Welcome all to the second annual Fun Fun Funkhouser Recap! That’s right, for the second year in a row they let your humble blogger into Austin’s premier festival to make merry and mischief. There was metal, hip-hop, bikers, bakers, kim-chi fries, and–naturally–the highest density of hipsters in the country. It was wonderful.
This year I experienced my very first sample of live EDM, drank more Red Bull than I’d had in the rest of my life combined, and thought a lot about how anyone has the capability to not be hungover on the third day of a festival. But, most excitingly, this year I had the great privilege to interview the extremely funny and talented Rachel Bloom.
Rachel Bloom is a gifted writer, singer, and actor from California. She’s written on shows like Robot Chicken and Allen Gregory, and has provided the voices for numerous characters like Ariel, April O’Neil, and Smurfette (in Robot Chicken) and Laura on the Netflix series, BoJack Horseman. Additionally, Rachel has written, produced, and starred in numerous amazing YouTube videos [NSFW] including, Jazz Fever, You Can Touch My Boobies, and the Hugo-nominated short, F*ck Me, Ray Bradbury. She was named one of 13 Comedians to Watch in 2014 by Cosmopolitan magazine, as well as by Time Out L.A. and Backstage magazines. I sat down with Rachel at the New Movement Comedy Club in Austin, TX to ask her a few questions:
[Interview does contain some NSFW language]
First, off the bat, everything you do is fantastic. Excellent work. I heard you just had a show picked up on Showtime (note: the CW network ended up picking up the series instead), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
RB: Yeah, we’re waiting to hear if that get’s picked up to series because the way that works is you sell an idea, if they like the idea you write a script and they order it to pilot and if they like the pilot they order it to series, obviously with a ton of notes in between. So, we just shot the pilot and things are looking good and we’ll be hearing soon.
What is it about?
RB: Well, I play a person who has never been happy, who has done things because other people wanted her to, and she’s about to get promoted at a job she hates. At that moment, she has a nervous breakdown and runs into her ex-boyfriend and she decides to drop everything and move to a little town called West Covina, CA because she thinks he can solve all of her problems. It’s a nondescript suburb about an hour out of LA but she thinks it’s going to be the most wonderful place in the world. Oh, and it’s a musical! There’s R&B numbers in it, it’s not just like a song and dance musical, there are all kinds of musical styles in it.
If your show gets picked up, there are a lot of shows now starring, and written by and directed by women. In the past 5 years it’s been a kind of renaissance of women in comedy and so I’m wondering do you think we’re in the Golden Age of women in comedy?
RB: I think it’s that the world and the media has caught up to what’s been true for millions of years, which is that women are very funny, they’re just as funny as men, and they bring different things to the table. There are so many social reasons that that hasn’t happened until now. Actually it’s funny, when Bridesmaids came out there were all these articles saying “This will decide if women are funny or not, there’s so much riding on this movie!” but I’d been doing alternative comedy for years and I was like, “What do you mean are women funny?” I mean, I had been seeing all of these amazing female stand-ups and doing shows at these independent improv and sketch theaters but it actually wasn’t until I saw Bridesmaids that I did realize that this was one of the first movies focused on women, by women, that is laugh out loud funny and feels really authentic to how women interact with each other. I hadn’t realized that until I saw Bridesmaids. I hope it’s not a Golden Age, because I hope it doesn’t end, and I think that we can only go further. Everyone brings such different things to the table. I think we’re moving beyond the status quo of white, heterosexual men making our media, which they have valuable things to say too, but I’m really excited to see what trans-women have to say and trans-men have to say, and really all different types of people.
In tandem to that, you make very excellent music. Your songs are penned very well, sung very well, everything. Do you think the same thing is happening in pop music? Is music behind the times? Do you think it’s on par with what women are doing in comedy these days?
RB: It’s really hard to say. I’ve been listening to a lot of Salt N’ Pepa these days and something that really strikes me about hip-hop, pop in general from the ’90s, is the idea of taking control of your sexuality and saying, “It’s none of your business who I ****, I’m not a prostitute, shut-up.” Now there’s more of an emphasis on showing your body and on making yourself a sexual object. I think it’s because that’s what gets views, especially if you’re making music videos. That’s what you want to get eyes on it. Then you’ve got people like Lorde, as well as Lady Gaga, who is doing amazing things. I think it’s very different because women in pop have been around longer, and think there are established definitions as to what pop music is now. So it probably depends on the person. I think women are simultaneously sexualizing themselves more and taking control of their images more. Really, the internet has changed so many things, it’s a tough question to answer.
To switch gears, a lot of what you do is parody. Either you parody a style, or something more specific, or nostalgia like in Robot Chicken. When you are sitting around thinking up ideas, what is that process like? Where do your ideas come from?
RB: It really depends. Usually, with genre parodies, context is everything. Usually, the genre will come first and then the premise will come. For example, I’ve been wanting to write a song about Anxiety and OCD for a long time, and also wanting to write a line dance song, like the Cha Cha slide. Finally I combined those two ideas and came up with the OCDance.
RB: I generally write my stuff like it’s musical sketch comedy, it’s very premise based. I think you need to build great musical songs like good sketches, and having the song structure makes it a little easier, I think. Songwriting and comedy work really well together, and harmonize.
I’m sure everyone on Funkhouser agrees that they should definitely cast you in the new all-female Ghostbusters movie.
RB: I love that.
If you go with the original characters, which one would you be?
RB: Oh, wow, it would really depend on who else they cast. If I’m going to flatter myself it would be Venkman, Bill Murray’s character, but in reality I think I’d be Egon, Harold Ramis’ character. I feel like Venkman they’re going to give to Melissa McCarthy, as they should. That’s probably what I would want, but Egon is really great.
Agreed, as an engineering major I totally agree.
RB: Yeah, I love playing smart, scientific characters. That’s so much fun. Everyone is going to want to be Venkman, of course. Every person is going to say that, but probably Egon is more akin to who I am. Type A.
What did you contribute to the Star Wars : Detours show?
RB: Wow, you dug! I’m trying to think what I can tell you. I wrote on the 3rd season, on the last cycle. We went up to Skywalker Ranch and wrote…
That is so cool.
RB: It was SO cool. I met George Lucas, it was amazing. I wrote on the last cycle before Disney bought it and it went on hiatus. I wrote a script; it could be a really cool show. I don’t know what the plans are. It’s an irreverent show because it pokes fun at the characters between the first and second trilogies. Back when they weren’t making new Star Wars it made sense because it was like, “Oh, here’s Luke who’s a nerdy teen and Leia who’s a total b**ch.” Now that they’re rebooting the franchise though, I can see how it could be bad to crap on all of these characters. I’m actually astounded that LucasFilm was cool with us doing that. It’s very funny, I’ll say that what they did with Obi-Wan’s character was amazing. Soo funny. Zed Wells got that character really well, it was so much fun writing on that show. I just hope that someday, maybe 20 years from now, that show will see the light of day. Maybe in 2021.
Do you have a favorite thing that you voice?
RB: There’s a sketch from last season [of Robot Chicken] of all of the Disney princesses going to war with each other, Game of Thrones style, and I voiced half of the characters in that sketch, including Merida from Brave. What really sold it in the writer’s room was me going, “Oh, my mother’s a beeaaarr!”
I don’t even have a particularly good Scottish accent. Probably the most fun line to do in the recording was “My mother’s a bear, the trailer was very misleadin’.” That sketch was really fun to record. April O’Neil is fun to do too. I got to do this pretty ridiculous sketch by Mikey Day, who’s now a writer for SNL, called “Aprileo and Shreddiet” which is Romeo and Juliet with April O’Neil and Shredder, and that was great. I had the pleasure of saying the line, “It’s like Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in my panties right now.” God Bless Mikey Day.
Do you have any other new things coming out that you can tell me about?
RB: I’m just waiting, this Showtime show is going to determine so much of what I do this next year. If anyone is in Washington D.C. I’m doing a show on the 20th, at a synagogue. Also, go check out my YouTube channel and my site racheldoesstuff.com.
This interview was originally published on 11/12/2014. Re-posting today since Bloom’s show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” debuts tonight at 8/7c on the CW.