YouTube star takes apart Trump, one show tune at a time.
By Kim Hogstrom
During the 2016 presidential campaign, a strange new face popped into our Facebook feeds. There was a 30-something man with crystal-blue eyes, a golden voice, and a flowered bonnet singing some new lyrics he had written to the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” tune from the film Mary Poppins. This rendition about Donald Trump described the unlikely (and unlikable) candidate as “super-callous, fragile ego, extra-braggadocious” in an impeccable imitation of Julie Andrews’ beloved Disney character.
Many viewers became instant fans, and the four-minute viral video received 28 million views in the two days after it was posted.
Since then, 36-year-old Randy Rainbow (yes, that’s his real name) has become an online star, creating approximately one new video every two weeks with Donald Trump and his cast of clowns as the subject matter.
To express their gratitude to the artist for helping them laugh through the tears and fears of the Trump presidency, Rainbow’s fans launched a line of T-shirts featuring an image of him in a nun’s habit. The tagline says, “Thank you Randy Rainbow for saving me!”
Rainbow’s work has also been touted in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Mother Jones, the Miami Herald, and Vanity Fair. The cast of Will and Grace even asked him to write a special number for a charitable event that the four stars hosted, and Rainbow was offered a major role in a musical commercial produced by Will and Grace costar Sean Hayes.
But who is the New York City man behind those pink cat-eye reading glasses?
Rainbow lives in Queens in a one-bedroom apartment with his cat, Moshi. Remarkably, he writes, shoots, edits, and scores the videos himself—often during one of his all-night marathons. Thanks to the magic of a green screen, we see him interviewing “Sarah Huckabee Sandbag” (his name for Trump’s press secretary) in the White House Press Room, or Trump himself in the Oval Office.
Somehow, Rainbow is able to churn out his beautiful, funny commentaries on American politics in a matter of hours, alone, with only Moshi to assist.
He always creates them as quickly as possible after a memorable White House pronouncement, such as when Kellyanne “Con-artist” (his name for Trump’s longtime adviser) said our microwave ovens may be watching us, or whenever Trump taunts North Korea with a tweet. “The videos have to be timely, so I have to move fast,” Rainbow explains.
Rainbow’s takeoff on “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” from The Sound of Music, sung while wearing a nun’s habit, is titled “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?” and was posted the day after Trump coined his “Little Rocket Man” nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Following a week of particularly scathing presidential tweets, Rainbow took Carrie Underwood’s hit song “Before He Cheats” and turned it into “(Maybe He’ll Think) Before He Tweets.” The 2017 Country Music Awards did the same thing—after Rainbow.
An original from every angle, this multi-talented performer grew up in South Florida as an only child of “very funny” Jewish parents, he says. “I have been in musical theater my entire life. I was in the theater throughout high school, and just went on from there. Fortunately, I had a supportive family who encouraged me every step of the way.”
As an out gay man, he is grateful to his parents in that arena, too. “When I told them I was gay, it was no big deal. I think they knew. After all, I started in ballet at the age of six. After I saw Dirty Dancing as a kid, I announced that I wanted to be Jennifer Grey so I could dance with Patrick Swayze. I asked my dad to help me practice ‘the lift’ in our living room. I think that was also the full extent of my participation in sports as a child.”
In fact, Rainbow’s first musical parody was created years ago. Called “Born This Gay,” it is still available on iTunes.
How does he come up with his material? “There is plenty of it out there,” he says. “I am most comfortable when my subjects are older, misogynistic, homophobic, racist white men. They are my specialty, and they are abundant these days.
“In this administration, it’s sort of an embarrassment of riches,” he adds.
With the presidential election now in the rear-view mirror, how does he reflect on the outcome? After all, that, coupled with his enormous talent, launched him into cyber-stardom.
“That night, the night Trump won, I felt nauseous. I got drunk, and I’ve been nauseous and drunk ever since,” he says flatly, with only a hint of humor.
There is an element of innocence in Rainbow’s videos that warrants mention. The brilliant, funny, and often caustic jabs at the Trump administration are somehow lacking a mean spirit. It’s an intriguing combination.
“That’s how I’ve always been,” Rainbow explains. “It is a coping mechanism. I deliver a shovel of truth with a spoonful of sugar at the same time. It’s that ‘catch more flies with honey’ thing. The best part is that there are people who do not think like I do about politics—and many other things, too—but they still enjoy the videos. I hear from them all the time. That part is very rewarding for me.”
In response to his adoring fans, Rainbow is taking his show on the road. On March 23, he will appear at Houston’s House of Blues. Lucky attendees will see him perform all of their favorite numbers, accompanied by a live band. At the end, he will take questions and answers from the audience. The tour also includes a show in Dallas the following night.
“I’ve never been to Texas before. Do I need to be frightened?” he asks. Sadly, he is only half joking. (Thanks a pants-load for that, Dan Patrick.)
OutSmart tried to answer his concerns by touting Houston’s great food, multiracial makeup, and true-blue politics. However, it was our mention of Houston’s Neon Boots—the largest gay country-western dance hall in the world— that caught his attention.
You see, this handsome, funny, talented man is single, but would very much like to change that last part. What if he comes to Houston and falls in love?
“It’s certainly possible,” he says. “That’s why I signed on for this tour. I’m really just shopping the country for a boyfriend, and I have always been partial to men in Levis.”
What does the future hold for Randy Rainbow? There is a TV show in embryonic development that will draw heavily on his various talents.
In the meantime, you can “Like” Randy Rainbow on Facebook—and thank us later.
What: Randy Rainbow
When: March 23
Where: House of Blues Houston, 1204 Caroline Street
This article appears in the March 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.