When I logged on to Youtube Thursday afternoon, it suggested this video by Rachel Bloom:
Youtube knows that as a convert to Judaism, my intellectual interests extend beyond pure Torah to the rich and varied world of Jewish culture, including the modern hoopla around the ancient tribal rite of the bar mitzvah.
I liked the Rachel Bloom video and posted it to my Facebook.
Bartol Vali comments: “COME ON! THIS IS TERRIBLE. ITS NOT FUNNY TO SEE A WOMAN SOLICITING A CHILD. THE PARODY OFFERS NO REDEMPTION. ITS AWFUL.”
Luke: “A 12yo is not a child. When I was 12, this is just what I wanted most.”
Rabbi: “Bartol, she’s not soliticiting anything. That’s all going on inside his head. It’s his wishful thinking.”
Here are a couple of tweets by Rachel:
I bet the burglars from “Home Alone” got laughed at a lot in prison. And by “laughed at,” I mean “raped”
“Well you have to understand: back then, I was soooo depressed over a guy.”- My excuse for anything shitty I did between 1997-2008
As day turned into night, I emailed Rachel an interview request and watched more of her videos, including one about her love for science fiction author Ray Bradbury:
I took this photo of Ray on Dec. 6, 2007:
I watched this interview with Rachel Bloom to see how it was done:
Host: “Rachel has a ton of smart video parodies on Youtube. They are very sexy but a particular kind of sexy. Rachel, what’s your take on sex? You portray some of these characters who wear revealing outfits and are very suggestive?”
Rachel: “I’m mainly doing pop videos. In pop videos, one type of sexuality is portrayed. Go into a club. A guy with rippled muscles. Drink a lot and then do some drugs with him and then have sex. That’s what the pop ideal is like. The sexuality is one note. What interests me is exploring other… That’s not how I am sexually. I’m more attracted to intelligence. I’m more attracted to quirky things. It’s exploring. Here’s the structure of a pop video but how are normal people, regular people viewing sex.”
“I did a sketch for Funny or Die where there was a shot that I didn’t write where I had to be in a bra and underwear. And I did it because it was for comedy. If I had people say to me, this video that you are about to do is going to put you in a box and make people think you’re just a sex object, the video doesn’t earn the sexuality, it just you putting your titties out, then I wouldn’t put it out. That’s been my worry sometimes. Is this video just sexual to get views? The sexuality gets views but at the end of the day, it has to be a good joke.”
Male host: “I’d rather have somebody with intellectual prowess [rather than just a small waist and great boobs].”
Rachel: “I went to the World Science Fiction convention. I did a show at 1 a.m. where I sang some songs and people were coming up to me and saying, ‘Thank you. You’re expressing my kind of sexuality that I haven’t seen represented.’ That’s why it’s gotten really popular among book-smart people, sci-fi people, geeks, because it is using a mainstream pop music structure to express an alternate sexuality.”
Female host: “There’s something sexy beyond appearance sexy, beyond tits, beyond ass… Your videos turn sexy on its head. This is what sexy is supposed to look like but this is what it actually is — smart funny women.”
So Friday morning, I set up an interview for 2:30 pm.
During the day, I find myself singing the obscene lyrics to Rachel’s Ray Bradbury song.
When D-Day comes around, I can’t punch in the code to record. Even though I’ve done this many times before (though not for several months), for some reason my brain is scrambled.
Damn, I can’t make a freakin’ “#” sign on my cell phone. Oy, for this the Jews blew trumpets around Jericho?
Going from memory of our talk, I believe that Rachel says she grew up in Manhattan Beach. She was an only child. Her mom stayed home. Her dad was a healthcare lawyer.
By age three, Rachel wanted to be an actor. She got support from her family. They wanted her to grow to be educated and to be happy.
Middle school was a downer. Rachel tried hard to be popular but did not have much success. In eighth grade, she gave up trying and then everything got better.
In Mira Costa High School, she got the theater roles she wanted. She became popular. She was selected to the Homecoming Court.
Boys were a problem. They would cause her much grief until she connected with her present boyfriend in 2008.
She decided to go to NYU because of its music theater program and graduated in 2009.
She prefers living in New York to living in Los Angeles but she’s here now for her career.
After a break-up circa 2007, Rachel realized she’d rather stay home with a good book. This led her to write the song “F*** Me, Ray Bradbury.”
After college, she spent her savings on making that video. Then she saved again and made more videos.
I really wish I had recorded this as I have done 10,000 times before. My hand-eye-brain coordination has never failed previously. Oy, I must be doing a sin. My afternoon should’ve been spent studying Torah rather than examining the mores of secular Jews.
Rachel went to Hebrew school as a kid but enjoyed theater much more and did not bother to get a bat mitzvah. She’s more comfortable with secular Jews than religious Jews.
Jews are good at comedy because of their outsider status and history of oppression.
Rachel is not the least bit quirky in our interview. She’s smart and professional and to the point. I think that part of the time she’s talking to me, she’s driving. She answers all of my questions. She doesn’t shy away from anything. Oy, if only I remembered all we talked about. It might change your life.
I wasn’t this nervous when I interviewed Jenna Jameson. I think I’ve forgotten how to talk to the younger generation, particularly the younger generation with smart sci-fi takes on sexuality that subverts the dominant societal paradigm.
Rachel reads many books. She likes Philip Roth. She does not think he’s a misogynist. She’s hard to offend.
Her favorite book of 2012 is The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
Nothing has recorded until now because I stuck my male adapter into the wrong hole. I wonder what Michel Foucault would say about this?
Just before we say goodbye, I get my technical issues sorted out.
Luke: “What does offend you in life, if anything?”
Rachel: “If you are going to make fun of the Holocaust or of rape, you have to have a funny idea behind it or you’re just laughing at rape or the Holocaust rather than using them as a vessel to prove another point.”
Luke: “Do you think that men and women react differently to your videos?”
Rachel: “If they have senses of humor, they react the same way. Men may be in it more for the sex stuff. It depends on the kind of man you are.”
I shudder to think about the type of man I am. Rabbi Union was right.
Rachel: “Anyone who likes the videos and understands them, it’s across the board. Hopefully, you enjoy them because you appreciate the joke.”
Luke: “Do you think men relate more to the sexiness or to the appreciation of the joke?”
Rachel: “It depends on the kind of man you’re talking about. Maybe men who don’t understand the joke relate more to the sexiness.”
“Guys who understand the joke are in it for the joke.”
Luke: “Is there anything that you find mystifying about men?”
Rachel: “Yeah, their inability to read how women are feeling… I never cease to be amazed at how much I’ve openly seemed upset and how men in general don’t notice that you’re upset. They really just have no clue.”
“I was in love with this guy for years in high school and pretty recently I was like, ‘You know that I was in love with you, right?’ and he said, ‘I had no idea.’ That’s astounding.”
Luke: “How should men relate to you when you’re upset?”
Rachel: “They should just say, ‘What’s wrong?'”
Luke: “So what type of men do you fall in love with?”
Rachel: “The current man I am in love with, my boyfriend of four years, he’s funny, kind, smart, silly. The men I fell for in the past who were more dangerous had all those qualities but also had a suppression of emotion/self-hatred that made them intriguing.”
Luke: “What do you love and hate about your life right now?”
Rachel: “I love my boyfriend, my dog, the things happening with my career, writing TV, writing comedy. I hate that sometimes the only child in me takes over and I’m not social. I hate that I’m so afraid of things. I’m very worried about health stuff. I’m paranoid that I’m going to die young. I don’t like that my stomach is getting increasingly more sensitive.”
Luke: “What’s been your relationship to Judaism?”
Rachel: “I was raised very culturally Jewish. I went to Hebrew school until age nine and then I just wanted to do more theater. I thought Hebrew school was really boring. My parents let me quit. They didn’t care… I always identified with being Jewish. I just didn’t want to learn Hebrew. In college, I went to a few Hillel functions. That felt weird because they were more religious. I just hadn’t been religious. I still bond well with secular Jews. I still feel Jewish. The religion itself, I’m ignorant.”
Luke: “What are your goals?”
Rachel: “I want to continue to challenge myself artistically. I want to create my own TV show.”
“If I want to do these videos on my own terms, I have to spend my own money, which is a drawback.”
Luke: “What are you afraid of exploring?”
Rachel: “I don’t want to come off as racist so I’m afraid of seeming racist because I’m not but sometimes you ride that fine line when you want to make a joke. Is this racist?
“I don’t want to come off snobby or entitled. When I have a joke that is arrogant, I want people to understand that it is a character with a specific point of view and not think that I am arrogant.”
PS. Before the Shabbos but much too late for my interview, I figure out how to use my phone to make “#” and “*” and the other necessary signals to run the world.