Rachel Bloom is on top of the world right now, after winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical for her series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” currently in its debut season on the CW network. But for listeners of the podcast network Radio Titans (www.radiotitans.com) and its “Pajama Party” podcast, it’s been clear for a long time that Bloom was going to be spectacular.
As a guest on “Pajama Party” in the fall of 2014, Bloom came in to do her highly energetic rendition of the theme song from the Broadway classic “Rent” in the guise of each and every lead character - including performing the dialogue between all the sung lines. Lead host Carl Kozlowski had seen her do the song live onstage at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Hollywood the week before in a show called “Dream Role,” in which performers took their turns doing a song or scene as from the role of their dreams.
Bloom showed up at the Titans studio in downtown Los Angeles late after getting stuck in traffic, and then had to contend with construction noise bleeding into the background of the studio in addition to figuring out how to charge her iPhone and then get it rigged in a way that the backing track could play. But after all the obstacles, she cut loose at about 40 minutes into the show, and her rendition of the song was absolutely electric and gave an early glimpse of the star about to be born.
The rest of her interview was hilarious too, including stories of how she grew up singing songs from musicals, an awkward encounter with Alec Baldwin while interning on “SNL”, her post-grad, pre-fame telemarketing jobs and an analysis of the “Rent” storyline where she realized that the characters really just needed to get a job.
“As a child, all I listened to was show tunes and when you’re 11, 12 , or 13 of course you’re craving release,” recalled Bloom. “And I’d never listened to rock and roll, so the closest I got was the soundtrack to ‘Rent.’ It came out in 1996 [when she was nine] and I didn’t understand most of the references. I kind of knew what AIDS was, but I didn’t understand about squatters in Alphabet City and didn’t know the show came out six years after its story took place and no one was even squatting anymore. The show was just an angry release and my dream was to be the physical embodiment of ‘Rent’ and that’s what inspired the performance. “
Bloom, 28, grew up in the town of Manhattan Beach, about 30 minutes outside of LA, “to neurotic Jewish parents who wouldn’t let me go out in the sun.” She recalls feeling paranoid and having an urge to be different even at a young age, because everyone else in her oceanside town was happy and she was too self-conscious to blend in.
Yet her parents supported her showbiz dreams, sending her to college at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. There, she came to realize just how ridiculous the “Rent” storyline was, as many of her performance professors had been part of the performance-art scene in the city’s hardscrabble Alphabet City in the late ‘80s and waxed nostalgic about it frequently.
“To me, it’s amusing that Jonathan Larson, the whole time he wrote ‘Rent,’ had a job at a diner, and wasn’t a squatter,” said Bloom. “That’s one thing that bugged me about ‘Rent’ once I graduated college. Get a job! Why don’t you get one like waiting or telemarketing?”
Despite her dream of living like the play’s characters, Bloom followed her own advice and did get a job right after graduating. Working telesales for a string of East Coast theaters and symphonies, she recalls one particularly awkward encounter with a potential customer for the Pittsburgh Ballet.
“I was calling people who saw ‘The Nutcracker’ 15 years ago, selling subscriptions,” she recalled. “One time I called a woman who said ‘I really want a subscription but my daughter got diagnosed with leukemia. I said ‘Bye, have a nice day,’ and she kept trying to say she’d buy one because her daughter loves ballet. I was like ‘Save your money for treatment!’“
Eventually, Bloom was hired as a writer for shows including the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim show “Robot Chicken.” She was also eagerly awaiting word about whether a musical comedy show concept of hers would land at Showtime.
Instead, it landed at the CW and the rest is history.
: But that night, the admitted science-fiction buff did have one other ironic connection to her beloved play, “Rent.”
“I’ve got albums for sale on my website, and a bunch of T-shirts saying ‘Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury,’” she said. “I’m hoping this show will move some, ‘cause I gotta make rent.”
To hear the episode, which in addition to Bloom’s interview and wild rendition of “Rent” includes a funny interview with Upright Citizens Brigade star Sean Conroy, an opening singalong to the ‘70s hit song “Let Your Love Flow,” and two songs by LA band The Letters Home, click here: http://bit.ly/1K7Jpz4.