If There’s One Silver Lining To the 2016 election, it’s at least four more years worth of Randy Rainbow’s raucous political parody songs. Last year, the gay vlogger/comedian’s Broadway song parodies and satirical, manipulated “interviews” with political figureheads turned him into a bona fide viral video star. They’ve racked up millions of views on YouTube and Facebook, and popular posts include a twist on The Music Man ditty, “Trump Trouble,” and a Trump-ified Mary Poppins number, “Braggadocious!”, while he also contributes a series titled “Chewing the Scenery” for BroadwayWorld.com. Last fall, Rainbow was enlisted to write a pro-Hillary parody of West Side Story’s “Officer Krupke” for the reunited Will & Grace cast to deliver.
Born in Long Island, Rainbow (yes, his real name) spent most of his developmental years in South Florida. He moved back to New York at age 22 to pursue a stage (or stage-adjacent) career, started up a personal blog, wrote Broadway show reviews and interviews, and launched his now-famous video interview series, featuring celebrities of stage, screen, pop, and politics. Currently based in the buzzing, very queer-friendly neighborhood of Astoria, Queens, Rainbow is essentially a oneman/computer/greenscreen operation (he shoots his videos in his living room). Now that politics are sure to dominate our culture for the foreseeable future, Rainbow finds himself in high demand and prepped to expand. His touring act will debut in 2017, and TV opportunities are being discussed and developed with various production companies.
In a revealing, typically funny conversation with Passport magazine via telephone while he was visiting family in Florida, Rainbow opened up about how he got started, his work, his true feelings on the election, and, of course, travel.
So, an obvious first question: were you taken aback by Trump’s win?
I really was, like everyone, completely shocked. I was hosting a big election night party in Orlando with a group of big Hillary supporters, and the wind was knocked out of the whole room. It was difficult.
As someone who lived there for a long time, and has seen the southern state swing presidential elections to GW Bush and now this, are you angry at Florida itself?
Yes! That’s why I’m here. To take my aggressions out. I’m seeking revenge.
Are there any conservatives in your family?
Republican Rainbows? No, not that I know of. I have a small, tight-knit family here, and as far as I can see we’re very liberal Jews. No conservatives, thank God.
You moved back to New York in 2002. Did you always strive for a Broadway-related career?
Yeah, I’ve always been a big show queen. I started out by doing a blog of my life told through the lens of a show queen. I would talk about my day, my job, my experiences, with lots of musical theater references.
What’s the most unusual job you ever held during that time?
Oh! I have the exact answer. When I first moved to NY, I was the host at Hooters on 57th Street! I stayed with a girlfriend of mine, and she was a Hooters girl. I interviewed with the manager who was a big fag hag, and she loved me and she said, ‘great, here’s your shirt.’ I think I was the first male Hooters girl in Manhattan and did it for a year! It was fun, we had a good time!
Your videos pivoted to politics eventually. How did you make that decision?
It was always hot topics. When I started it was a lot of celebrity stuff, and in my first breakout video Mel Gibson was the subject. 2010 was probably the first time that was fodder for me. I never made a conscious effort to move into politics, but it kind of happened.
What have been some of the most surprising reactions to your work so far?
Debra Messing sent me a direct message saying, ‘hey, sorry to bother you, we’re fans, and the cast of Will & Grace is reuniting to do a Hillary fundraiser and wondered if you would write a song parody for us to perform.’ Next thing I know, I’m on an e-mail chain with Debra and Sean and Eric and Megan. That was pretty fucking crazy! I’ve heard from all my Broadway idols (including) Audra McDonald, Alan Cumming, Mira Sorvino, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Rapp. Rosie O’Donnell just posted my Hamilton video.
What can we expect next from Randy Rainbow?
So far I haven’t had a chance to slow down and think about that. Every week there’s something new. I was planning to take a week off and the headlines were suddenly ‘Trump and Pence and Broadway’ so I had to do a fuckin’ Hamilton video. I don’t see being short on material the next four years, but having said that if I am fortunate enough to get a TV show, I’d like to expand my coverage and subjects to not just politics but to whatever everyone is talking about, which right now happens to just be politics. I want to always shine a light on the absurdity that’s happening in the media.
How much of the online Randy Rainbow persona is the person I am talking to right now?
Well, it’s a heightened version of my true self. I guess I’m a little over the top in my videos with camp and shtick. Certainly I’m not on all the time, I’m more low key and chill, and I’m having a glass of wine right now so I’m really chill. It’s a heightened, campier version of my true self.
I read that you are single. Is that still the case, and if so, what’s the ideal match for you?
I am. Other than Jake Gylenhaal? I always say ‘not an actor,’ but that’s what I always magnet to! I would like someone in show business, but not a performer. Sometimes I really need the spotlight, you can understand, and sometimes I like someone else to take it. The balance of that is important.
What would be the ultimate life for Randy Rainbow five years from now?
To continue down the path I’m on now, and have a successful TV show and a couple of books. I hope to have left my apartment and traveled somewhere by then. And Jake Gylenhaal will be with me.