The show is peppered with cultural allusions, from Beyoncé’s “Partition” video to a reference to the relationship between Simone de Beavoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. It’s not really like anything else on television right now. It’s a little strange, but charming, and fits perfectly into a culture that can’t stop talking about “Hamilton” and feminism.
Bloom, 28, caught the eye of Aline Brosh McKenna, the show’s co-creator, after she moved to New York and began sharing her comedy (including an imaginary Bernadette Peters sex tape) on YouTube. McKenna (whose screenwriting credits include “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Morning Glory” and “We Bought a Zoo”) had been watching Bloom’s videos, such as “If Disney Cartoons Were Historically Accurate.”
When the CW offered McKenna a deal for a musical, she called Bloom. “After our first meeting together, we knew we were going to make a show called ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,'” Bloom said in a phone interview with The Post on Sunday. We talked to her about the show, Bernadette Peters and her love for all things musical theater.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
It’s not that often that you see a show on network television that contains a reference to Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. The last one I can think of is Lisa on “The Simpsons.”
The first meeting that I ever had with Aline — and she is whip smart — I went to her office and she had copies of “Lean In” that she just gives to people. The original impetus for the show, as Aline says, is that women are sold a bill of goods about how love will solve all their problems, but then there’s also this pressure to have a career and be sane and not let love control you. The impetus for the show is the contradictory messages that women deal with on a daily basis. That kind of feminist theory was always a really important part of the show and especially important in deconstructing the title.
Because of the name, it’s easy to expect something more in the vein of what you would expect from the creators of “Two and a Half Men.”
I think especially because it’s on a broadcast network, you don’t expect a dark comedy that deconstructs a male-driven stereotype. Because we were always approaching it from a feminist, from a woman’s perspective, the other half of it didn’t occur to us until people were confused about the title.
What was the thought process for crafting Rebecca so that you wouldn’t get too bogged down by the terrible things that she’s experienced? (She’s seen dumping pills down a drain, there’s mention of a suicide attempt; her father abandoned the family on her birthday.)
From the beginning, my own personal tastes have been to play in the juxtaposition of very, very, very happy things and very dark things. Especially when you’re doing a musical and playing upon the musical tropes, there are happy tropes. So to get that comedic contrast, you want the subject to be weird and dark. When we created the show and we wanted to take a nuanced look at “what does crazy ex-girlfriend mean,” someone who quote-unquote becomes crazy over love, chances are it’s that they’re unhappy in their own lives. The dumb version of the show — the expected version of the show — is that it’s a crazy, SNL character who’s like, “Ohmygahd, I’m like, obsessed with you! Ohmygahd I’m at your house right now because I’m obsessed with you” and they’re just this broad, not nuanced character. When you actually look at people who become stalkers or become immersed in love, chances are, they’re not that happy in their own lives to begin with, hence Rebecca having anxiety and depression and not having a happy life being the things we had to have in order for this to be a realistic portrayal of someone using love as an escapist drug.
Right — Rebecca doesn’t even realize she’s doing that until her colleague tells her, “you moved here for a guy.”
The theme of Season 1 is the lies we tell ourselves. I grew up in Southern California and I particularly did not fit in. I always felt like a fish out of water in my hometown because everyone was very happy and I was thinking about death and anxiety and not many other people around me seemed to be thinking about that. And so this lack of awareness that comes from just being happy, and feeling out of place with that, was a big inspiration.
We always knew we wanted it to be a fish-out-of-water story and when you think fish-out-of-water stories, what you expect is someone coming to a small town from the big city and going, “This town is s—ty and podunk! Don’t you have Starbucks?” and they’re really dismissive. We went the opposite way in that she loves suburbia and she loves the happiness and she loves the sunshine. She’s exuberant about the Applebee’s and the Wetzel’s Pretzels. There was a very “yes and” approach to that.
There’s been heightened interest lately in incorporating singing with TV shows, starting with “Glee,” and then “Nashville” and “Empire.” But “Glee” is basically like karaoke, and “Nashville” and “Empire” are both centered around the music business, which gives the shows somewhat of a lower bar for entry. But your show is a straight-up musical.
The last part, by the way, is so mind-boggling to me. I watch it at home on my DVR and I’m like, “I cannot believe a network is letting us do this!” It’s really cool.
Do you see that as indicative of where we are in television, that networks are willing to take more risks?
I think the fact that there’s so much content now has changed the game for everyone. People can watch what they want to watch. It’s not limited to television. It’s the Internet. It’s their iPad. The idea of trying to appeal to the broadest number of people, because programming has gotten so specific otherwise, I think networks are slowly realizing they can do specific choices because that’s what everyone else is doing. Musical theater is an American genre. It started really, in America, as a combination of jazz and operetta; most of the great musical theater writers in the golden era are American. I think that to do a musical is a very American thing to me. And when TV first started, it started with people doing their vaudeville acts on TV and people went away from it to be newer and cooler but now I think we’re circling back to wanting a variety genre again.
This video contains explicit language.
It’s pretty obvious from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” that you have an affinity and appreciation for musical theater. I saw that you incorporated musical comedy into your stand-up act, too. When did this appreciation begin?
I’ve loved musical theater ever since I was a kid. My mother’s a pianist and my grandfather was an amateur theater director and stand-up comic. And I was an only child. And I loved attention. So from an early age, my family was teaching old musical songs. I think one of the first songs I learned was “All I Do The Whole Day Through” from “Singin’ in the Rain.” It was very much encouraged by family and I just loved it. And then I kind of became an outcast in school because it’s all I listened to. All I listened to until age 18 growing up was musical theater. I liked the escapism of it. I was a dark kid otherwise.
Just because it’s the one thing everyone’s talking about: Have you seen “Hamilton”?
No! I know the cast album by heart. For a second I was like, “I’m not going to listen to it until I see it!” and then I was like, “Ugh, who the f— am I kidding?” I love it so much. It’s all I want in the world.
You tweeted that Monday’s Thanksgiving episode may be the first time a Filipino family has been featured on an American comedy. What prompted the decision to make Josh’s character Filipino? Was he always written that way?
Josh’s character was always going to be Asian. We knew the show was going to be set in Southern California and we wanted him to be the opposite of Rebecca. We wanted him to be happy and we wanted him to be sunny. We always knew that we wanted him to be a bro. And a type of person that I had grown up with that I had never seen on TV was an Asian bro. Someone who grew up close to the beach, who was super into skateboarding, who was a bro, but also happened to be Asian. And very athletic, great at dancing — we just hadn’t seen that on TV. And then when we cast Vincent Rodriguez III [who plays Rebecca’s love interest, Josh Chan], he’s Filipino. So then we tailored it.
Naturally, when the character the person’s in love with is Filipino, you know, when you’re in love with someone you just want to inhale them. You want to take a bath in everything about them. Because he’s Filipino, because he’s close to his family, because he’s religious, Rebecca only wants to learn more and more about that. It quickly became very important to explore his culture. Writing a comedy show, it’s like, there’s a Thanksgiving Episode! So, what can we do that hasn’t been done before? In writing the episode — and the writer of the episode [Rene Gube, who plays Father Brah] is Filipino — we were realizing that there’s a scene in the episode that takes place in an Asian grocery store. We were filming it, and Rene wrote this great line where Rebecca realizes Paula has taken her into an Asian grocery store and she goes, “Oh, there’s a lot of bok choy and fish with whiskers. And all of the Asians.”
We were filming, and I turned to Rene and I said, this is such a familiar thing to southern California, but god, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this on TV. And he’s like, “Nope!”
In specifically making our lead Asian, I’ve begun to see the tip of the iceberg of things that people of color deal with in auditioning and creating content in Hollywood, that they just don’t feel represented. … Just in doing the truest form of the TV show and in doing the truest concept of someone living in southern California we’re doing things that haven’t been shown before. Which is interesting, because immigrants make up this country and I feel like, even as a Jewish person, we’re owning the fact that she’s Jewish. Episode eight is all about her and her very Jewish mother played by Tovah Feldshuh, and that’s a very common immigrant experience that I don’t feel has been properly explored on TV. Most lead characters, even though they’re created by Jews or sometimes played by Jews, don’t really talk about being Jewish a ton, unless it’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Leaning into the fact that we’re a nation of immigrants has been really fun.
Was it important, early on, when you knew that Josh was going to be Asian, to have someone who could write to that voice?
It really was because, first of all, you want a staff that reflects the show you’re writing. And so it was very important for us to have someone Filipino on staff, and not only that, Rene is just fantastically talented. And in writing, he brought to the episode things I didn’t even anticipate. Just little things. I knew he would bring the experience of a Filipino family and the cadence of how parents talk. When I write Jewish parents, it comes very easily to me because that’s my experience. It’s just a dogwhistle-type thing — that sounds authentic. That doesn’t sound authentic.
The episode ended up being all about Rebecca trying to impress the family by making dinuguan, which is a very well-known, popular Filipino dish and we knew wanted the episode to be that, the idea of her trying to impress them by making Filipino food. But the mainstream idea of what Filipino food is different from what actual Filipino food is. Another little thing: We asked, well, what would a Filipino family do after Thanksgiving? And [Rene] said, “Well, they would go to mass.” Coming from a secular household, that wouldn’t even occur to me.
That’s why diversity on writing staffs is so important, is to not only reflect the characters that you’re writing, but to add authenticity and deepen the world you’re creating and take you down avenues and roads you otherwise never would have. No way would Rebecca have made dinuguan if we were just writing the episode. … There’s a level of depth and knowledge that was really important for us to get.
Hopefully one day we’ll see a guest appearance by Bernadette Peters.
I don’t know if she’s seen that sketch. I feel kinda bad. I’m a huge Bernadette Peters fan. I mean, that’s an example of taking something I’m a fan of and subverting it. God, I love Bernadette Peters. If she’s reading this, I’m a huge fan! I made a sex tape of her because I love her and I basically have the tastes of a 60-year-old gay man.