Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg’s real-life friendship is the emotional core of Big Mouth, but they only make up half of the original team behind Netflix’s adult animated hit. The show’s lesser-known executive producers have managed to stay out of the spotlight — until now.
In Big Mouth Season 4, the Hormone Monsters set their sights on executive producer Mark Levin (a screenwriter on Madeline and The Wonder Years) with a joke that insinuates all four executive producers (Levin, Goldberg, Kroll, and Jennifer Flackett) are part of a polygamous marriage.
“I’m flattered,” Levin says. “I was a little resistant, but I’m okay with it. Nobody is off-limits at Big Mouth, not even the people who work there.”
Most Netflix shows don’t get to run for four seasons, but for Big Mouth, this is just the beginning. The series is already renewed through Season 6, with a spinoff titled Human Resources in the works. “We pitched it to Netflix as ‘Big Mouth meets The Office.’” Levin says.
But the even bigger news out of the Big Mouth cinematic pubic-verse (trademark pending) is a new production company. Brutus Pink will produce the upcoming seasons, Human Resources, and any other spinoffs or shows dreamed up by the writers behind Big Mouth.
“We wanted to expand the Big Mouth universe,” Levin says. “To support other people who have their own stories to tell and help them with our skills. We’re working with a bunch of writers to figure out a way to tell the best versions of their stories.”
“We’re working with a bunch of writers to figure out a way to tell the best versions of their stories.”
In an interview, Levin talks about Big Mouth Season 4, being made fun of in the opening credits, how the show was almost called Bar Mitzvah Boys, and why there was only one comedian who could play Season 4’s new character Tito the Anxiety Mosquito.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
What’s your role on Big Mouth?
Well, we’re all executive producers of the show. One of my main responsibilities is that I work with all the actors on the show and record their voices. I’ve interacted with some of the funniest people in the world.
How do you know when they’ve nailed a take?
We laugh. It’s a big indicator for all of us if we enjoy what we're hearing. But they’re great improvisers too, so I tell them to be free to make it their own and go out and play with the lines. Let them grow. I’d say 15 percent of the show is improvised by the actors.
“I’d say 15 percent of the show is improvised by the actors.”
Maria Bamford is hilarious as the Anxiety Mosquito, how did that come about?
As soon as we decided that anxiety was going to be part of Season 4, we instantly thought of Maria Bamford. In her own comedic work, she's well-acquainted with anxiety and she has wrestled with it. She has an ability to buzz through her lines and be that little sound that is buzzing around you, which makes you anxious.
What other famous voices can we expect to hear in the new season?
Seth Rogen plays Seth Goldberg, the camp best friend of Nick and then Andrew, which becomes a friendship triangle. We have John Oliver as a camp counselor. We took one of his iconic phrases from his own show: “And now this,” and used that in our show. Lena Waithe also had a lot of great things to say. In Episode 5, it gets into a discussion about race and code-switching, she brought her own emphasis to the conversation. We’re always trying to play to the strength of everyone we bring on.
Missy’s own character was replaced by a black voice actor after some controversy, right?
Jenny Slate stepped away from the role and Ayo Edebiri now voices the role of Missy, who is from a mixed-race family and is going on a journey with her cousins to get in touch with her black identity. We realized to authentically tell these stories; the best way is to go with an actor who more closely resembled the actor. That’s why we shifted to Ayo.
What’s with the joke in Episode 7, where the cast all talks about your name appearing in the credits?
Oh yeah! Wow. It’s a running joke. I am a senior member of the team. Everyone looks to me for approval on certain things. The writers thought it would be funny to bring that into the open. In the cold open of the seventh episode, they make fun of me. I’m flattered — I was a little resistant — but I’m okay with it. Nobody is off-limits at Big Mouth, not even the people who work there.
Big Mouth started as a gag between Nick and Andrew, right?
Friendship is really behind it all. Nick and Andrew grew up together, they have known each other 35 years. Jen and I have been together for 30 years, our 27th marriage anniversary is coming up. I’ve known Andrew for 20 years, he was our assistant in the early 2000s. We started doing a few projects with Andrew, TV shows, and in 2015, talking about our future, and he had the idea for an animated show called Bar Mitzvah Boys, about a group of Jewish schoolboys.
“He had the idea for an animated show called Bar Mitzvah Boys.”
How did that lead to Big Mouth, and how did you and Jennifer get involved?
We got to know Nick a bit more and we ended up being in Mexico City at the same time, where we spent four days together. When we got back, I said to Andrew: “You know that Bar Mitzvah Boys show? It sounds like it’s about you and Nick, I think we should refocus it and make it about you, Nick, and puberty.” Andrew agreed and we made Big Mouth about boys and girls. We have John Mulaney playing Andrew in the show, they are old friends from Georgetown University. It’s a special thing to do any project with the people you love and know so well. That comes through in the show. Everyone feels safe with each other. That allows us to be our best selves.
Big Mouth's co-creators recently formed a production company called Brutus Pink.
We wanted to expand the Big Mouth universe. To support other people who have their own stories to tell and help them with our skills. We’re working with a bunch of writers to figure out a way to tell the best versions of their stories.
What’s the future of Big Mouth and what spinoff shows can we expect to see from Brutus Pink?
We are doing a spinoff show called Human Resources, which is set in the workplace of the hormone monsters. We pitched it to Netflix as “Big Mouth meets The Office.” Which is pretty apt, I think. That will be our first Brutus Pink production. It’s in the pipeline.
When you showed your own children Big Mouth, what was their reaction?
They were probably mortified, but they were on the journey with us, they came into the writers’ room and told us what it's like growing up now. The things they’re dealing with. Our daughter was 15 when we started seeing the show, she was easier to talk to, but our younger son was embarrassed. Early in our career, our stuff was notoriously PG. It was a surprise to our kids, we did Big Mouth, it was Nick and Andrew’s influence. We are more sex-positive than ever before, a great consequence of all this. It's embarrassing to our kids and we apologize.
“We are more sex-positive than ever before. It's embarrassing to our kids and we apologize.”
For all the struggling comedians out there, what is the key to good comedy writing?
Persistence is number one. Just create things. Usually, you’d just be writing scripts, now it's by writing scripts, making videos, posting on Twitter, making TikTok, all these kinds of ways to express yourself, all these multidimensional ways to express yourself are really important avenues into the business. A lot of writers on our shows, we discovered them on Twitter. Usually, we’d just read their scripts. Now, there are so many dynamic ways for people to create. We encourage people to do everything. That’s the best advice I can give.