Queue & A: Nick Kroll
Netflix stars answer Queue’s questions about creativity and craft.
Co-creator of the six-time Emmy nominated animated series Big Mouth, Nick Kroll saw an opportunity to go beyond the world of his beloved student characters to somewhere, well, a bit unusual. “With Big Mouth it’s really a story about students going through puberty and adolescence and all of our stories really need to live there to succeed,” says Kroll, “But as we built out this cast of creatures and monsters — Hormone Monsters and Shame Wizards and Depression Kitties and Ambition Gremlins and Lovebugs and Hate Worms and Anxiety Mosquitoes, and the list goes on and on — we really wanted to see how these characters would interact with people at other moments in their life around birth or the onset of dementia, or breaking up with someone. All of these things that are so rich, but just didn’t fit exactly into the Big Mouth world. [Human Resources] felt like an opportunity to tell all those stories.”
Human Resources is the latest of Kroll’s creations, which include Kroll Show; Oh, Hello On Broadway; and Big Mouth, and the product of his collaboration with a stellar team of writers and an all-star cast, including (to name just a few) comedic and theatrical legends like Maya Rudolph, Keke Palmer, Randall Park, Aidy Bryant, Ali Wong, Hugh Jackman, and Helen Mirren. “I feel biased in saying that I think we have the most talented writing team and the most talented voice cast in animation because not only are these people all incredibly funny, but they’re also, as writers, incredibly emotionally grounded, and as performers, so versatile and able to handle not only big jokes, but also the really emotional elements of these stories and characters,” says Kroll.
Queue talked with Kroll to learn more about his new show and the beginnings of his career.
Queue: What was your first role?
Nick Kroll: My first role, I believe I was the Pharaoh in a production of the Exodus from Egypt in a Passover play in second grade. I think I was able to talk the loudest and my mom was willing to make me a gold lamé kind of breastplate to really lean into the Pharaoh of it all.
What do you remember about the first time you saw yourself on camera?
NK: Andrew Goldberg and I — who co-created Big Mouth alongside Mark Levin and Jen Flackett, and now also co-created Human Resources with Kelly Galuska — used to make little sketch videos when we were 13, 14 years old, like Nick and Andrew in Big Mouth. Those tapes are probably lost now.
What film or TV show made you fall in love with animation?
NK: There’s obviously The Simpsons, which for many of us really pioneered the version of adult animation that we all exist in now. But I loved Saturday morning cartoons, all the Warner Brothers stuff. But then, around middle school, Animaniacs came out, and that was a very big deal for me and Andrew.
There were also a lot of great comic-driven animated shows when I was growing up. Jon Lovitz had The Critic, which was big for me. Howie Mandel had Bobby’s World; there’s a voice that Rick sort of sounds a little bit like. Louie Anderson had a show about his life when I was a kid [Life with Louie].
But then as we got older, South Park and Beavis and Butt-Head came out, and I think our shows have a little bit of all of those elements in them because they’re sort of risque and edgy. But then a lot of the humanity and not being afraid to be emotional, like The Simpsons could and can be at its best, and then the self referential stuff, the meta stuff that Animaniacs was doing, it really blew my mind when I was a kid.
So we were introduced to the Human Resources world in Big Mouth. What was the inspiration to make it its own series?
NK: Well, in the end of Season 2, we go up to the creatures’ world, and we realize that they have their own workplace. And that was originally just a one off. It wasn’t like, Oh, well of course we’ll now turn that into a show. Once we went up there and saw the possibility of what that workplace was like, it felt so rich.
As the seasons have gone on, and we live with Hormone Monsters for a longer time and introduce the Shame Wizard, we realized that these characters have their our own stories that were just begging to be told, and their own lives and world that felt so rich, that it felt like such a amazing opportunity to dig into what these characters’ lives were like.
What’s one word you would use to describe Human Resources?
NK: Fucking hilariously emotional. Make that one word.
What is your favorite creature in the Human Resources world?
NK: Right now my favorite creature I think is the Lovebug. I’m just in the first year of marriage and fatherhood. I think my Lovebug is changing and growing and so that’s the creature I will identify with here.
What is your favorite comfort watch on Netflix?
NK: Wow. I just fast forward to all the sex scenes in Bridgerton. Is this appropriate for Queue? I think so.
I have so many dear friends who have stand up specials on Netflix that it’s weirdly comforting, especially during the pandemic, when you don’t get to see people in person, I can just turn on and see Ali Wong or Mike Birbiglia or John Mulaney or all the other incredibly talented people that I’m friends with and work with who also have specials on Netflix.
What was the last thing you binge watched on Netflix?
NK: I’ll watch stuff way out of order or late. So I binge watched Lupin, but not when it came out, embarrassingly. Again, I’m a new father, so I’m watching things at weird times in completely different order. I’m not watching Lupin out of order. That would be a bad idea.