Internet sensation Randy Rainbow brings live show to Ridgefield
Randy Rainbow has gotten used to people telling him that he is one of the few good things to come out of the Trump era.
“It’s very difficult for the country, but a playground for me,” the actor and comedian says of the way he has mined laughter from the political roller coaster we have been on since 2016.
Despite the scathing portrait of our president in his YouTube videos, the performer doesn’t see himself as a critic of Trump’s politics (whatever that might be).
“It’s not really politics, but behavioral things that interest me,” he says. “Going after people for their politics is not necessarily what I do.”
The YouTube videos, which generate millions of hits, zero in on the personality quirks that made Trump a reality TV star with his NBC series “The Apprentice” and have served him surprisingly well as a politician. In his comedy, Rainbow exploits the fact that Trump is still using the tools that made him so popular in the hit TV series — a willingness to say or do almost anything to hold our attention.
Rainbow’s musical tribute to the initial presidential debate of 2016, “BRAGGADOCIOUS!,” received 28 million views in its first two days online. The comedian can take an interview Trump did with some serious journalist and turn it into comic gold with his inserted new questions and double takes.
Rainbow — and that’s his real name, by the way — began the mock interviews with Trump during the turbulent race for the Republican nomination when the former TV reality star first began to emerge as a serious candidate for the highest office in the land. You could argue that those videos were easier to laugh at back in 2015, because no one thought Trump could win (including himself, insiders suggest).
YouTube stardom has made it possible for Rainbow to put together a live act that will be rolling into the Ridgefield Playhouse on May 19. The show has allowed the performer to return to his original plan when he arrived in New York City — to work in musical theater. The guy can really sing, as well as make you laugh.
“I always wanted to tour with a band,” he says of the show in which he interacts with some of his most popular videos and then segues into musical numbers.
Rainbow doesn’t see the YouTube videos as a “detour” from his original goal of working in musicals, but as an extension of the performances he has being doing since he was a kid growing up in Florida. The performer told The New York Times last year that his outspoken grandmother was a major influence. “She’d talk back to the celebrities and politicians on TV. She was a combination of Joan Rivers, Elaine Stritch, Betty White and Bea Arthur rolled into one.
“I was a kid before YouTube came along, but I was always making my own videos,” the 36-year-old says. “I’m kind of an old millennial, with a foot on either side (of the internet explosion). I was always interested in comedy and pop culture. (With YouTube) everything I was doing merged together.”
Although he is one of the reigning kings of the new media, Rainbow can see the mixed blessing in 24/7 connectivity. “Sometimes I think there is more going on than we need (to know),” he says. “(But) a lot of talented people can create their own path now.”
Rainbow likes that there are no longer any barriers between a comedy idea and the audience. You can come up with something you think is funny and put it out there immediately. He doesn’t even test his ideas on friends anymore.
“Now that I have an audience, I don’t vet them in any way. ... I do have my cat (watching what I do),” he says, chuckling. “I’m in a rhythm now and I know what will land.”
Although the past two years have ramped up his popularity, Rainbow first broke through in 2010 with “Randy Rainbow is Dating Mel Gibson.” A series of increasingly popular pop-cultural riffs quickly followed, including “Randy Rainbow Calls Dr. Laura” and “Randy Rainbow Calls Lindsay Lohan.”
The performer laughs when I ask him if any of his celebrated targets have reached out to him. “No, Mel Gibson has not called. Kellyanne Conway has not invited me to brunch. ... The closest I’ve gotten to hearing from the Trump administration was Anthony Scaramucci following me on Twitter. That’s all I’ve gotten.
“I know I’m a success when Jake Tapper messages me on Twitter,” he says of the CNN anchor.
Rainbow’s musical comedy icons have been much better sports about his needling. “When I did a ‘Wicked’ parody, I heard from Stephen Schwartz and Kristin Chenoweth, which was thrilling.”
As the performer put together the video component of his live show — what Rainbow calls his “greatest hits” — he was pleased to see how well some of the older clips held up despite the speed with which they were reacting to current events.
“I do try to go for something that will stand the test of time,” he says, adding he has the ability to make changes in the show at each performance if the day’s news warrants it. “We have to be on our toes. ... New videos go in and others come out.”
Rainbow realizes he is lucky to present Trump in comic form rather than having to be a serious reporter.
“It’s very hard. I feel bad for them,” he says of the journalists who cover the White House. “I hear from everyone at CNN frequently. I think the videos are a relief for them.”
The performer isn’t sure what he will be doing next with his internet popularity. “I’m kind of riding the wave now. There are a number of different directions I might go. I want to take this show and flesh it out — a Broadway or off-Broadway (production) is a possibility. That would be a dream come true.”