Interview: SMC & SWC Bring Randy Rainbow To Seattle

Randy Rainbow with Seattle Choruses interview on Equality365

YouTube sensation Randy Rainbow is making his Seattle debut as the featured guest with the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses in their spring show, “Not In Our Town,” playing at McCaw Hall April 7th and 8th. In addition to live performances of his wildly popular parody videos, Rainbow will sing hit songs with the Choruses, including the Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning song “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman. Get tickets and more info here.

Born on Long Island and raised in Plantation, Florida, Randy Rainbow, now 37, lives in Queens in a one-bedroom apartment with his cat, Moshi. He writes, shoots, edits, and scores the videos himself. And they are always timely. His parodies include interviews with “Sarah Huckabee Sandbag” (his name for Trump’s press secretary) in the White House Press Room, Kellyanne “Con-artist” (his name for Trump’s longtime adviser) when she said our microwave ovens may be watching us, or Trump himself in the Oval Office in the parody, ‘Unpop-u-lar’ from Wicked. Rainbow borrowed from The Sound of Music (and donned a nun’s habit) for ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?’ He corresponds with Stephen Sondheim, and Dick Van Dyke called to praise him after Braggadocios debuted. In fact, the son of Robert Sherman (of the Sherman Brothers, who wrote the Mary Poppins song that inspired that spoof) tweeted: ‘I love your Supercal destruction of Trump, and I know my late Dad is applauding you from above. You rock!’

Rainbow’s star is shining brightly, and I wanted to know more about him.

Starla Smith: I know you say Rainbow is your real name, but is it really truly?
Randy Rainbow: I promise it is. People think it’s a gimmick, but it’s really on my birth certificate. My whole father’s side, my great-grandparents and beyond are Rainbows. You’d be surprised. It’s not rare as you think.

[I’m talking to Randy Rainbow on the telephone. And his personality is really shining through.]

SS: I wanted to start off by thanking you. I know you’ve heard this thousands, probably millions of times. You’re really brilliant and clever.
RR: Thank you.

SS: By the way, where are you?
RR: I’m on tour. We’re in Houston, Texas

SS: I hope you’re using a drawl
RR: Using a drawl? (Laughter). Yes, I’ve just been waiting for you to try it out.

SS: Your voice is so beautiful. You could have been a huge success as a saloon singer
RR: As a what?

SS: A saloon singer–that’s an old term.
RR: As saloon singer? That’s how I’m going to bill myself from now on — as a Saloon singer

SS: Then you could drink during your songs.
RR: Perfect. Just my speed

SS: I may ask you crazy questions. If you don’t like them, you could just slap me via the phone
RR: Fire away.

SS: Did you get bullied when you were a child?
RR: Absolutely! What do you think? I mean, I was the gay child-nerd. But ironically, I started shining in the drama club when I starred in all the musicals. Kids thought I was cool all of a sudden. And that was my saving grace. My first show in high school was You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. So for my four-year high school career, everything would walk around the halls calling me Charlie Brown, but in an endearing way. So it was fine

SS: I know you call yourself a musical theater queen. Did you always want to be a star?
RR: I come from musical people. Everyone’s a musician or a comedian. My mother would put me to sleep with cast albums like The Music Man or Oklahoma. It was really just kind of in my blood from birth. That was my original dream—to land on Broadway.

SS: Tell me about starting out in New York. What kind of jobs did you do to survive in NYC?
RR: I did everything. I worked in a few restaurants (one of them was Hooters). I was a receptionist. I actually worked in a Broadway producing office (Richard Franke Productions) for a few years. In a strange way, that kind of got my foot in the door in the theater world, although I was just answering the phones. It put me, geographically speaking, right in the center of things, and sparked my interest and excitement again.

SS: How did your parodies get started?
RR: I didn’t really start writing lyrics until I started doing the stuff I’m doing now. I had put the musical theater thing on hold for a while, ironically, when I moved to New York. Then I started developing my comedy voice. And I had a blog, back when everyone had a blog.

[That eventually led to his comedic videos. In 2010, Rainbow created “Randy Rainbow is Dating Mel Gibson,” based on tapes of Gibson’s abusive conversation with his girlfriend. It became a viral sensation.]

SS: How do you get your inspiration? How do you decide who is your next–I hesitate to say–target?
RR: Well, you know, luckily, it’s the social media age. It kind of dictated to me, what’s trending, what everyone was talking about. From there, if it’s a parody, I just pair it with musical theatre. Choosing the target is the easy part–whatever is trending on Twitter or Facebook, etc.

SS: How long does it take you to create a parody?
RR: I like to turn them around in about a day. Less than 48 hours is usually my goal. It’s a lot of work. I do it all from my little studio apartment in Astoria, Queens. I stand in front of a camera on a tripod while my cat Moshi makes faces at me.

SS: Do you do that all alone, or do you have assistants?
RR: No, it’s all me.

SS: What is your favorite parody so far?
RR: I have a few favorites, I suppose. My “Braggadocios” parody [“super careless, fragile ego, extra braggadocious”]. When Trump said the word “braggadocios” in the debate, my light bulb went off—I thought Mary Poppins. I will always have a special place in my heart for that one, because it took things to the next level for me. (It got 30 million hits the first two days). I even heard from Dick Van Dyke. So that was a lot of fun. I also like my Hamilton parody, “The Room Where It Happened,” inspired by Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

SS: Do you have a special name for President Trump?
RR: These days, I’m calling him “Desperate Cheeto.” That’s how I open my show, set to the 2017 megahit “Despacito.”

SS: What would you do if Trump asked you to perform at the White House?
RR: I wouldn’t believe it, first of all. I’d have to change my whole act. I don’t think any of my current material would work. (More laughter)

SS: What would your career be like if Hillary had won?
RR: I would imagine I would be able to sleep a little bit more. Unfortunately, this has been a terrible time for the country, but great for my career. There’s always someone to make fun of, but I believe things would be a little slower.

SS: Your work is naughty and outrageous. Is there anything you won’t do in your parodies?
RR: I don’t really think so. But you do have to be careful these days. People are easily are offended. You don’t want to turn them off. But I’m kind of from that old school–that Joan Rivers/Don Rickles’ kind of comedy: Nothing’s really off-limits when comedy’s involved. The show I’m touring now is really about the music. I perform my most popular song parodies—but live. It’s simply titled, Randy Rainbow Live [He will perform at Seattle’s Neptune Theater, Saturday, April 28th.]

SS: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
RR: Well, we will see. The way things are going right now, it’s a bit like flying by the seat of my pants. I’m on tour, and also going to LA, pitching for a TV project. I hope that one of them takes. Maybe I’ll be in a long-running, successful TV show of my own. Or maybe a Broadway show.

SS: You could write your own show.
RR: I would be happy with any one of those options. We’re just riding this wave, and I’m going to see where it takes me.

SS: I want to know if you ever get death threats
RR: Thankfully, no. You’d be surprised how much hate mail I don’t get from people. That’s a testimony to comedy and musical theater. I hear from people a lot from the other side. ‘I don’t agree with your political views, I have nothing in common with you, but I love your videos.’ And I always say ‘Thank you. That’s terrific.’

Randy Rainbow interview on Equality365SS: You always seem so upbeat. But you must get sad or serious sometimes. I wondered what you secretly worry about.
RR: Oh, I worry about everything. I’m Jewish, so I’m classically neurotic. The happy-go-lucky musical comedy version of me is the kind you get to see and enjoy. But certainly, I worry. Luckily, people enjoy what I’m doing, which is so cathartic for me. I get to sing songs and make jokes when something tragic happens. If I didn’t have that outlet, I would probably (laughter) just be drinking.

SS: Are you still single? Are you in love? Have you had a great love?
RR: No. Now I’m depressed (laughter). I am tragically single.

SS: What do you look for in a man? Maybe your requirements are too elevated.
RR: Probably, I’m very selective. I couldn’t even tell you what I’m looking for. I appreciate my independence. I’m always open but . . .

SS: My editor said I should ask you to marry me, because he wants to be a bridesmaid.
RR: Oh. Well, I’m available. (Lots of Laughter)

SS: I’m probably old enough to be your grandmother. That might cause a problem.
RR: That’s alright. That’s what I’m into. (Laughter).

SS: If you could have dinner with anyone past or present, who would it be?
RR: You know what? My grandmother. She was a major influence on my comedy. I got my humor from her, really. So I would choose her. She got to see the start of what is going on now, but I wish she were still here to see how it’s taken off.

SS: I understand she talked back to the TV.
RR: Yes, she did. So now if Trump were being interviewed on TV, she would talk back to him as though she were conducting an interview. I say that’s what I’m doing now–I’m just a crazy old lady talking back to the TV.

SS: Tell me something that no one knows about you.
RR: I didn’t have a bar mitzvah, and I’m still bitter about it. I’m a Hebrew-school dropout, so it’s my own fault. I just wanted a party. And they wouldn’t give me one unless I went to Hebrew school.

SS: What do you think people will say about when you cross over the Rainbow Bridge?
RR: Oh, are we there already? (laughter)

SS: That’s about 60 years hence. I expect you to live to be 100.
RR: If I have any sort of legacy to leave behind, I hope that it’s I made people laugh; that I helped people through my comedy. When I do meet-and-greets after my show, everyone is very thankful for helping them through these dark times. My intention is always to be funny and amusing. But it’s actually more than that; it’s healing, which, when I think about it, that has always been the case for me.

I was a gay drama nerd in high school, when we were talking about how I got bullied, two things were my tools to help get me through–humor and musical theater. In a time when country is being bullied on the playground, those are the same tools I am using now. So I hope people will say that I made them laugh–and that I didn’t owe anyone any money.

SS: If you were going to do a parody about yourself, what song would you use?
RR: That’s a good one. I don’t know if it would be a parody. But it would probably be “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls.

SS: I have to ask. Where did you get those pink cat-eye reading glasses?
RR: I just buy them online, but we’re in the process of making my own brand. That’s the number one question people ask me. Well, they will soon be available in the lobby of all of my live shows.

SS: Any final thoughts for the world today?
RR: Just keep laughing. Because what the hell else are we going to do?

More About Randy Rainbow
A comedian, actor, writer, host and internet sensation best known for his viral comedy videos. His popular series of political spoofs and musical parodies have garnered international acclaim and hundreds of millions of views. Rainbow’s work has been hailed in the New York Times, the Huffington PostMother Jones, the Miami Herald, and Vanity Fair, among others. His musical tribute to the first presidential debate of 2016 (“BRAGGADOCIOUS!”) received 28 million views in its first two days. He was subsequently asked by the cast of TV’s Will & Grace to parody a song which they performed during a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. Randy has originated and starred in multiple hit web series for BroadwayWorld.com, written for comedian Kathy Griffin and hosted and performed in numerous theatrical events for the Broadway, cabaret and gay communities, as well as for the Tony Awards and some of New York City’s most popular night spots including 54 Below, Birdland Jazz Club and Therapy NYC. Rainbow can be seen starring opposite Margaret Cho in a new musical ad campaign for Orbitz. He has also been seen on VH1 and Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, and has been heard regularly as both a guest and co-host on Sirius XM Radio.

The Seattle Men’s and Women’s choruses spring concert, Not In Our Town, featuring Randy Rainbow in his Seattle debut, runs April 7 and 8th at McCaw Hall. Tickets are $25-$78 and available at here or over the phone at (206) 388-1400. The Seattle area box office is open Monday through Friday, 11:00AM-6:00pm.There is also a free Family Concert with guest performers from the Washington Middle School choir on April 7th at 2pm. Tickets are free, but advance online reservations are recommended and can be made by clicking here.

Connect With Randy Rainbow

Website (here)
Youtube (here)
Facebook (here)
Twitter (here)

Get info and tickets to his upcoming Seattle shows here

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

3 thoughts on “Interview: SMC & SWC Bring Randy Rainbow To Seattle

  1. Ruthi Erdman

    Thank you for this delightful interview with the perennially delightful, delicious, de-lovely Randy Rainbow. Randy’s videos have lit up my life since “Braggadocious” (when I first became aware of this most sublime of divas–I have since watched every RR video I can find, some of them over and over and over). I have a “Randy Rainbow for President 2020” mug sitting before me on my desk in my office as I type this, and at home I have Randy Rainbow buttons, bags, and more. It used to astound me that Randy is “tragically single,” but I think I can see his problem: There is no one in Randy’s class.

    Reply
  2. Ruthi Erdman

    Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention that I’ll be driving over the Cascade mountains this weekend to see Randy’s Seattle debut at McCaw Hall. The anticipation is enough to make me hyperventilate. It’s hard to refrain from bursting into Randy Rainbow songs in front of my students….

    Reply

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