Nick Kroll character showcase is just an added bonus. After John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s old man show “Oh, Hello” somehow made it to Broadway, fans were hungry for more of their insane characters. And Big Mouth delivers. From staple characters that appear in every episode to special appearances that we will still remember forever, there’s truly no shortage of unique and delightful voices that leave fans wondering how one man can possibly do it all. How can one man expertly play an aggressive, blonde girl, a sexually inept and socially idiotic adult man, and a sassy lady bug who pops in just to make commentary to the audience? We don’t know and that’s more than okay. There’s a reason late night hosts ask Nick Kroll to run through as many of his characters as he can in a minute. It’s a masterclass in voice work and endlessly entertaining.
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Number One. It normalizes things.
The thing that probably sets Big Mouth apart from other animated sitcoms the most is that it normalizes things everyone has at some point felt embarrassed or ashamed about. Not only does it bring up things other shows might be scared to take on, like pre-teen arousal, it seeks to educate and normalize even through all the dirty jokes. In one episode, Missy’s mom takes Missy and Jessi to a spa where, she says the point is to “feel comfortable in the nude.” The girls are alarmed when they see naked women everywhere and are scared to undress. They even get berated by their reflections on the mirror, one of which calls Missy a “flat chested, beanpole.” They are, of course, saved by Maya Rudolph in the form of a hormone monster who sings a musical number called “I Love My Body” with a full, accompanying dance number. The song touches on the way women and girls can feel self conscious of all kinds of body parts, and encourages viewers through humor to embrace their differences with such lines as “every tushy is a snowflake, every nipple is a star.” You can’t go wrong with that. The writers take the goal of normalizing embarrassment farthest by introducing a character called The Shame Wizard. At first, The Shame Wizard verbally abuses the kids about things society tells them they should feel bad about, kind of like most people’s moms. The Shame Wizard feeds on the feelings of shame and decides to prey on a school sleepover. At first he succeeds but eventually the kids rise up and defeat The Shame Monster, and basically end up having a proper bacchanalian romp free of shame. This lesson, that everyone has the ability and license to banish their shame, is truly the heart of the show and what makes it so special.
Is there anything else you love about this show or is this show another example of comedic animation gone wrong. Let us know in the comments below and thanks for watching.
Writer: Arielle Andreano
Editor: AB Scarlett
Voice: Scott Tunnix
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See Hosseinzadeh v. Klein, 276 F.Supp.3d 34 (S.D.N.Y. 2017); Equals Three, LLC v. Jukin Media, Inc., 139 F. Supp. 3d 1094 (C.D. Cal. 2015).