Few things are more hilarious than a 20-something woman getting down on her knees and begging an elderly sci-fi writer to fuck her. Rachel Bloom's video "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" received over a million hits in its first week and was a standout viral video of the summer. Rachel wrote the song years ago before writing, shooting, and producing the accompanying Britney Spears-style music video. She is an NYU alum, UCB student, and Onion contributor, and in Penn Jillette's opinion she's also "the sexiest woman around right now." In the wake of her rise to internet fame, Rachel sat down with me to answer some questions about what she likes about comedy, why women are funny, and what it's like to meet the old man you told everybody you want blow in your car.
So you met Ray Bradbury recently. What's he like?
Ray Bradbury was very sweet. He's 90 years old and it's pretty amazing because he writes for an hour every morning. He dictates to his daughter, so that's pretty unbelievable. He has very specific views on the space program, and he's been very vocal in the past about how we should colonize space. Although he thinks that humans are the only life in the universe. He doesn't believe in extraterrestrial life, at least that's the sense I got. He definitely believes that we are God – the moon is God, the earth is God, the stars are God – he believes that God is all around us, and that's really apparent in his one short story "The Fire Balloons," which is about priests who go to Mars to try to convert the Martians, and the Martians that they meet are these glowing orbs who are literally one with God already. It's a really cool short story that kind of encompasses his belief system. It was amazing though. Everything he said was so specific and deliberate. All in all, it was very cool.
Didn't he say "to hell with the internet" about a week before "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" was uploaded?
We talked about that. He really did like the video, he wasn't bashing at all for me making it. His whole point, and I really agree with it actually, is that in a way the internet has dumbed us down. I mean look, I owe a lot to the internet right now, but I spend hours doing nothing while looking at Facebook and then it's 4:00AM and I'm like what have I been doing? I don't think the internet is all bad though, obviously.
Did you ever think that meeting Ray Bradbury could be a possibility?
No not really. I mean the people who went through the whole process with me, like my boyfriend and this guy Jack who recorded the song with me and arranged it, they said "It would be the ultimate if Ray Bradbury ever saw this," and I was like "I know, you're right…you know if he ever googles himself maybe he'll find it." I knew it would be at least well-received, and I knew it would be a good comedy calling card, but I had no way to anticipate the firestorm that happened, which is awesome.
How did you decide on the kind of video you'd make for this song?
I was thinking about different concepts for the music video. At one point it was going to be a little more hipstery, and then I was talking to my boyfriend actually and the guy who helped me arrange the song, and they said they were thinking about Britney Spears, and I said "Oh my God, you guys are completely right." I wrote the music video that night, with the Ray Bradbury book signing scene and the sexy teacher and the retainer and stuff like that, and I watched "Hit Me Baby One More Time" a lot, which of course I think is a very good music video.
Is the musical side to your writing just as important as the comedic side to your writing?
I would say right now they're hand-in-hand. Sometimes I write music, sometimes I don't. I think I'm just writing more what's close to my heart, and musical stuff is close to my heart, and it's fun to write, and when something's fun to write you don't think about what statement you're trying to make or what genre you're trying to hone in on.
I've started to write some of my own songs that maybe aren't pop genre, but they're all comedy slanted. Because this is the thing, the problem I've had with musical theater comedy for a while is that it's...cute? It's just cute and it doesn't get to the point. There's a reason Stephen Sondheim called South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut the best musical we've seen in ten years. It's because they are comedians, they know how to write a story, and they know how to write songs that are heightened comedically. So I'm interested in writing music with a comedic sensibility that gets to the point and isn't cutesy. Because cutesy stuff is harkening back to the days of Cole Porter when you had to use innuendo because you weren't allowed to be as blunt as we can be today, and it's amazing now that we can be blunt in a way that Cole Porter could've only dreamed. I think we need to use that more.
Which shows, online or on TV, do you think are doing the most impressive work right now?
I am continually more and more impressed by Community. I think it's doing some really inventive things that we're not seeing on other shows. I think it all starts with these college sketch groups, like I'm really impressed with the stuff I see my old sketch group doing and other sketch groups that I see, these are the foundations of finding your own voice. Any improv, like the teams at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, is just amazing. I would say that UCBComedy.com in general, any of the sketches they have on there produced by the theater or people at the theater, always really impress me.
What do you like in comedy television these days, and where would you like to see it in 10 years?
I love the way that we're going as far as the snappiness. 30 Rock is formatted in a way sometimes like an improv show, where they mention something and then we cut to that then cut back – I love that. And I think the way female characters are being portrayed is really good, I'm actually really happy with that. I just like what TV is doing as far as experimenting. I like that they're playing with formats and being creative, and I think it's using sketch comedy almost as a lens a lot more. The characters can still be real and still be grounded, but I like these different formats, you know, like an entire show that's a musical episode, or even a show that does only one musical scene. Even a show that sometimes does a show in front of a studio audience and sometimes doesn't – I like the idea of continuing to experiment with the form and structure while delving more into character development. I also think that as the years go on we're going to be less and less censored. And I'm not even talking about sex jokes, it's just that we can do subject matter you couldn't do even ten years ago. So I think it's pushing the envelope not so much for shock value, but for how smart TV can get. And that's what I love about TV now. I think it's some of the smartest work being done period. And Breaking Bad, which isn't even a comedy, is one of the best things that has been created ever. You know I have to say, theater is behind, and I'm coming at this from more of a theater standpoint. I think that the brevity of TV, of really getting to the nugget of okay, thirty minutes, what's the show about, what's this episode about…I sometimes think theater could take a little note from that, because that's how we're evolving, towards cutting out the bullshit and saying what the idea's about.
You said you like the way female characters are being portrayed these days. So what's your take on the female side of comedy?
Men aren't actively writing women to oppress them, men are writing what they know. I say you can be much better as a woman for women's rights if you just go up there and write your own material. I've heard girls saying "Oh my God, there's like no girls at the theater!" and "I know! Like when you see an improv show there's like only two girls, like we gotta change that! We're gonna change that with our all-girl improv group!" And it's like okay, first of all, you're not the first ones to realize this, and second of all, if you're implying that your improv group is all-girl first and funny second, you are a detriment to women's rights. I'm not saying women aren't funny because women are very funny. Some of the funniest people I can think of are women. I think there are a lot of groups out there, though, that focus on having women pride first, and doing women pride stuff about their periods or ovaries, or even just this whole "I'm a powerful female character!" thing. If you focus on making good comedy, that's going to speak for women much more.
When people think of Tina Fey they think comedian first, they don't think woman first, because she's just amazing at what she does. And yes, she has also I guess entered this man's world, but she's entered this man's world by just doing her fucking work. And that's what it's ultimately about – if you do the work, you will advance whatever minority you're trying to advance much further than just being like "Look at me, I'm a woman comedian!" or "Look at me, I'm a gay comedian and I'm loud and proud and-" and it's like no, just be a comedian. Girls who complain about stereotypes in comedy but don't actually write comedy or improvise – who are just like actors saying "Oh it's just so stereotypical" – it's like, all right, well change it. You change it.
You can check out more of Rachel's work on her UCB page, Funny or Die page, and upcoming official website. Her new musical sketch show "Sing Out, Louise!" goes up at the UCB Theatre in NY on October 28th at 8:00PM, November 29 at 9:30PM, and UCB LA on January 13 at 8:00PM. For more info go to ucbtheatre.com.
Megh Wright is a writer, master food wrangler, TV addict, and Harrisburg native. When she's not watching reality competition shows, writing letters to her friends, or craving a caramel Frappuccino, Megh can usually be found on the streets of Soho running errands. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and is available for even the creepiest inquiries here.