Jessi Klein didn’t get her ‘big mouth’ role by keeping quiet


In March 2019, actor, comedian and writer Jessi Klein wrote an email to his old friend Nick Kroll, creator and star of Netflix’s intensely bawdy and self-explanatory animated series on puberty, “Big Mouth.” The writers were working hard on an episode of the fourth season, which premieres Friday, titled “The Hugest Period Ever”.

In the episode, one of the main characters of the series, Jessi Glaser, who is voiced by Klein, suffers from a tedious period while in summer camp. The subject line of the email was: “Random Thoughts for Stamps.”

“Looks like there’s a joke about her looking at the drawing that came with the box of tampons,” Klein wrote. “It’s so unnecessary. Maybe Jessi is like, “So I put it between the line of my legs to my… bulb space?” “”

Klein’s name may not strike a chord with casual television consumers, but she has been an industry staple for over two decades, lending her sharp humor and perspective to shows like “Chappelle’s Show,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Transparent.” Longtime fans may recall his sardonic recaps of VH1’s now-defunct pop culture commentary series “Best Week Ever” in the 2000s, which also seen appearances by Kroll and John Mulaney, who voices Andrew on “Big Mouth”.

In 2015, Klein won an Emmy for her work as an executive producer and chief writer on “Inside Amy Schumer”. The following year, she published an essay bestseller, “You’ll Grow Out of It,” in which she describes winning the Emmy, then immediately retreating to an empty dressing room in the Nokia’s basement. Theater: three months after giving birth and needed to pump.

“My friends went to the post-ceremony dinner and I told them I would join them there,” she wrote. “My Emmy is on the floor. I’m not the most lonely I have ever felt, but neither am I the happiest.

This willingness to push and push his own most vulnerable moments made Klein a natural fit as a consulting producer for “Big Mouth,” a show that excels at distilling moments of mortification and anxiety into hard-hitting comedic moments, mischievous and often deeply vulgar. It also informs her character on the show: an intelligent, acerbic teenage girl who has just started making her way through the jungle of her shifting hormones. In Season 1, Jessi fumbles in her first kiss, learns to masturbate, and suffers during her first period during a school trip to the Statue of Liberty. (She uses a 9/11 souvenir towel to stifle the flow.) In Season 4, she sneaks off with her first boyfriend, a self-involved, flaky artist voiced by Sterling K. Brown.

“Jessi has instinctively, throughout her career, scrutinized his excitement and awkwardness,” Kroll said on a video call last month. “Now that might sound a bit trite – a comedian who looks longingly at his own youth or his awkward excitement – but Jessi was one of the first to adopt.”

Big Mouth’s humor and levity provide an easy entry point to complex subjects. The shame of tweens, while nearly universal, is rarely discussed so deeply or probed with such enthusiasm in popular culture, especially with such attention to the little physical moments that are usually not said in girls, like worrying. the edge of your cushion against your shorts. , or by trying and failing to insert a tampon. By bringing these moments to screen, the show validates and demystifies these experiences for its younger viewers – and suggests that girls ‘stories are just as worthy of attention as boys’.

Klein, 45, was just five minutes after her interview began when she embarked on the story of her first period – “This is the original” Where were you on 9/11? “” she joked. She also talked about period belts (a real thing), what it means to be ‘dirty nerd’ and what it was like working on a show she wished she had as a teenager. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Do you have any idea why the creators of the series chose you to play Jessi in 2017?

Jessi is based on someone Nick and Andrew [Goldberg, another of the show’s creators] grew up with it, and I think I embody qualities that remind them of this young woman: a girl who is just as funny and intelligent as the boys around her, if not smarter. I’ve known Nick for a long time, almost 20 years. And we always got along well.

At the start of our friendship, Nick gave me the nickname “Dirty Nerdy” and I thought, “Yeah, that sounds good. “

How? ‘Or’ What?

I was a very late bloomer and very awkward, but I have always been interested in sex. It was a mixture of uncomfortable feelings to be had as a young woman who wore glasses and looked like me. I didn’t feel the object of someone’s horny desire. I felt like a participant.

I love this plot in Big Mouth. There is an entire episode called “The Girls Are Too Horny”.

I certainly didn’t see any TV shows dealing with female desire when I was young. The majority of what we took was a mainstream version of female teenage. Even seeing “The Facts of Life” was a big deal, as it showed girls with friendships, talking to each other and opening up. I remember thinking it was as close as possible to something that represented my inner life.

Did you help shape Jessi’s character?

Oh yes. I would drop by and sit with the writers every now and then, sometimes working on specific episodes, especially at the beginning. The show’s creators gave me the opportunity to tell stories and talk about my own personal experiences that could help fuel Jessi’s stories. I also remember telling a few writers about my first period, which I had on Yom Kippur at my grandmother’s.

It looks like a scene that could have been part of the show.

When I got my period, my mom literally handed me a menstrual belt. No one who reads your article will even know what it is. But this is one thing where the pads clip into a real belt. Like, how did that happen? She was not keeping up with menstrual technology.

What would my life have been like if there had been a really fun and popular show telling me that figuring out how to handle sanitary pads was a normal thing other girls struggled with? You are just a human being trying not to bleed.

There is a period scene in “I May Destroy You” by Michaela Coel which shows a blood clot. It was a breathtaking moment.

I am okay. Everything I feel when I see these scenes – like the one from “I May Destroy You” or the moment in “PEN15” where one of the female lead characters is masturbating – is just a tidal wave of relief. Like, Oh my God, can we show something that’s just a fundamental fact of our lives? Someone else had the guts to put it on TV, and now we’re allowed to do it?

With “Big Mouth” I felt the opportunity to explain how teenage girls deal with their budding sexuality and the intense shame you feel as a girl. This subject is more on television than before, but it is still one of the most taboo subjects.

I was also very happy with Missy’s story for season 4, where Missy spends time with her cousins ​​and explores her racial identity. I think it’s so important and under-explored on TV in general. It’s great to have Ayo on the show. [Ayo Edebiri replaces Jenny Slate late in Season 4 as the voice of Missy, who is biracial.] She was a writer before she started voicing Missy, and she’s amazing.

One thing I love about “Big Mouth” is the way it validates the girls’ experiences, from Missy’s frustration with her parents to Jessi’s shame and embarrassment when the boys notice her wearing a bra.

There’s a scene in the new season where Jessi sleeps with more “advanced” girls at camp, and at one point they’re like, here’s what we should do to you to “fix” you. Here is your makeover.

My only camp experience was in college. There were these girls there who brought matching striped shirts, and I really wanted one. But when I tried one, one of the girls said to me, “Oh, that looks weird on you. I guess you can’t wear the shirt. To this day, I remember it. It just destroyed me.

I’m at a point in my life right now where I’m dealing with more hormones again. And in some ways, it’s like a second teenage years. It’s like this girl is telling me that I was not well in her striped shirt. We laugh now, but that really made me decide back then.

Having the ability to walk into the booth and scream like my 12 year old self is a fitting outlet for what my 45 year old self is feeling as well. So, yeah, reliving those moments is pretty cathartic.

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