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Why Big Mouth Created Disclosure the Movie: The Musical

Photo: Netflix

Big Mouth loves to do Schoolhouse Rock, But Horny–style musical numbers, but in its third season, the Netflix comedy goes all-in by staging a musical version of that classic movie everyone remembers and loves: the 1994 Demi Moore–Michael Douglas erotic thriller Disclosure. (Okay, scratch the “remembers and loves” part.) “I don’t know what their inspiration was,” Big Mouth’s resident composer, Mark Rivers, told Vulture. “I didn’t remember the movie at all. I had to go rent and watch it get myself up to speed about what I was supposed to write.”

Disclosure, as the Big Mouth kids explain through song in the episode’s opening number, is a movie in which Demi Moore plays Michael Douglas’s boss, invites him into her office and gives him oral sex, and then accuses him of sexual harassment after he decides not to have “full sex” with her. The conceit of parodying a movie-turned-musical, Rivers points out, stretches from The SimpsonsPlanet of the Apes musical through Bobs BurgersWorking Girl and Die Hard mash-up, but musicalizing Disclosure gave Big Mouth the opportunity to pluck something out of relative obscurity and poke fun of its problematic sexual politics. “It’s gonna be weird and inappropriate,” the kids sing in the opening number. “We’re making a musical of the movie Disclosure!”

“It was like a shitty Me Too backlash take, way before shitty Me Too backlashes were on the map,” Rivers said. To that end, Disclosure the Movie: The Musical! also positions the school’s drama teacher, Terry Lizer (Rob Huebel), as a reactionary man with shitty Me Too backlash takes of his own: Lizer gripes about how men are threatened and how Disclosure speaks to these times, while the more reasonable kids feel confused and angry at both the movie’s politics and the way Terry pressures Lola (Nick Kroll) into giving him foot massages.

As is usually the case in Big Mouth’s musical numbers, the show’s writers came to Rivers with the premises and contexts of the songs they wanted, then gave him the freedom to fill in everything else. The episode opens with a toe-tapping “putting on a show” number that Rivers described as more challenging than the typical song, given that he had to set up the episode’s premise and “write to each character to get their voices properly.” Jessi (Jessi Klein), for instance, sings for the part of Michael Douglas’s wife and dismisses her lines with “What the fuck?”, Gina (Gina Rodriguez) and Ali (Ali Wong) both complain that they’re cast as racially stereotyped background characters, while Matthew (Andrew Rannells) makes a big entrance announcing, “Your leading man is here,” though because he’s gay, doesn’t actually get cast as the leading man.

By this point, Rivers said, he’s also learned how to write to the voice actors’ strengths. “Nick Kroll and I have about the same vocal range, so if I can sing it, he can sing it,” Rivers said. “Then you get to people like Maya Rudolph and Andrew Rannells and the sky’s the limit. Jenny Slate, also a really good singer, though you’d never know it if she’s hidden behind the Missy voice.”

Missy, Slate’s nerdy character who gets cast in the musical’s Demi Moore part, cuts loose later in the episode by performing an imitation “Whatever Lola Wants” number, in which she sings, “And when things get rough and tumble, onto my back I shall not flop / ’cause an aggressive woman likes to be on top.” The song then triggers the introduction of Missy’s own hormone monster, voiced by Thandie Newton. “Even within the Missy character, she can deliver,” Rivers said.

In addition to writing the show’s music, Rivers supervises most musical performances in the recording studio, which means coaxing songs out of people who are often better known as comedians. “You get a lot of apologizing before they’ve done anything,” he said, which means his job involves a lot of reminders that if the singing is funny, it’s helping the character. He pointed to John Mulaney’s performance of “Totally Gay” in season one as a good example: “He’s on pitch enough, but the squeaky voice of the character coming through is what really makes it work.”

In terms of writing the songs, Rivers says he typically works within the specific constraints that Big Mouth’s writers give him for what they need, a challenge which he enjoys. He was also happy, he added, that they asked him to work in a variety of genres this season. In addition to the Broadway-style show tunes of Disclosure the Movie: The Musical!, he also created a 1980s metal song about Florida and a song where a Canadian magician (voiced by Martin Short) explains various definitions of sexualities. “I’ve definitely worked on shows where people didn’t know what they want and you’re scrambling to find it,” he said. “That’s rarely the case with these guys. They know what they want and that was a huge relief.”

Why Big Mouth Created Disclosure the Movie: The Musical!