(Photo courtesy of Netflix)
The lesson anyone who watches the show should derive from “Big Mouth” is to not judge a book by its cover. While it may be a Netflix original series and have a number of prominent comedic actors attached to it, it is a disastrous farce of a comedy.
A group of adolescent friends in middle school deal with the hardships of growing up and going through puberty. A number of pertinent topics are brought up, including hormones, getting your first period, and first relationships and breakups.
Based on premise alone, the show probably could have been good for the niche audience who enjoys gross out humor, but that’s not what the show does. It does have certain elements of gross out humor, but it is mixed in with bizarre absurdist comedy.
The show seems to be aiming for a “South Park” vibe when it comes to its comedy and premises. “South Park” is an absurdist comedy featuring elementary school age children getting into whacky hijinks, and “Big Mouth” is an absurdist comedy featuring middle school age children getting into whacky hijinks. The problem is that “Big Mouth” does not understand the absurdist comedy of “South Park” enough to do anything more than mirror the vibe. Absurdism is obviously supposed to be absurd, but there still needs to be some grounding into the logistics of the show’s world, and “Big Mouth” fails to accomplish that.
The best example of this is with the show’s use of imaginary characters. In “Big Mouth,” there is a corporeal representation of hormones known as the Hormone Monster (Nick Kroll). The idea on its own is fine, but the rules about his existence make no sense. There seem to be three hormone monsters that are spread out amongst the people who live in the show’s setting, then it seems like half the time only one character can see it, and other times multiple characters can, and it is never made clear which is the case. On top of that, there is also a strange occurrence in the world where some inanimate objects are actually alive, including one characters’ pillow and bathroom mat. There are no rules to any of this, so instead of these absurd happenings coming across as funny, they are just confusing.
Even if the absurdism actually worked, the comedy just is not funny. Comedy is of course subjective, but there is still a way to analyze whether humor is done well or not, and “Big Mouth” constantly falls into the ‘not’ category. The humor is mainly derived from the characters just saying things instead of jokes being made, and the things that the characters are saying that is intended to be funny falls flat because the dialogue moves too quickly, making it so that there is no comedic timing for the joke to hit and no breathing room for the joke to settle in. So much of the humor is like that that the episodes where they actually use proper comedic timing, such as the show’s second episode, “Everybody Bleeds,” stand out even more.
It is strange that the show seems so oblivious to the rules of comedy considering the number of prominent comedians who were working on the show. The series was created by and stars Kroll, and other comedians who star in the show include John Mulaney, Jordan Peele and Fred Armisen. Whether or not one finds these people to be funny, the point still stands that all of these people together should have realized that there were no jokes and there was no comedic timing to anything. It seems like the show managed to wrangle up a bunch of comedic actors who know how to be funny with proper writing and directing from others, but when put on their own they do not actually understand the craft.
It seems unfair to constantly shine the spotlight on the issues of the comedy when there are other aspects to the show that deserve deprecation.
For one thing, the animation of the show is terrible. The character models are all appalling, horrific and lazily designed. Due to that, the show is aesthetically displeasing to look at. In fact, the only character that actually has a good design is the female Hormone Monster (Maya Rudolph) as it is the only one that looks like there was some amount of creativity put into the design and is not an eye sore to look at.
Then there is the voice acting. Kroll does well as the Hormone Monster and Coach Steve, but when he is playing Nick, an adolescent boy who still has not started going through puberty, he has a deeper voice than every other character on the show. Mulaney just races through his character’s dialogue, and Jessi Klein sounds like an adult woman as opposed to an adolescent girl who is starting to go through puberty. The only adolescent character who actually sounds their age is Missy (Jenny Slate).
There is so much wrong with “Big Mouth” that it is not even funny. Boom. That was a better crafted joke than anything “Big Mouth” has to offer.
Final Grade: D-