Brandon Kyle Goodman is one of comedy’s freshest voices. The NYU-trained actor, comedian and activist recently starred in Netflix’s Feel the Beat and Amazon’s rom-com anthology series Modern Love before joining the writers’ room on Big Mouth, Nick Kroll‘s brilliant animated sitcom about middle schoolers navigating puberty, sexuality and identity. Season 4, now on Netflix, tackles anxiety, a subject Goodman explores in his scripts and on his podcasts Black Folx, which features one-on-one conversations with Black personalities of various identities, and Do The Work, a weekly podcast covering all things race and personal relationships.
Here, Goodman tells Sharp about writing for one of the most successful television series on Netflix, telling fuller Black queer stories and comedy’s inclusive future.
How did you get your start?
I got started because my grandmother was a minister and my mother was an actress, so I was kind of always in the theatre, always kind of in the space of performance and speaking and rapping. Then, I think I fell in love with it in high school, and I did all the plays like a good, queer baby drama kid, and then I went to NYU for it. NYU is where I started to write for myself and how to write from my own voice.
How would you describe your voice now?
I think I would describe my voice as honest, authentic, passionate, funny and empathic. I do believe that comedians have this ability to really land important issues because, when you make somebody laugh, they inherently trust you – there’s an opening and a heart-space in a different way. So then when I say “Oh, and Black lives matter”, people hear it differently and they’re able to receive it because a bond has been made, and so I think I respect that in comedy. I respect that as a comedian.
How does that translate when writing on Big Mouth?
On Big Mouth, we’re able to make these outrageous jokes, but then there’s also these really important storylines about what happens when your parents get divorced, or what happens when your mom rejects you when you come out, what happens when you are biracial and you’re now wrestling with your Black side or your Jewish side. Like, all these things that are really heavy and important, but I think people are able to receive it because of the comedy, and then in the same token, in the comedy and in the drama, there’s always honesty there’s always authenticity. I’m not gonna write something that I don’t know about, or that I haven’t dove deep into—that was like my saving grace. I could sit here and try to write stories about white people, or white queer people all day. But it’s never gonna hit like if I write for Black queer people, and write about the Black experience, or the Black queer experience.
Tell me about the episode you wrote with [writer and comedian] Mitra Jouhari.
Yes! Well, first and foremost: Mitra is the queen. When I came in for season 4, the theme was anxiety, and so the whole season is really about the ways in which anxiety impacts our different characters, and it’s through Tito the Anxiety Mosquito with Maria Bamford.
Maria is just a dream, let me tell you. We really tried to tell really specific stories for each of the characters being impacted by anxiety, and then also how they get through it. You know, we thought that that was important in addition to offering up how anxious the world is and how anxious it is to be a teenager, we also wanted to help them kind of resolve it and what we came to is there’s really no resolution, right? You don’t really ever get rid of anxiety and look at us in 2020 with a pandemic and a racial reckoning. Anxiety will come up, but how do you manage it? And can we offer tools to offer our viewers ways to manage their own anxiety, or even give words to what their experiencing that they haven’t even identified as such. What I think is even more important is offering a language to help with the healing process of all this stuff.
And then our episode, the one I wrote with Mitra, episode 7, is called “Hand Stuff”, it’s four short stories: Lola and Jay, Matthew and his boyfriend Aidan, Andrew and Jessie. And it’s just about them kind of coming into contact with, masturbation, or giving a hand job or receiving a hand job – all that good stuff. But you know, what I love about it is, again, with our show, no matter how vulgar or crass or explicit it is, there’s also so much heart in it, and there’s so much about how do you communicate with your partner, how do you make sure that the woman is also satisfied!
What’s the writers’ room like? You have the funniest people in the world like Ayo Edebiri, Patti Harrison, Jordan Firstman…
Yes — it’s a dream, I mean it’s truly one of the sweetest kindest rooms and I think that’s a testament to Andrew Goldberg, and Nick [Kroll] and Jen [Flackett] and Mark [Levin], which is that they really do a good job of putting personalities together and filling out a room of people who are empathic and who are emotional and who can be vulnerable, who are also hilarious and talented and all that. But you know, funny is not cute if you’re an asshole, right? And because we’re tackling anxiety or shame or coming out or Blackness, you want to be in a room with people who are empathic, who can hold space for these deeply personally stories that we as writers are gonna share with each other, and hold it sacred, and so, everyone in the room, you know I trust with everything, which is such a beautiful feeling to go to work and be like wow there are like 15 of us here and I truly trust you all with my deepest darkest secrets and you trust me with yours.
Comedy has become much inclusive than ever before. Where do you see the scene going?
I mean, I’m definitely seeing you know, more queer comedians front and centre and able to create their own lane, a lane that just previously has not been there and historically hasn’t been there. Historically, you go into these writer’s rooms and everyone is predominantly white and straight and, you always hear “there are no writers, there are no creators!” Well, as the queer comedy scene continues to grow, that excuse no longer exists. So my hope is that, you know, as we’re all doing our own individual shows or whatever, that we’ll be able to integrate into the writer’s rooms and production teams and on-camera.
I’m hopeful that we can really start telling fuller, nuanced stories and I think that the queer and POC comedians are rising to the top right now will be a part of that shift – and I’m so excited about it. The more successful a queer comedian or a Black comedian is, the more it just proves that, when Hollywood or whoever says like, “What’s your audience? There’s no demographic for it, why should we be interested?” it just proves that like, you should be. We can see it, and so you can’t deny us access any longer is my hope. And if you do, my hope is that we will all band together and build our own shit, cause fuck it.
Season 4 of Big Mouth is now on Netflix. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.