Randy Rainbow, master satirist, vies with Goliaths for Emmy- British Herald
September 30, 2022
Entertainment

Randy Rainbow, master satirist, vies with Goliaths for Emmy

Los Angels(USA)-  If the legendary Carol Burnett adores Randy Rainbow, and he is, what flimsy excuse could TV academy voters have to deny him an Emmy for his fourth nomination?

Rainbow, who has raised musical parody to a political-satire art form, is again David facing Goliath. His competition in the short-form series category includes shows from James Corden, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers.

Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke: The Series” has nabbed the award the past three years. Does Rainbow see the British actor-comedian as his chief nemesis?

“Nemesis is a strong word,” Rainbow replied, waiting for a perfectly timed beat: “Enemy,” he said, tongue-in-cheek. “No, I’m a big James Corden fan, so it’s been an honour to share the category with him. They could throw it to the little guy every once in a while.”

It’s true that the self-described little guy doesn’t have a network or resources to draw on. But his YouTube videos — typically merciless, fearless and peppy roasts of conservative politicians and policies — have racked up more than a half-billion views, and he’s amassed 3 million-plus social media followers.

“He’s a genius,” Burnett said of Rainbow. “His lyrics are right up there with Stephen Sondheim….Steve said he’s one of the best lyricists around today. I mean, that’s a quote from Sondheim, and that’s from the master himself.”

The late Sondheim said just that. John Legend and Lin-Manuel Miranda are among Rainbow’s many other prominent admirers.

His latest Emmy nomination is for “Gay,” which takes on Florida’s GOP governor and the new law he championed that bans lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. The award will be given on Sept. 3 as part of the creative arts Emmy ceremony that precedes the Sept. 12 main awards show.

“It’s my send-up, a tribute I guess you could call it, to Ron DeSantis and his ‘Don’t Say Gay bill,” Rainbow said, using the title bestowed by its critics. “That video has a lot of meaning, and I was very proud that it made such an impact. It was nice to be recognized for that one.”

But it’s the desire to entertain, not punditry, that drives his career, he said.

“I didn’t get into this because of an interest in politics. I’m certainly more interested in politics now than I was when I started doing YouTube videos 11 years ago,” he said, attributing the shift to his own maturity and the times.

The late Sondheim said just that. John Legend and Lin-Manuel Miranda are among Rainbow’s many other prominent admirers.

His latest Emmy nomination is for “Gay,” which takes on Florida’s GOP governor and the new law he championed that bans lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. The award will be given on Sept. 3 as part of the creative arts Emmy ceremony that precedes the Sept. 12 main awards show.

“It’s my send-up, a tribute I guess you could call it, to Ron DeSantis and his ‘Don’t Say Gay bill,” Rainbow said, using the title bestowed by its critics. “That video has a lot of meaning, and I was very proud that it made such an impact. It was nice to be recognized for that one.”

But it’s the desire to entertain, not punditry, that drives his career, he said.

“I didn’t get into this because of an interest in politics. I’m certainly more interested in politics now than I was when I started doing YouTube videos 11 years ago,” he said, attributing the shift to his maturity and the times.

“But I try to stay true to my initial intent, which is only to be amusing and bring a little levity to these situations which are otherwise anything but light,” he said. “I think that that’s the reason that it continues to resonate with people and why people still get a kick out of my stuff.”

The escapism of make-believe helped sustain Rainbow — his real family name — as a shy and bullied youngster, along with the unstinting love of his mother, Gwen, and the grandmother he called Nanny. The three shared a passion for music, and Rainbow credits Nanny’s caustic humour as another key influence.

When he hit adolescence, Gwen Rainbow accepted without hesitation that her son was gay. In his touching and a lively new memoir, “Playing With Myself,” Rainbow recalls his mom’s reassurance that she “loved her gay friends.”

“I certainly didn’t remember ever meeting them,” Rainbow writes. “I’m gay five minutes, and suddenly my mother’s Liza Minnelli at Studio 54?”

His musician-father was “reasonably tolerant,” Rainbow says in the book. But Gerry Rainbow dismissed young Randy’s early artistic efforts, telling him he’d never earn a living “wearing wigs and making silly videos.”

So much for predictions, with Rainbow’s YouTube success just the start. He’s on the road with his national “The Pink Glasses Tour,” named for a favourite accessory (and a song he co-wrote with composer Alan Menken). His latest album, “A Little Brains, a Little Talent,” includes duets with Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone, Broadway stars he’d long admired from afar.

Rainbow still runs a lean video operation. The studio is in his two-bedroom New York City apartment, “where all the magic happens,” he said during a recent Zoom interview, gesturing at the modest space. A producer, arranger and musicians tailor songs to Rainbow’s specifications.

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