Hopkins Center hosts conversation with comedian Nick Kroll, Latif Nasser ’08
The "Big Mouth" co-creator discussed his awkward teenage years, friendship with fellow comedian John Mulaney and the inspiration behind his hit Netflix show.
On Friday night, actor and comedian Nick Kroll, co-creator of the Netflix series “Big Mouth,” participated in a live conversation hosted by Latif Nasser ’08 of WNYC’s “Radiolab.” Throughout the conversation, presented by Collis Programming Board and the Hopkins Center for the Arts, Kroll discussed his career in television and how his personal experiences inspired his work.
Nasser kicked off the event by asking Kroll about how his reportedly “awkward” childhood influenced “Big Mouth.” Kroll said that although his childhood was relatively normal, he exaggerated his awkward teenage experiences to inform the show’s themes of discomfort and embarrassment, noting that he wanted to create a show that explores how debilitating puberty is for everyone, even the “quote-unquote normal kids.”
Even as a 42-year-old man, Kroll said his struggles and uncomfortable experiences continue to inspire the show. He added that “Big Mouth” provides an outlet for him to process emotions and life events, stressing the importance of acting and writing as a form of therapy for him.
Reflecting on his childhood, Kroll shared that his love for performing developed during his time at the Mountain School of Milton Academy in Vershire, Vermont, where he frequently found opportunities to perform and practice his craft. He added that attending college at Georgetown University also played a key role in his development as an actor, noting that he still collaborates with people he met there, including his close friend, comedian John Mulaney.
Following Kroll and Nasser’s conversation, Emma Johnson ’24, Elise Avila ’22 and Max Fuster ’21, whose questions were selected from those solicited by the Hop in advance, asked pre-recorded questions to Kroll.
Johnson asked about Kroll’s friendship with Mulaney; the two act together on “Big Mouth” and co-wrote the screenplay for “Oh, Hello on Broadway,” a stand-up comedy film. Kroll said that he and Mulaney have a relationship that thrives because they both find each other funny. He stressed the importance of finding people you enjoy working with and of healthy competition.
“Oh, Hello on Broadway” was built slowly, with Mulaney and Kroll each bringing in a joke and improvising to create the complete set over a span of several days. Whereas Kroll said that Mulaney’s jokes always hit the mark, he felt like his seemed to fall flat until he worked with Mulaney to improve them.
At one point during the discussion, Kroll and Hop film management fellow Zea Eanet ’21 began to discuss graduate school applications and their shared experience with rejection. Sarah Jewett ’23, who attended the event, appreciated this exchange, which she said made the event feel more personal.
“Hearing him talk to [Eanet], who was talking about her application process for grad school, and see[ing] him give advice about our generation and how we’re in a unique position, was interesting to hear from a millennial,” she said. “It was nice to see him actually engage with his interviewers and not just talk about himself.”
Melanie Kos ’20, who attended the talk, added that the YouTube chat feature helped make the event feel more lively and interactive, as students had an outlet to make jokes and “side comments” throughout the conversation.
Jewett said that she particularly enjoyed the energy from Nasser and Kroll during the conversation.
“I really enjoyed Latif Nasser,” Jewett said. “… He was just such a great interviewer — his energy brought a lot to the conversation.”
Eanet added that she appreciated the efforts of Collis Programming Board and the Hopkins Center to invite a high-profile comedian to speak to the Dartmouth community.
“Especially now, when our turnout has been low for a lot of Hop events, it’s really nice to be able to bring somebody that I feel like students will actually be really interested in hearing from,” she said.