Palette Magazine

Randy Rainbow makes us laugh through the pain

By Gregg Shapiro

His original musical video parodies, which gained considerable attention before and after the 2016 presidential election, have become the stuff of legend. Watched, shared and Tweeted by gay and straight folks alike, Randy Rainbow’s wicked sense of humor and polished performance skills have made him an internet celebrity.

Describe your performance background and training.

I’ve been on the stage since I was a kid. I started with ballet when I was six. I have a musical theater background — a lot of theater camp as a child, a lot of community, regional theater. I dropped out of college and worked on a cruise ship for a time. [My background is] primarily in musical theater and mostly in South Florida.

In what ways does being from South Florida come across in your work?

I got some really great training there. I spent most of my childhood at the Hollywood Playhouse, all of my summers growing up. Me and Josh Gad, who you probably know [from The Book of Mormon and Frozen]. We were buddies back then. I did a lot of children’s theater in Miami Shores. My base musical theater training happened there.

Your videos have remarkably sophisticated production values. Do you work with a creative team?

I’m very much a one-man-band [laughs]. It’s all out of my little studio apartment here in New York. There’s a green screen that takes up my entire living room. I write it and perform it with my cat sitting on the bed watching me. Then I edit everything myself.

Are you self-taught in terms of the technical part of the job?

Yeah, that’s actually my least favorite part of it. I’m a tech-savvy person by nature, but I have had to train myself to do what I’ve got to do. I learned Final Cut and Adobe After Effects. I have a good ear and a good eye for editing, now that I have a basic knowledge of it. I know how to make the finished product that I see in my head, how to make it happen. Technically, it’s not my strongest suit, but I make it happen.

Have you heard from any of the people whose songs you parody?

Yes, actually, I’ve heard from some big ones. Most recently Andrew Lloyd Webber Tweeted the Cats parody that I did. I guess that counts, huh [laughs]? That was very exciting. I’ve also heard from Stephen Sondheim. Stephen Sondheim is apparently a fan of my videos. When I did the Mary Poppins video to “Supercalifragilistic…,” I heard from Jeff Sherman, who is the son of [songwriter] Rob Sherman. That’s been thrilling for me. I’m such a huge fan of all this material that I’m spoofing. To hear from those people is amazing to me.

How do you go about selecting a song or the subject matter to parody?

It kind of depends. I’m a big show queen to begin with. I think in show tunes. For example, for the “Braggadocious!” video my mind went to “docious” from “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” When I did the Meryl Streep Into The Woods parody, I thought about Meryl Streep singing “Greens, greens, nothing but greens” in the song [in the Into The Woods prologue]. I transformed that quite easily into “Tweets, Tweets, nothing but Tweets.” Sometimes it just pops into my head. Now that I have a nice big following, sometimes I’ll get suggestions from people that I’ll use.

Have you heard from any of the subjects of the songs you parody?

Well, Trump hasn’t called yet, thank God! I think the first time that that happened was with Jennifer Holliday. I spoofed an interview that she did regarding her declining to play the [Trump] inauguration. She Tweeted it and said, “Thanks for the laugh. That was hysterical.” That was exciting. Sometimes I’ll hear from some of the CNN people if I use their interviews and plug myself into their position as the interviewer. Jake Tapper follows me now, and I’ve heard from Brianna Keilar. I’m happy to know that they are fans.

What has been your most popular video to date?

As far as numbers, it’s still the “Braggadocious” video, which has 31 million views. They’re all doing a good 10 million now. The last few I’ve put out are around 10 million and over.

Because of your theater background, have you ever considered taking your act on the road?

Very much. I’m booking a lot of touring stuff now. I’m pretty booked up now for Pride and for the next few months into the summer. I’ll have evenings, and I’ve done a few here in New York, where I’ll show some videos and link everything together with a little bit of stand-up. Then I’ll do musical parodies live. I’m hoping later in the year to flesh out a more large-scale production to take on tour. As of now, it’s just doing the material that I have out there now. Touring is definitely on the top of my list.

If you don’t my mind my asking, what is your current romantic status — are you single, partnered or married?

Ugh, now I’m depressed. I wasn’t sad, but now I am.

But, Randy, the world wants to know.

I am single as hell. If anyone’s looking, let me know. You know my email, put it up there [laughs]. I’m telling myself I’m focusing on my career, which is what everyone says when they’re not dating.

I just know there’s someone out there for you.

I hope so!

For more information on Randy Rainbow visit randyrainbow.com

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