We’ve all had crazy exes, but probably none as talented as Rachel Bloom. She’s the star and co-creator of the new CW musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Rebecca Bunch (Bloom) picks up and moves from New York to West Covina, CA when she hears her childhood summer camp love Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) is moving. But she’s not moving there for him. That would be crazy, of course; it just sounds like a wonderful place to live. Who wouldn’t want to live in West Covina?
Bloom already makes many music videos for her YouTube Channel, racheldoesstuff, but The CW probably won’t let her sing songs like “F— Me, Ray Bradbury.” She has big plans for the music of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend though. We got to sing with her in the hotel bar before she presented Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to the Television Critics Association, only instead of singing, it was talking — and there was no music; but close enough. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premieres October 12 at 8 p.m., right before Jane the Virgin.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Are you exorcizing a lot of personal demons through song?
Rachel Bloom: Yes, I am. This show is very cleansing.
Rotten Tomatoes: What made you think music was the right vehicle for that?
Bloom: Actually, the idea for a musical show came before the idea for the show. I was doing a lot of comedic music videos and then the co-creator of Crazy Ex, Aline Brosh McKenna, reached out to me because she saw my music videos on YouTube. She said, “Hey, do you want to talk about creating a musical television show?” We were talking about what ideas lend themselves to musical television shows, and I was talking about, “Oh, it could be someone in theater, it could be someone on Broadway.” She’s like, “No, let’s stay away from industry stuff. I have an idea for a movie called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. In your videos you play this kind of obsessive, pathetic character who’s been made pathetic by love, which is something we all relate to. What about that for this show?” It’s an emotionally autobiographical show for both of us, but I did not pack up and move to West Covina for a boy.
Rotten Tomatoes: Is the music in the same style as your videos?
Bloom: Somewhat. We’re going to do all different types of genres, so we’re going to do pop — episode two there’s a Bollywood number — rock, musical theater, tap dance numbers. We’re going to do all different genres but all of them are comedic, and comedic in similar ways that I’ve done videos.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you wear Bollywood costumes for that number?
Bloom: You’ll have to see.
Rotten Tomatoes: Flight of the Conchords cancelled their show because they found it too difficult to write music, write scripts, and then perform them. How are you finding the triple duty of all that?
Bloom: Well, God, the songs for me are the most fun part. In addition to me writing the songs, we have a great team behind it. First of all, the cowriter of many of my songs and the producer of many of my songs is on staff. His name is Jack [Dolgen] so he’s contributing songs. Then, the heads of our music department, Adam Schlesinger and Steven Gold are amazing in their own right. So between the four of us, we collaborate on songs. Sometimes I just work on the songs. Sometimes they just write the songs. I like to have my hand in almost every song, even if it’s just punching up lyrics, but I feel so supported by the team. The songs are my favorite part.
Rotten Tomatoes: Will we be able to download Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songs on iTunes like we could with Glee?
Bloom: That is my hope, that you’ll be able to download the songs, watch the music videos instantly. I want to use the music videos as promotional tools. We’re going to have, when it calls for it, explicit versions of the music videos, if we do, say, a really dirty rap or something like that. I really do want to use the music in the same way that I would use it in YouTube videos.
Rotten Tomatoes: What are your favorite musicals?
Bloom: Assassins, Sunday in the Park with George. It’s mostly Sondheim, as you can tell. Chicago, Cabaret and Fiddler on the Roof. Sondheim and Kander and Ebb are my jam.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you burst into song in real life?
Bloom: Yes, all the time.
Rotten Tomatoes: Your own songs, or Sondheim?
Bloom: No, Sondheim songs. I don’t want to annoy my friends that much with my own songs.
Rotten Tomatoes: If this interview turned into a musical, what would the song be?
Bloom: It would be called “Barfing My Words Onto a Plate and Making You Eat Them.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Would my chorus be, “They’re yummy?”
Bloom: Yes, it would be like, “This barf is so delicious.” I hope it would be, if you’ve enjoyed it. So, yeah, my barf would be delicious.
Rotten Tomatoes: Every story needs a good montage, and yours is the “getting ready” montage where you really expose your whole self. Was that freeing or nerve-wracking?
Bloom: It was great. I think because I’m playing a version of myself who’s a real character, who wears Spanx. Because I co-created the show, I didn’t prep for this show by going to the gym, getting a trainer and learning martial arts. I’m just playing a normal person so I really like juxtapositions between light and dark, pretty and ugly. There’s nothing that exposes that more than how one gets ready to be pretty, which is a very ugly process.
Rotten Tomatoes: What are your other favorite romantic comedy cliches, like going to the airport?
Bloom: The airport thing is really interesting because now since 9/11 with security, you’d never get through. You’d be arrested and tazed. I like the being in the rain thing because it’s like, “Let’s go inside. I have to tell you something, but let’s just go under this awning for a second.” That’s my favorite one.
Rotten Tomatoes: Was anything about meeting your real life husband like a rom-com?
Bloom: We were friends for a long time and flirted for a long time, so I think if you were watching us in a movie, you’d be like, “When are they going to get together?” I like to think that because we had a lot of late night Instant Messenger conversations and we hung out a lot. So I think that was very meet-cute. Then our first kiss was on the beach in Santa Monica at sunset in the water.
Rotten Tomatoes: I noticed she brought her pills all the way to California to dump them out here.
Bloom: Good call. I think that she packed them up and she’s been overmedicated for quite some time. I think she thought, “I want to give them a symbolic burial in my new home.” And that’s what she did.
Rotten Tomatoes: We’re seeing a lot of YouTube stars make it big now. Do you look at your colleagues who’ve come out of YouTube?
Bloom: I think it’s amazing what people are doing. I lived with Ilana Glazer of Broad City. She was my roommate for a year and a half. I was living with her just as she was creating and filming Broad City. Both of us, and a lot of my friends, come from the Upright Citizens Brigade theater either in New York or L.A. That’s just what you do. You create your own material to try to get it out there, because a lot of people are multi-hyphenates, to use the corporate term. You’re creating stuff to be in in order to showcase all your talents. I think the idea of using YouTube and the internet, you don’t have to wait around for a network to buy your show. You just make your own work and make your own art. If people like it, great. That’s the goal, but the goal isn’t to go viral as much as to put your art out there for anyone to see.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you also have to be careful that some corporation wants all your followers, but doesn’t really get you?
Bloom: The interesting thing about it is I am not that big on YouTube. I have a following. I’ve done things but I’m nowhere near people who have millions and millions of followers. I have a healthy amount. I have like 45,000 YouTube subscribers which is good, but I’m not up there with a Jenna Marbles. Something I think can help the show a lot is, in addition to being one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, Aline Brosh McKenna is also a very renowned screenwriter. So it wasn’t just me walking into a room being like, “Here are my YouTube videos!” It was us walking into a room with a story, with an entire series arc, and these videos as proof of song concepts.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premieres Monday on The CW at 8 p.m. Season one is currently Certified Fresh; read reviews here.