For “Big Mouth” co-creators and childhood pals Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg, “Disclosure,” the Michael Douglas/Demi Moore sexual harassment drama from 1994, played a big part, cinematically, in their sexual awakening as teenagers. Resurrecting it as a provocative musical play for their animated sitcom became the perfect vehicle for embracing #MeToo and puberty — and earned them an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program.
However, when Kroll first pitched “Disclosure the Movie: The Musical!,” he meant it as a joke — a placeholder until he found a better idea. “I pitched it as an inappropriate example, but it stuck,” he said. “It was weirdly topical. This was after #MeToo had hit, and so we wanted to speak to sexual harassment in a way that ‘Big Mouth’ could attack as a musical idea. We were both obsessed with those run of movies where Michael Douglas is ‘too sexy for his own good’ [including ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘Basic Instinct’], and ‘Disclosure’ is the funniest and pretty flawed.
“And Demi Moore was an important sexual awakening for both of us,” Kroll added. “As a psycho-sexual thriller [in which boss/former lover Moore seduces Douglas into having oral sex as part of a harassment trap] it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t get made theatrically anymore, which we thought was a funny thing for middle school kids to do.”
“In addition to being funny, we were interested in speaking to the gray area of it,” Goldberg added. “It was made in the wake of the Clarence Thomas hearings that women were going to use sexual harassment as a weapon, as if that’s the real problem, but then it became topical all over again as we were writing this in the midst of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.”
They tapped composer Mark Rivers to write the songs in showstopping Broadway fashion, with the opening number riffing on “A Chorus Line’s” audition vibe about empowerment: “It’s a story about women kicking butt and being rapists/just like dudes!” Conversely, there’s outrage from some students over it being “a misogynistic fantasy!”
“After the ‘Chorus Line’ point of reference, then it was figuring out how you tell all the story of ‘Disclosure’ piecemeal throughout the episode [in rehearsal], so you don’t have to watch the entire musical,” Goldberg said. Additionally, they created their own sexual harassment story in which drama teacher Terry Lizer (Rob Huebel) entices Lola (Kroll) into giving him foot massages, and then gaslights her to when word gets out. “Everybody on our writing staff had one teacher who they felt, looking back, was maybe not criminal but totally inappropriate,” Knoll said.
Alternatively, they created a B-story revolving around the five main characters of “Queer Eye” doing a makeover of Coach Steve (Kroll) on his secluded diaper barge so he can get his job back at the school. “We wrote this just as the first season of ‘Queer Eye’ was rebooting on Netflix and we were all obsessed with it,” Goldberg said. “And ‘Queer Eye’s’ Jonathan [Van Ness] was a real catalyst for the tone. ‘Queer Eye’ does such a good job of getting at the root of who a person is and dealing with the emotional and psychological issues to build them back up and remake them, and Steve was the perfect foil for that. He’s such a sweet guy but such an idiot.”
However, the episode’s most empowering aspect occurs with Missy (Jenny Slate) unleashing her hidden sexual desire with the help of Hormone Monstress (Thandie Newton, personifying a London party girl). “Missy started off the show for us as a kind of dorky girl, but then, in this episode, we start to see her becoming a sexual being,” Knoll said. “Her singing in it is great, and she’s in this weird [situation] of being attracted to [several boys].”
As for Slate handing over the role of Missy to a Black actress after the upcoming Season 4, Knoll and Goldberg both acknowledged that it’s a testament to her thoughtfulness. “Between us and Jenny and our writers, we’ve built a character in Missy that we really loved and Jenny informed it so much with her humanity,” Knoll said. “The world is changing and our show is conscious of that. We’re open to actors and writers participating in that process of how we make the show and who we make the show with.”