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Rachel Bloom discusses new memoir, Adam Schlesinger's death: 'It still doesn't feel quite real'

David Oliver
USA TODAY

It will not surprise you to know that Rachel Bloom – star and co-creator of The CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," which aired its series finale last year – was a theater kid growing up.

You likely know this type of person. Someone outspoken, prone to jazz hands and bursting with energy. But they likely have a quietness to them, too, something they may forget even among each other.

"Theater kids have misconceptions about themselves," Bloom tells USA TODAY. "I think they don't realize that other people around them are going through problems or are vulnerable."

Bloom digs into this vulnerability in her new memoir, "I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are" (Grand Central Publishing, 280 pp.), out Tuesday. She writes as candidly here as she did on her show, talking about everything from sexual pleasure to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Though writing about mental health may come off as extra brave, Bloom doesn't see it that way.

"The more specific you get with your insecurities, or when it comes to mental health, like your own mental health journey, the more people relate to it," Bloom says. "There was no reason for me not to be vulnerable in this book because it's stuff over which I don't feel ashamed anymore and being vulnerable has so far been paying off." 

Flashback:Rachel Bloom of 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' welcomes first child during coronavirus pandemic

"I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are," by Rachel Bloom.

What is this book exactly? Satire, fan fiction and more

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" viewers will feel comfortable reading Bloom's experimental essays that spiral into hyperbole and satire, vacillating between deeper topics like OCD and lighter topics like bathroom breaks.

"I wanted to write the type of book that I like reading, which is more comedic pieces that are grounded in real things and real emotion," Bloom says. One such diatribe is her criticism of straight men in musical theater and how 80% of them are irredeemable humans.

"There's a nuance in the mix to it that I omitted for comedic purposes in the book," Bloom says. "But yes, some straight men in musical theater are terrible and insufferable, and they're the worst. And no one calls them out on it, so this is my time and my chance."

Readers will also find many important footnotes riddled throughout the book, where Bloom shares further insights. In one chapter, she writes "Harry Potter" fan fiction but condemns J.K. Rowling's disparaging comments about the transgender community in a footnote.

"I don't know quite how to reconcile it or grapple with it yet, and I don't know if I ever will," she says.

Insight into that topic here:How trans 'Harry Potter' fans are grappling with J.K. Rowling's legacy after her transphobic comments

'It still doesn't feel quite real': Rachel Bloom talks Adam Schlesinger's death

At the start of the pandemic, Bloom gave birth to her first child, a daughter – only to face the devastating loss of one of her best friends, Adam Schlesinger, around the same time . Schlesinger, co-founder of the band Fountains of Wayne and a "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" songwriter, died of coronavirus complications in the spring.

"It's real in my personal narrative now, but it still doesn't feel quite real," she says. "So I'm sure I'll be working through it and feeling the repercussions of that."

As for her newborn, Bloom felt like the globe was having a newborn with her. The world seemingly shut down with her during her maternity leave, almost like a worldwide maternity leave, she says. But it's not lost on her that people can't hold the baby and she can't attend mommy-and-me classes.

Raising her daughter has been her prime focus during quarantine, as one might expect. She did sign up for an online music composition course, but like many attempting productivity during the pandemic, she hasn't followed through.

"I have not been troubled with the adult coloring book thing, just because my child is my adult coloring book," Bloom says.

RIP:Emmy-winning songwriter Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne dies of coronavirus at 52

On bullying: 'We're all messed up'

Bloom spends a fair amount of the book discussing bullies: the classic childhood bullies, and then those you find in the workplace as an adult. Bloom randomly reconnected with a childhood bully after one of her live shows, the first time she got insight into a bully's head.

"That conversation just furthered my journey into realizing that we're all messed up," she says.

She also details misogyny and the effects of the patriarchy in writers' rooms in which she's worked. Regarding patriarchy, "it expects everyone to play certain roles, including men," she says. When men feel the need to assert themselves and try to work through hardships in their life via comedy, for example, it can create toxicity.

"We're having some necessary conversations now about what bullying really is, what intimidation in the workplace really is," Bloom says.

Rachel Bloom's favorite bathrooms

Bloom's humor is the blood that pumps the book's heart – and after a whole chapter devoted to her need to decompress on the toilet, we had to ask: Where are her favorite bathrooms?

She identified two: The bathrooms at a Japanese restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City – great toilets with warm bidets – and the ones at Sketch, a restaurant in London. Each toilet is in a small "alien pod" – aka, "Instagram-friendly."

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