It’s Rachel Bloom’s world and we’re all just living in it
Nestled in a small room upstairs at the Hollywood Roosevelt, a Vulture Fest conversation with Rachel Bloom and Cameron Esposito opened with a clip from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: the song “What’s Your Story?” Rebecca, Rachel Bloom’s character asks “Story, story, what’s your Story?” during the parody of Cell Block Tango.
Right now, Rachel Bloom’s own story is coming to a turn: Season 4 of her award-winning Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for which she is the creator, composer, and lead actress, will be its last (It is important to note that this was by design, not cancellation). Her next endeavor may be an album of dirty songs. Or, it might be a trip to Italy without a phone as long as her friends don’t continue to get married. Or, maybe, she’ll never work ever again, because in her own words, “Unless you pay for your own stuff, you’re at the mercy of someone else. Maybe I’ll never do anything ever again. Bye!” she jokes with a flick of her hand.
But Rachel’s impact and story is just beginning. May I submit exhibit A, the many ways her talent was on display at the 2018 Vulture Festival: She shared a stage with Cameron Esposito, a microphone with the Off Book Live crew, and a moment with Aline Brosh McKenna during a screening of the Devil Wears Prada.
And that was only on Sunday.
We learned a lot about Rachel’s story during Vulture Fest. She started her own panel with a conversation about bowel movements (Camera described her as “Anal Expressive” i.e. someone open about their, shall we say, regularities), then weaved, smoothly and breathlessly, through multiple F-Bombs, a ballet break, Bloom’s experience with depression and OCD, the possibility of setting up a Venmo account for her fans to help her buy more robot printed clothing, her love, and objectification of roller coasters, which songs are the most difficult to perform on her show, her own history of being bullied, and her advice to look for moments of pure joy. All these quirks, all these tales, and all her uniqueness were ever present in the YouTube videos of her past, including the one that caught the eye of screenwriter and co-creator, producer, and showrunner of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Aline Brosh McKenna. McKenna was on deck during Bloom’s conversation, and, provided live commentary on an interactive screening of The Devil Wears Prada, for which Bloom had a front row seat.
Later on Sunday afternoon, Bloom joined Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino (who, quite frankly, should be household names due to their talent) for Off Book Live, an improvised musical. As they started, Rachel, Zack, and Jessica bantered about Disneyland, almost forgetting the cramped audience at the theater was there to see them perform. Bloom shared that she worries all the time about the show and wanted to be able to take the hour and perhaps, not worry for once. The exercise seemed to be a hilarious escape for all three, as evidenced by the final line of their improvised musical: This is not for you, it’s for us!
Bloom’s earlier conversation with Cameron Esposito, too, seemed like a glorious living room chat we happened to listen into, their banter so wonderfully timed, and their questions and revelations somehow landing one right after another. A joke or story would be followed by wisdom. Bloom knows that those moments, where you reflect on your own story, are the most powerful. “The story that you tell yourself is the strongest. You can change yourself by changing your narrative,” she remarked. For example, Bloom shared a by-all-accounts traumatic experience of a real-life “She’s All That,” in which the popular guys paid someone to ask her out. But of course, that story is not the narrative we know. Nor will it be the one she is known for. Though it may have informed her work.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a colorful, methodical, poignant, show that, like Bloom’s panel, somehow weaves through hilarious, somber, and powerful moments to offer a reflection on relationships, psychology, and humanity. It is referred to as a “musical dramedy,” but in reality, it feels like Rachel’s story, questions, and statements on screen. And she knows it takes a multi-faceted cast to bring it to life. “We have the most talented cast on television. I’m overwhelmed,” Bloom shared during her panel. She said she constantly asks people, “Do you understand how talented you are?”
But really, Vulture attendees wanted to ask: Do you?