Since Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s first season launched on the CW in 2015, its continued run has felt like an unlikely cult success story. The show, with its seemingly limited audience — a mix of musical-theater geeks and TV-comedy obsessives — seemed doomed to be relegated to the pile of other great but short-lived shows that deserved so much more.
And yet! Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has come a long way in three years, becoming a well-loved show thanks to its songwriting, ingenuity, and originality. A good chunk of that comes courtesy of co-creator Rachel Bloom. Bloom’s career began with YouTube music videos that parodied pop songs and gave her space to hone her comedic and musical talents — talents that she had already begun exploring at school and as a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade. Bloom’s early YouTube videos showcase her raw talent while allowing her to get dark and weird without having to worry too much about narrative. To celebrate the show’s fourth-season return tonight, we’ve ranked her best pre–Crazy Ex-Girlfriend videos and looked at how they brought us to the Rachel Bloom we know today.
11. “We Don’t Need a Man” (2012)
In “We Don’t Need a Man,” both Rachel and her friend Shania have just been dumped and are seeking to feel a little bit better about it. It’s a spot-on parody of pop-empowerment anthems as Shania sings that she feels like herself again while Rachel makes it weird and depressing, singing: “I’ve been eating a lot of cheese, I haven’t showered in three days and I’m sleeping with my dog Louise!” and “I don’t deserve love!”
On Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom manages to make obsessive, insecure, weirdly fanatical love with an ex seem somehow endearing and relatable. “We Don’t Need a Man” is an early showcase of this unique skill, as the “Rachel” character soaks herself in a bath fully dressed writing the name of her ex on her arms in red lipstick and creating a Frankenstein’s monster of him out of socks. It’s pathetic and silly, boosted by Rachel’s deadpan line delivery — a perfect early example of her absurd, desperate humor.
10. “If Disney Cartoons Were Historically Accurate” (2013)
At 1.5 million views, Rachel’s only animated video is also one of her most watched. In it, “Princess Rachel” wanders around a Disney-perfect landscape complete with a castle and singing birds — that’s only so quiet and picturesque because “most people died of a plague.” While the animation looks cute, it’s also just the perfect vehicle for Rachel to get really off-the-wall in a way that she can’t in live action videos.
Princess Rachel wanders around her village, pointing out the sights: “The blacksmith with his daughter-wife, 10 years old and pregnant with her brother’s son” and a “statue of Christ adorned with thief hands.” Characters are chopping off each other’s arms, we see Bambi and other Disney animals splayed out as furs, and she sings that she’s going to meet her prince and “give birth to a son and die right after!” She even tackles the historical oppression of Jewish people in a scene that sees her visiting them in a forest, realizing they live there “to hide from people trying to kill” them. It’s darker than a cart of baby corpses, but without much of the sweetness that defines a lot of Rachel’s other work.
9. “Die When I’m Young” (2013)
There was a time when virtually every pop song (think: Ke$ha’s “Die Young”) seemed to be a YOLO battle cry to trash your body as much as possible because hey, who cares, live fast, die young! The concept has been parodied more than once; the Lonely Island released “YOLO” in 2013, too, approaching it from the angle of “you only live once, so be careful!” and taking it to bubble-boy extremes.
“Die When I’m Young” sees Rachel Bloom crying out that she’s going to “burn out fast and dance forever,” but midway through spray-painting “die when I’m young” on a wall, she gets called by a doctor saying that she’s going to die. “I didn’t expect this to literally happen — I guess this is what I wanted,” Rachel cries, before throwing up and having a little lie down in the club. But when pinpointing and then filleting a trend isn’t enough, Rachel ratchets things up by throwing in a rap by an aborted fetus that climbs out of a trash can and sings about all the things it won’t get to do: “I died so young I didn’t even live!”
8. “I Was a Mermaid and Now I’m a Pop Star” (2011)
Before sharpening her Disney-satirizing skills with “If Disney Cartoons Were Historically Accurate” and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s “I’m the Villain in My Own Story,” Bloom released “I Was a Mermaid and Now I’m a Pop Star,” a look at what would happen if the Little Mermaid was discovered by a record producer. Through a simple rap and an Auto-Tuned chorus, Rachel mocks celebrity culture in a retelling of Ariel’s story that sees her dragging herself down the red carpet, letting fans snort lines off her tail, and paying a man to splash water on her.
Rewriting parts of Ariel’s songs from the Disney film, Rachel lusts after those human “what do you call ’em?” before throwing up dollars and crying “monaaayyy” and rebukes Poseidon’s pleas for her to return to the ocean with, “If you’re ever in Bel Air, be sure to drop me a line.” The video doubles as a sharp criticism of celebrity narcissism and culture, a theme she later revisited in “I Don’t Care About Award Shows.”
7. “You Can Touch My Boobies” (2012)
Rachel Bloom’s Jewish heritage is often played for comedy both on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and in her earlier videos; in “You Can Touch My Boobies” she plays a teacher at Hebrew school preparing kids for their Bat and Bar Mitzvahs when student Jeffrey Goldstein falls asleep and has a sexy dream about her — a trope explored in both Paris Hilton’s “Nothing in This World” and Busted’s “What I Go to School For,” among other places.
But Jeffrey Goldstein is, presumably, around the age of 12 — so the comedy comes from the fact that he doesn’t really know what a sexy dream is. Rachel sings that they’re going to lick tongues and that he can touch her boobies over a backing chorus of women singing words like “boner,” “uterus,” “outer labia,” and “fallopian” — words that Jeffrey has heard and thinks sound sexy but doesn’t really understand. This adolescent (mis)understanding of sex culminates in Rachel putting tampons inside a condom and singing that her vagina is “located on [my] stomach somewhere.” “You Can Touch My Boobies,” like most Rachel Bloom videos, takes a universal truth (young boys are horny but don’t understand sex) and takes it to an absurd, inconceivable place when the first prime minister of Israel visits Jeffrey to instill some Jewish shame.
6. “Pictures of Your Dick” (2012)
Rachel Bloom has a good voice. Like, really good. And part of what makes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend so funny is that she showcases that voice through insanely silly songs. In “Pictures of Your Dick,” a broken-hearted breakup ballad, Rachel strolls around L.A. and sobs on her bed singing about her ex-boyfriend, warbling: “All I can do is lay around and post pictures of your tiny dick on the internet.”
From there it escalates, with Rachel Photoshopping a tux onto a picture of her ex’s dick and sending him on Photoshopped adventures all over the world — and even starting a blog called the Adventures of Tim’s Tiny Dick, where she Photoshops it into space, the show Friends, and outside the Taj Mahal. “Pictures of Your Dick” then sees Rachel running into her ex as she puts up “lost dick” posters around town. Really silly and a whole lot of fun, and an exceptional showcase of Bloom playing the “desperate and heartbroken” role.
5. “NOBODY WILL WATCH THE F*CKING TONY AWARDS WITH ME” (2014)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend appeals to a mass audience, sure, but it’s mostly for the musical-theater nerds. The show’s creators, writers, and cast are all unabashed fans (or stars) of Broadway musicals, and in “NOBODY WILL WATCH THE F*CKING TONY AWARDS WITH ME,” a pure show tune, Rachel’s absolute love of the genre becomes clear as she desperately tries to find literally anyone but herself who gives a shit about watching the Tonys.
Rachel is willing to do anything other than hang out with one of her old friends to find someone to watch the Tonys with — because “Megan’s so weird,” Rachel says — before willingly watching the Tonys with a rando from Craigslist who wants to watch her shave. “It’s like the Oscars if the actors had talent,” “if basketball were interesting,” she sings. Being in the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fandom is, like loving musicals, like being in a maniacal cult: This video emphasizes the occasional loneliness of being in that cult, and the magic of finding someone else who is.
4. “Chanukah Honey” (2013)
For every ten Christmas songs, there are very few Chanukah counterparts. Keen to fill that void, Bloom released “Chanukah Honey”, which also appeared on an entire album of Chanukah songs. The “Santa Baby” parody plays on Jewish stereotypes and Chanukah motifs, with Rachel crooning “Come and flip my latkes tonight” in a blue-and-white Santa costume while insisting to her sweetie that he’s “so tall” at five-foot-eight, and that they must have mutual friends.
The song is funny and fills a distinct need for Chanukah songs, while being dotted with some excellently deadpan Bloom lines like, “But seriously, do you want kids?” and “Mezuzah is the name for my clit” — perfectly, stoically delivered.
3. “The OCDance!” (2014)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has made a name for itself as a spot-on, non-offensive representation of mental-health issues. In the case of Rebecca, that turns out to be borderline personality disorder. But even for the most aware writers, obsessive-compulsive disorder is difficult to represent. Yet “The OCDance!” manages to get close, despite being very silly (and short!).
Teaching a new dance to the nation, Rachel tells viewers to “Touch the wall! Touch it again!” adding that if you don’t, “bad things will happen!” Dancers step to the right — “NEVER TO THE LEFT!” she insists, dire and low-pitched. As it escalates, it’s not the repetition or the rituals that make “The OCDance!” so authentic, but the mania and desperation with which the ridiculous fears and instructions are delivered: “Your thoughts and actions have the power to alter the course of human existence!”
2. “I Steal Pets” (2011)
Rachel Bloom’s YouTube music videos are so good precisely because they have absolutely no need to carry any sort of narrative. “I Steal Pets,” one of her earliest songs, is dark and seemingly from nowhere; honing her nerdy outcast persona, Rachel plays a girl who steals pets from the popular people at school and hangs out with them in her shed.
While she’s bullied, the pets in her shed are her friends: “Whitney Jones called me a fag but her cat ate salmon out of my hand.” She has pillow fights and an entire seventh-grade dance with cats, dogs, and lizards; taking it too far as always, she kisses a dog because it has “Greg’s eyes.” With a dog-bark solo, an Auto-Tuned warble of “pets aren’t yours, pets are mine,” and a flat “both my parents are dead” kicker, “I Steal Pets” shows that while Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is perfect because it’s a team effort by a bunch of enthusiastic theater nerds, Rachel’s YouTube videos are best when they seem like she’s done it entirely alone. She’s an enthusiastic, committed, wholehearted outcast.
1. “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” (2010)
Rachel Bloom’s very first YouTube video is also her best. While this ranking doesn’t have a single bad video in it, “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” is objectively the greatest one. Nominated for a Hugo Award in 2011 and garnering a ton of media attention after being released on writer Ray Bradbury’s birthday, the video shows Rachel presenting her class with a talk on the late sci-fi author as she works through an unstoppable lust for the man, with book-oriented puns like “Kiss me, you illustrated man” and “I carved our names on a Halloween tree.”
Bloom gleefully showcases many of the things she’s best: seemingly immature jokes (“I write about blowing you in my car”) that play on the nerdy, desperate persona that she’s perfected so well. The video is low-budget and, as such, it’s all about the writer here — it feels almost like a passion project, in more ways than one. Rachel Bloom’s brain is the only brain that could have come up with something as perfectly weird as “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury.”