When you’ve been doing comedy together for as long as Nick Kroll and John Mulaney have — nearly 20 years now — there comes a time when you write scenes where you talk dirty to each other and sloppily make out. For Kroll and Mulaney, that scene came in episode four of the second season of Big Mouth, which premiered this past weekend. But, it being Big Mouth, it was not so simple. For the characters they were voicing, Andrew and Lola, the make-out was the result of a complicated mix of shame and hormones — a complex collaboration between Andrew’s Hormone Monster and Shame Wizard.
This scene is the focus of the premiere episode of the fourth season of Good One, Vulture Comedy’s podcast about jokes and the people who write them. Listen to the episode and read a short excerpt of the discussion below. Tune in to Good One every Monday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
How did you decide to pair Andrew and Lola?
Going way back to the beginning of the season, we had some ideas of things we wanted to hit. Big ideas. The biggest is the idea of a Shame Wizard. So, Andrew Goldberg, whom I created the show with, alongside Jen Flackett and Mark Levin, came to us thinking about season two, and I was like, “I think we should have a shame character, like a shame monster.” And I said I thought it should be a Shame Wizard because there is some kind of spell that shame puts over us and haunts us with. Then our room opens up, and we talk about what the season will look like. “We have this Shame Wizard — how will this manifest itself? What would be a good inciting incident for Andrew’s shame?” We decided Andrew gets caught masturbating to Nick’s sister’s Leah’s bathing suit that she has hung in the pool house. Leah sees him jerking off, Andrew runs off from the house, the Shame Wizard sort of follows him, and we see the beginning of the Shame Wizard. Then it becomes: What are some good examples or ways to express that? What are different manifestations of how shame would play out in a boy like Andrew?
I have all of the characters on the wall behind me in the writers room so that I am sort of looking around and seeing who would be fun to play with in this scene. All of a sudden it became very clear that some sort of relationship between Andrew and Lola would be a fun relationship to see play out. We just had not seen that combination of characters. Obviously, it is Andrew and Lola, but also it’s a different relationship for me and John Mulaney to play with.
Specifically you and John talking dirty with each other.
Andrew is filled with shame, and then all of a sudden he becomes physically excited by a girl telling him that he is a piece of shit. I was interested in the idea of an origin story of how someone got into BDSM. How do those patterns begin? How do we see a guy who 30 years from now might want to have his balls stepped on by high heels? Where does this begin? Maybe it begins with a kid filled with shame, some girl telling him that he is a piece of shit, and him getting turned on by it.
A funny thing about being a comedian, specifically one who does improv and sketch, is that you often find yourself in a situation where you might kiss your friends. Have you ever kissed John before?
Have I ever kissed John before? I don’t think Gil and George have ever kissed. No, I guess not. Well, Andrew and Nick kissed in season one. Yes, when Andrew is struggling to figure out if he is gay or not, Nick kisses him as a friend to give Andrew a sense if he would feel anything. But I don’t think any of our other characters have kissed. What has happened is, I voice the Hormone Monster and John voices Andrew who is constantly masturbating, so I have been present and encouraging of John to masturbate a lot of times.
There is a romantic quality to Gil and George’s relationship, but it is not sexual. Like, I believe there was a joke in Kroll Show where someone assumed they were partners. They said they don’t have sex, but then thought about how a lot of older couples don’t necessarily have sex either.
Yes. I mean, you could not have a more intimate relationship than George and Gil. I think the joke was that they have been friends and doing drugs for 50 years together. Undoubtedly, there were definitely a few times where George had sex with Gil. Or, at least, George definitely pimped Gil out to wealthy Saudi men. Over the years, we definitely believe strongly that that happened.
The first season of any animated show is made in a vacuum, but what was the timetable? Were you still working on the second season when the first came out?
We had written and voiced the majority of season two before the show came out, which was in a way a blessing because we got to make a show in our bubble. When the show came out and people responded to what they responded to, we felt pretty good. The stuff that people liked was the stuff that we liked, too, and we have continued along that line. What we couldn’t have foreseen was the #MeToo movement. Though even before that — before Trump’s election — you could feel there was a general feeling that there were some seismic shifts that were starting to unfold. It hadn’t exploded yet when we wrote the second season, so there were certain things that we then went through to see if it still tracks. Or we leaned into it in certain places. There is this episode called “Guy Town,” which is about boys moving Jesse’s dad, Greg, voiced by Seth Morris, into a man’s apartment building owned by Guy Bilzerian, Jay’s dad, who is also voiced by Jason Mantzoukas. The episode also deals with Andrew’s fallout with Lola, and really, about different versions of masculinity and toxic masculinity. So, we had Andrew grappling with the question, as he did in season one and he did in season two, and likely for the rest of this show: “Can I be horny and be a good guy, too?” I think this last year, a lot of men have had to ask that question.
What I like about the scene where Andrew and Lola kiss is, they realize the Shame Wizard and the Hormone Monster are sort of colleagues. They aren’t the angel and devil. It’s more complicated. How did shame evolve from being this antagonist to something more interwoven?
After season one, we had established that these kids have hormone monsters, but it felt like to just limit the idea that a kid has a hormone monster that is driving everything, or adults similarly just have an id that drives us, would do disservice to the emotional and scientific construction of the human personage. The idea that the Hormone Monster and the Shame Wizard are colleagues and affecting this kid Andrew felt to me like the way these things work. Sometimes they work in contrast with each other, and sometimes they work in tandem. As I said, I was interested in seeing how shame could inform someone’s desires.
We had written and voiced much of this season before the #MeToo moment took hold last fall, but when I started to read about the different people involved who had been called out for their behavior, in the parlance of our show, I thought there is a lot of Hormone Monster stuff here, but there is also a lot of Shame Monster. The idea of masturbating in front of a woman who does not want you to do it is, to me, a very shameful act. Like, “I am a piece of shit. I am doing this to you. It is a status play, but it is also gross and I know it, and it kinda turns me on …” To me, the Shame Wizard is very much a part of this thing as much as the Hormone Monster is as well. We were interested in figuring out where things are working together, for good or bad.