Rachel Bloom is part of Oxygen’s digital series In Progress, in which we feature outstanding women throughout the year. Check out the series here!
Rachel Bloom is a kamikaze combination of comedy and music, as well as co-creator writer and star of the CW’s multi-award winning show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. To everyone out there who thought their dreams were too out there to come true, Rachel is a testimony to the benefits of a never-say-die ‘tude, even in the face of multiple network nay-sayers.
Short story first: Rachel graduated from NYU, Tisch School of the Arts and started making comedy videos for YouTube, including F*ck Me Ray Bradbury, and Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song.
Jezebel featured said Disney Princess Song, which caught the eye of Hollywood-Heavy-Hitter Aline Brosh McKenna—whose accolades already included penning the screenplay for The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses and was (and is) considered one of the top screenwriters in the biz. McKenna called Bloom in for a general how-do-you-do meeting at CBS. McKenna had a screenplay in mind called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Bloom had her sights set on a comedy music television series. Et voila, the concept that will eventually turn into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as we know it was born.
“From moment one the idea was to take that title and explore it from a woman's point of view; we never wanted to laugh at her like an object, we wanted to understand where she was coming from, identify with it, and thus, in a sense, laugh at ourselves,” she says.
So, the two start tossing their idea around to networks, and eventually, Showtime decided to greenlight their pilot.
And then....Showtime decided to pass, which generally means the end of the road here in Tinsel town. Once a network has bought and made a pilot, the chances of another network picking it up are slim. Like, Kate Moss in the 90’s slim. “Why would [a network] pick up a show another network developed? It's not theirs, not their brand,” Bloom explains, and she’s right. It rarely happens.
Which takes us to my favorite part of the story, the part where Bloom and McKenna double down and never say die. Bloom and McKenna pitch their pilot to everyone in town—and everyone says no.
“We kept sending the pilot out even after we were pretty sure the show was dead,” Bloom recounts. “It was a kind of, "Well, what do we have to lose?" And that's when the CW came along. Aline watched the pilot of Jane the Virgin thought, ‘Our show is kind of like this show, let's send our stuff to the CW.’”
The rest, my friends is her-story. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is now in its second season, and Bloom has a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award under her belt to show for her not giving up.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stands strong as a dark feminist comedy with musical interludes like The Sexy Getting Ready Song typifying Bloom’s interest in “the juxtaposition of the pretty and the ugly."
“I think it comes from being a dark person who was super anxious and thought about death but was also into musical theater. I like using light genres of music to expose the darkness beneath the song's subject matter. As I've been going to fancy events like award shows, I think exposing the normal/ugly behind the glamour is even more important; getting dressed up is super fun as long as everyone agrees that it's not reality,” she says.
So that's it. Creating a television show you believe in that speaks to important issues is as easy as that! So what are you waiting for? Go get a selfie stick and start an internet revolution of your own! Just make sure you prioritize vision over views: “I think [online videos are] a wonderful way to show a proof of concept without needing a middle man to set up a pitch meeting. So many amazing people are doing stuff on the internet right now; I think the trick now for producers is to wade through all of the content to find the stuff that has the best quality, not necessarily the most views.”
"We should especially encourage young men to explore...men are pressured to be these loud joke machines which can often turn them into robotic assholes.”
As a mover and shaker in the comedy world, Bloom is committed to pushing boundaries, both by looking out and by looking in:
“I wish we discussed vulnerability more and how emotional vulnerability relates to creating good work. Oftentimes there's pressure in comedy to be a joke machine, but I've found that the comedians I connect with most draw on their own fears and experiences. I think this is something we should especially encourage young men to explore; women, in many ways, have more of a pass from society to be vulnerable, but men are pressured to be these loud joke machines which can often turn them into robotic assholes.”
Truth, Rachel. Truth.
Let us also mention that Bloom is hitched to fellow comedy writer Dan Gregor, whose writing credits include How I Met Your Mother and, of course, Crazy Ex Girlfriend. “He and I are on the same page in so many ways, and there is a complete understanding of the sacrifices we each have to make for our careers. Also, our careers are our passions, so we often come up with great ideas for sketches/movies/songs when we're just hanging out.”
In conclusion, life is full of lucky and unlucky breaks. You can’t control when, how, or if your dreams come true, but if you refuse to give up and commit to doing the work, you have a good shot at at least making a dent. It doesn’t hurt to be overwhelmingly talented, too.
Hungry for more inspiration? I don’t blame you. Here are ten quick Q’s with powerhouse Rachel Bloom. Read. Enjoy. Repeat, and be sure to tune into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Fridays at 9/8C on the CW.
1. What is the thing you are proudest of outside of showbiz?
I'm proud of my emotional resilience, and I don't mean with my career.
2. The planet is going to explode in exactly 7 days. Nobody knows but you, and you can't tell anyone, including your family. I’m giving you a million dollars, cash… what do you do?
I would split it up amongst all of the teachers in the LA County public school system with the caveat that they had to spend it within 5 days.
3. I give you a genie lamp with which you can make three wishes related to the entertainment industry. For what do you wish?
1. Greenlight projects solely based on what has the best pitch and/or script
2. Raise the salaries of entry-level positions so that one can earn a decent living from them. Right now, the only people who can afford to take these entry-level positions are already rich. We need more socioeconomic diversity from the ground up.
3. Overall, lower the amount of makeup people wear in tv/film. It creates a false standard for everyone else.
4. Mary, bury, screw: ice cream, cake, frosting?
marry: ice cream
This was the hardest question I've ever had to answer.
5. What is the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
My husband, today, while walking the dog.
6. What’s something you wish more people knew about you?
There are many times when I have writer's block and fear that I will never have a good idea again and that I've forgotten how to write.
7. What’s your favorite musical?
8. When you are sad, what do you do to cheer yourself up?
9. What question would you ask yourself if you wanted to end an interview with something that felt relevant to you and your life right now?
Do you want kids?
10. Interesting… and how would you answer that question?
I am extremely on the fence.