Long Island born, Florida raised. Jewish and gay. Mix that with an accepting family, and you’ll get musical comedian Randy Rainbow.
Musical theatre meshed with political commentary when he arrived at the Overture Center Thursday, Nov. 1.
“I’m just trying to make people laugh at a time when we need it,” Rainbow said.
His YouTube channel, which includes musical parodies combined with clips of political interviews from major networks, is best described as commentary on hot topics and trending political issues.
Rainbow — a real last name shared by other members of his family — was enrolled by his mother in theatre camp, and stuck with performing arts ever since. Throughout high school, he took vocal training and acting lessons.
He eventually took his studies to college, but soon discovered it did not appeal to him. Rainbow said he has never been one for structure, and at the time he genuinely wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his career. Pursuing a college education just wasn’t fulfilling.
“I went to college for about 10 minutes, dropped out, and then started working on a cruise ship, where I sang,” Rainbow said.
Rainbow said his childhood was not difficult, contrary to some beliefs. Rainbow said he was accepted by his family from a young age.
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Though many in the LGBTQ+ community may share traumatic coming out stories, the political comic said he had a more positive experience.
“I sometimes feel guilty I had it so easy,” Rainbow admitted.
Rainbow still dealt with tension in his house, however. His parents didn’t always get along, contributing to the comedy he performs and publishes today.
“It always was a coping mechanism, growing up in a liberal, Jewish household from Long Island, New York with a sense of humor and deflection through comedy,” Rainbow listed.
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Rainbow’s performance Thursday evening included a live band and interactive videos, providing seamless transitions between his songs and banter. Aside from a few technical difficulties out of Rainbow’s control, the performance was a workout for him as he constantly walked across and around backstage, made costume changes for inside jokes and paired videos on-screen.
It wasn’t beyond Rainbow to wear a banana costume in reference to Steve Bannon, or a Super Mario mushroom hat for something far more disturbing.
Some videos and accompanied songs performed were published by Rainbow during the build-up to the 2016 election. Before the show, Rainbow said the political climate has become more of a comedy goldmine than ever before.
Rainbow said his videos have since been more politically based. He could talk more about headlines outside of the political sphere, but prefers to push content found more frequently on people’s minds.
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Before I called Rainbow, he was watching an interview with President Donald Trump on Fox News.
“I might have a field day with that after I hang up with you,” Rainbow said.
Rainbow admitted it is difficult for him to watch Fox News for an extended amount of time, but he does anyway. For comedic purposes, watching the network serves as research, even for just a couple of minutes each day.
It’s impossible for Rainbow to explain how much of a comedy goldmine this administration is. He said “too much” is the short answer, and it’s a gift and a curse all at once.
“It’s a gift from the comedy gods and I’m ready to give a little bit of it back because it’s hard to keep up with it,” Rainbow said. “This administration is lighting the comedy itself within.”
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Entertainers who touch on politics may be intimidated after Robert De Niro was threatened by a domestic terrorist mailing him a pipe bomb.
But Rainbow said even after traumatic threats, it’s important for entertainers — and anyone else discussing their political beliefs — not to live in fear.
“I would say I’m not afraid, but I’m a Jew, I’m afraid of everything,” Rainbow said.
The climate, particularly over the last couple of weeks, gives Rainbow concern. Being Jewish himself, Rainbow said he finds the tragedy in Pittsburgh horrific. He was having trouble finding the right words so soon after 11 people were gunned down inside The Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27.
He said he is still naïve about how much anti-Semitism is prevalent in our society, and disgusting events like Pittsburgh are a reminder of the hate which still remains.
“I’m just devastated by it,” Rainbow said. “That’s all I got right now.”
Rainbow learns every day how much of an impact political comedy has on the larger world. Hearing from people about the approaching midterm elections, Rainbow said many have told him they are scared by the current political circumstances and devastation.
But he’s also been told his comedy is giving those in despair a feeling of hope and positivity.
“It’s a testament to how comedy, in general, is so important in times like these,” Rainbow said.
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Rainbow is a musical theater nerd at heart, and up until two years ago identified as a show queen rather than a political junkie. He’s been moved and flattered to hear from some of his favorite composers, from Steven Sondheim to Steven Schwartz, who have expressed excitement and support for Rainbow’s work.
And while Rainbow hasn’t gone further than making jokes when it comes to politics, he hasn’t ruled out any options.
“We’re selling shirts at my merch counter that say ‘Randy Rainbow for President’ so we’ll see how those sell and if that’s a hit I might consider a run for president,” Rainbow said.
Rainbow said he’s best suited for musical comedy — though if he did run for office, he believes the situation couldn’t possibly be worse than it is now.