Meet the man who is making America laugh again.
Randy Rainbow is angry. Sure, his musical parodies point to a keen eye for the absurd and a prodigious satirical talent.
But, really, he’s pretty pissed about things. The real me is just angry, and that’s not really amusing a lot of the time. So I write things in a way that’s a little more palatable for people.” Evidence for the defense, your honor.
Alternative Facts, starring Kellyanne Conway and and the jaunty Jellicle Songs’ from Cats. A Hamilton parody poking fun at Mike Pence. And (a personal favorite, this one) the timeless Grab Em
“The name is real, I wouldn’t make that up. I mean, everyone assumes it’s a stage name but, when you think about it, it’s the worst stage name anyone could possibly select.”
By The P****. It’s catchy. And, since he became one of the best things to come out of the election, his career is in definite “next level territory.
But first – the name “The name is real, I wouldn’t make that up,” he says. “I mean, everyone assumes it’s a stage name but, when you think about it, it’s the worst stage name anyone could possibly select.
“So, it was a very difficult childhood. There was some bullying going on, sure, but I quickly found my place in the drama club and I found my clique, and it’s working out now.”
Born in Long Island, he moved to Florida as a child, and always dreamed of returning. Painting the skyline of New York City on his high school bedroom wall must have been a dead giveaway.
And Broadway was IT. “I was a total show queen, and I had posters of all the shows, Audra McDonald, all the stars who I’m now interacting with were on my bedroom wall.”
“My first job here, believe it or not, was at Hooters in Hell’s Kitchen. I might have made history, I’m not sure. I’d like you to look into that.”
However, when he eventually returned to make his fortune on the Great White Way, he didn’t do what most theater students do. “I didn’t start pounding the pavement and getting interviews and everything. I kind of detached myself from it and had to grow up a little. I was a very young 22-year-old.
“So I worked in a few restaurants. My first job here, believe it or not, was at Hooters in Hell’s Kitchen. I might have made history, I’m not sure. I’d like you to look into that.”
(I have looked into it, as it happens. Hooters has been sued twice over its hiring practices, and its policy of taking on women only remains intact. So, yeah, Randy may well be a Hooters anomaly.)
He laughs: “You can imagine all those poor guys who would walk in on their lunch break and they’d find me with a clipboard!”
He then worked in a few gay restaurants, picked up some receptionist jobs, somehow always winding up back in the theater world, whether in a production or PR office, knowing he had a voice of some sort. But what was it?
“I think if I’d done this the regular way of pounding the pavement and doing cattle calls, I’d have gotten lost in the shuffle. I don’t shine in that way – I have to do my own thing. Which is why the internet stuff is great for me.”
So picture young Randy, sitting behind a desk in a Broadway production office, say. It’s kind of boring, right? But every now and then, Patti LuPone will walk in. Or Elaine Stritch will call. So he starts writing a blog about his gay single life in New York City. Said blog achieves a modicum of success. Fast forward a bit, and, soon “the ham in me was itching to come out.”
So, around seven years ago, the blog becomes a performance. Then, in 2010, when tapes of Mel Gibson’s abusive conversation with his girlfriend become public, Randy turns them into his first viral success: Randy Rainbow is Dating Mel Gibson. “Really it just started with the opportunity,” he says. “I would just tackle whatever was trending at the moment.
When the Kim Davis thing happened (the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples), I did a spoof on her. It was the Cell Block Tango, and that got four million views on Facebook That was my first time seeing numbers like that. I looked at my phone and I had 1,000 messages in my inbox. I was like, This is next level shit.”
“I like comedians who make themselves the butt of the joke. Steve Martin was a big influence, so I write myself in that way.”
His tiny Astoria apartment is now rigged up as a permanent studio – lights, green screen, camera – and he records the videos in about a day. “You have to get it out, so I work pretty quickly. It’s getting easier because it’s dictated by the source material – it’s what everyone’s talking about. Then I just watch it about ten times and I write pretty quickly how I’m going to insert myself.”
The man we see on screen is the real thing – just a heightened version of Randy. A scripted, comedic version. “It’s me writing the comedy version of me. I like comedians who make themselves the butt of the joke. Steve Martin was a big influence, so I write myself in that way.”
His first political spoof was when Obama was reelected. “I just continued to cover the hot topics. Then when this … when the shit hit the fan, so to speak, I went for it, and it just went to the next level, it exploded.”
His videos were getting four million views … seven million … he started receiving messages from celebrities. “Then my Braggadocious video [‘super careless, fragile ego, extra braggadocious”) hit.”
The video was posted on George Takei’s FB page, then the son of Robert Sherman (of the Sherman Brothers, who wrote the Mary Poppins song that inspired the spoof) tweeted: “I love your Supercal destruction of Trump, and I know my late Dad is applauding you from above. You rock!”
It got 30 million views in two days. “So that kind of felt, This is happening.”
His cellphone has hardly stopped ringing since. “My head’s spinning a little right now, because I’m hearing from a lot of people … a lot of production companies, and a few networks have reached out, so
I’m currently working on two ideas. One for a musical Daily Show concept that is sort of the character I do in the videos when I’m interacting with celebrities. Then there’s a scripted comedy that’s in the vein of a Larry Sanders Show or a Curb Your Enthusiasm, of what’s going in my life, but a more hyper reality.”
It’s all a very long way from Hooters. But no less surreal.