I recently decided to take a break from my fourth rewatch of Rachel Bloom’s CW musical dramedy Crazy Ex Girlfriend to read her new memoir, I Want to be Where the Normal People Are. Boy am I glad I did. Mark Twain famously said, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” For Bloom, comedy is tragedy plus time-travel plus an original musical that crams the narrative arc of
your life into ten pages.
The book includes interactive sections like “Pull Down Your Pants and Let’s Compare Traumas” as well as Harry Potter fan fiction and excerpts of erotic poetry from her childhood journal. A personal favorite of mine was her middle school op-ed entitled “Inside Jokes Can Leave Many Outside,” which details the potentially detrimental effects of “this unavoidable part of our teen culture.”
In addition to being hilarious, Bloom is frank and insightful when reflecting on her adolescence, toxic relationships, and mental health. She describes her OCD in a way that was both fiercely resonant and fiercely funny. Though Bloom talks about feeling less alone when Crazy Ex Girlfriend fans sing along to her more vulnerable lyrics from the show, I was the one who felt less alone when reading this book. I recognized myself in the angst of her journal excerpts, and the deliciously earnest op-ed recalls many a self-righteous internal monologue of my own.
Bloom’s honesty is key to her comedy. She pulls no punches and spares the reader no details, from her adolescent masturbation habits to pictures of the imprints the shapewear she wore to different award shows left on her skin. In addition to being laugh-out-loud funny, these reflections add a radical feminist twist to the comic memoir genre. There’s also something inexplicably Jewish about the way Bloom shares her bathroom habits and her disdain for Spanx.
Of course, Bloom needed no help writing this book. Her comedic writing skills are on display throughout her series and musical sketches. But Bloom’s book does have ghost writers of sorts— the earlier versions of herself. Through journal excerpts, old poems, and op-eds, she shows readers the different young Rachels who taught each other to build the comedy mastermind that we currently know and love.
Abigail Fisher is a sophomore at Wesleyan University and a Lilith intern.