I have a real allergy to songs being cute. That was my problem when I was an auditioning musical theater actress. A lot of musical theater songs that are comedic are cute. But the thing you learn when you study sketch comedy is you always want to be ahead of the audience because you want that element of surprise.
I studied at UCB (Upright Citizen’s Brigade) which focuses on “the game” of the scene. The game is the pattern of funny. You find the game of the scene and then you heighten. You heighten the game of the scene. You heighten it, heighten it, heighten it. So, the audience can’t see where it’s going.
In his book, Finishing the Hat, Stephen Sondheim talks about the difference between cute, clever and funny. A lot of times when songs are clever, you’re enjoying the word play — which is different from something like South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut — which Sondheim called the best musical he’d seen in ten years because there is that element of surprise.
I majored in musical theater in New York [at NYU]. Greg [in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend] has this song, “I Could If I Wanted To,” which was written brilliantly by Jack Dolgen. It very much describes how I felt when I got into college. I was a big superstar in my public high school Drama Department. I get to college; everyone was more talented than I was. And I stopped trying. Because it was easier to tell myself I could do well in the scene if I wanted to — but I just don’t want to — than try my best in the scene and still fail. It took me a long time to get over that. So I auditioned for a couple shows, but by then, I’d also fallen in love with writing and wanted to pursue my own path — so I think my auditions probably were sh***.
Adam Schlesinger (who writes songs for and is Executive Music Producer for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend): The cliche when we work together is that whenever we’re trying to come up with an idea or genre that we haven’t done, I’ll mention something like like an ’80s rock thing like, “What about like this Pat Benatar song?” She’ll say, “What about that song from The Rink?” and name some musical theater song. I’ll have to quickly go on YouTube on my phone and then say, “Oh, yeah, that’s totally what I was thinking, too.”
Rachel Bloom: [When writing songs for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend]: I think at one point I said inadvertently, “The public is demanding Now, Later, Soon. The public wants to see it. Everyone’s wondering where’s A Little Night Music?!