Rachel Bloom spoke with Solzy at the Movies about I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are, mental health, improv, and more.
Her memoir is now available in paperback–with a new chapter–through Grand Central Publishing.
I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are is now available in paperback and with a new chapter. What went into the decision to add a new chapter to the book?
Rachel Bloom: Well, honestly, my publisher was like, in books like this, people—a lot of times—like to add extra stuff. I was like, I don’t know what to add and then the kind of requests that I gleaned from people who read the book was they just wanted more about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I was like, Well, I’m just gonna ask people what questions they have and make it easy for myself.
What’s the hardest part about writing a book?
Rachel Bloom: I think organizing your thoughts, really, especially when it’s something like this that’s kind of autobiographical. It’s why I went with kind of a high concept approach because it can be something that’s so unfocused—organizing your life in categories.
Vaccines were still being rolled out when the hardcover edition was released. What were the challenges that came with doing a virtual book tour instead of in-person?
Rachel Bloom: I’ve never done a book tour so I can’t compare it to anything else but it felt like a semi-book tour. I was gonna be going on an eight-city book tour. I was gonna be flying around to different cities. That’s where all the budget was gonna kind of go. Instead, it was just, for the most part, a series of Zooms. It almost makes it feel not real. When everything takes place on the internet, there still is something and maybe it’s because I’m not Gen Z, there’s still something about stuff that takes place online. It’s almost like it takes place in a dream, where it’s not real. It’s not tangible. I sometimes forget that I released a book just because I didn’t sign, sign, sign things. I’m doing my first in-person signing event in a week or two and it’s going to be very trippy.
Rachel Bloom: Thanks.
I know you’re filming something right now. What sort of challenges are there that comes with filming a project during a pandemic?
Rachel Bloom: Well, they’ve been great. It’s this new Hulu show. They test zone A, which is the actors and the makeup artists—they test us three times a week. The crew is getting tested, I believe, twice a week. I think the hardest part is if I saw anyone I worked with outside of work, I wouldn’t recognize them because everyone’s in a mask. It’s necessary but it is very weird to not be able—when I picture the people I work with, I can only picture them from nose up.
You have a chapter in your book devoted to Harry Potter fan fiction. Given what we’ve learned in recent years about J.K. Rowling, did you consider not including it?
Rachel Bloom: Well, you see, there’s a footnote at the bottom. What happened is I wrote the chapter. I was so proud of it. I’ve actually had that idea for a long, long time, Harry Potter drama club. I worked so hard on the chapter. I think it was just as the book was getting published—it was when I was doing the revisions, I faced that choice. That’s why I put the footnote because I was really proud of what I wrote. I also know that it’s the fact that she doesn’t get any proceeds from me writing a fucked up parody. It definitely was why I added the footnote.
One of the things I like about following your work over these past several years now is that you’ve been very open when it comes to mental health.
Rachel Bloom: Yes.
That’s not so much a question. I just wanted to get it out there.
Rachel Bloom: (Laughs) Yes, I have. I think part of the reason I have is that personally to me, the worst part about going through whatever you call it—anxiety or for me, I call it the darkness or the bad—is feeling like I’m the only person who’s feeling this. I try to talk about it a lot because the more we talk about it, I think the more it takes away part of the pain of going through something mentally, which is like, I’m doing this to myself. I’m making this up. I should just stop thinking about this. Because you tell yourself, especially if you have intrusive thoughts or anxiety, you’re like, I’m doing this to myself. And no, it’s not. It’s your brain chemistry.
Speaking of mental health, you deactivated Twitter nearly a year ago. How much of a difference has it made in your life?
Rachel Bloom: It’s really nice. I am angry less. I’m definitely distraught less. My husband tells me—he’s still on Twitter so he tells me any major thing. I still check—I read New York Times, LA Times. I’ll read Vulture. If there’s anything major that’s happening on Twitter that I need to know about, I’ll read an article about it. But the stress of logging onto Twitter and its like, what is everyone angry about? I think also because I’m like, “a public figure or whatever,” there was always, I felt, this pressure to weigh in on whatever the thing was to be relevant and keep my Twitter numbers up, which is just so fucked up. I didn’t want that anymore. I just didn’t want it anymore. There’s only so much time I have in the day and having a kid, I don’t have time to be worrying about Twitter.
I definitely hear that. I mean, some days, it is like, can we just not talk about what’s in the discourse?
Rachel Bloom: Yeah, I feel like I’m gonna read about whatever’s going on if it’s important. I think a lot of people can handle Twitter. At the moment, it was too stressful for me. Just too stressful.
Yeah. I can tell you what’s going on today. A lot of people are upset about a list of romantic comedies, one of which is released before 1980.
Rachel Bloom: What’s the list?
It’s on The Ringer. I didn’t look at the list but Harold and Maude was the only romantic comedy listed before 1980.
Rachel Bloom: So people are angry because?
You don’t have any the 1930s, 1940s, nothing with Cary Grant.
Rachel Bloom: I mean. (Laughs) Sure, I mean, that’s the thing, where it’s like, okay, if I were on Twitter, then I’d be like, well, I made a rom-com TV show, G-d, I should probably weigh in on this, right? People want to know what I think and then I’d weigh in on some bullshit thing. And then I’d be like, it’s just—and then an hour would go by and I’d be like, what did I do today? I did nothing.
Was there an instructor that had a meaningful influence on you during your time at UCB?
Rachel Bloom: Eliza Skinner’s musical improv classes because we also discuss song structure in there—that definitely informed how I write songs. I took a Jackie Clarke improv class, too, that was just really, really wonderful.
Similarly, what is the single best piece of advice that you learned at UCB and taken with you throughout your career?
Rachel Bloom: That the scene is not up here. You’re not reaching for the perfect scene that’s floating just above your head. You make the scene. The scene is what you’re making it right now. To aim for like, Oh, I know that there’s a scene in here, what’s the ideal way to do the scene? Just be in the moment—the scene is what you make of it. I think that’s just very great and informative. I remember I had this teacher, Michael Delaney, where I asked him years ago, what if you’re stuck in a bad improv scene? He’s like, change it. Change the scene. I take that with me—that your life to the best of your abilities is what you make of it.
I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are is now available on paperback.
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