The Rainbow Connection

The comedian, YouTube sensation and political pundit Randy Rainbow shares personal inspirations, his favorite source material and other true confessions.
Randy Rainbow: “Kellyanne Conway gave me a lot of material, and Trump has just been the gift from the comedy gods, unfortunately..”  Portrait by Dirty Sugar Photography

By Cristina Cuomo

Cristina Cuomo: Congratulations on your Outstanding Short Form Variety series Emmy nomination for The Randy Rainbow Show. That’s very exciting.

Randy Rainbow: Thank you. I appreciate it. I always assumed that I would get a call from you, but I thought it would be to tell me to stop hitting on your husband. And maybe there would be a lawyer present, so this is really a welcome delight.

CC: No, I actually love it. I showed him the video, and I had so many friends send me that video when he was sick. It was just such a wonderful humorous healing moment for everyone. You went viral in the Cuomo clan.

RR: Well that was my goal, so mission accomplished.

CC: I started showing Chris the video, and he was like, “I don’t want to watch any more Andrew propaganda.” So then I said, “Wait until you get to the end,” and then you gave out your beautiful shout-out to him, so he was happy.

RR: Well, he’s my No. 1 Cuomo. Let’s be honest.

CC: That was going to be my last question!—who is your favorite Cuomo?

RR: Oh my god. Chris has always been my No. 1, and Andrew is having a moment. I love him, too. But really, jokes aside, I really love my Cuomo boys. They are a constant source of clarity and comfort and wisdom, and I love them both. But if I had to choose I would choose your husband.

CC: Good, safe answer. Tell me about your background. Where did you grow up?

RR: I was born on Long Island, in Huntington Hospital, and then at age 10 I moved to South Florida. From 10 to 21, I was in South Florida, like the Hollywood area, Fort Lauderdale. My childhood was for the most part terrific. I mean, we could do a whole three hours also on my father, who is Donald Trump, because that’s kind of strange. That’s going to be a chapter in my book. It had its issues, but for the most part I come from a very loving, accepting liberal Jewish family.

CC: Where did you get your theater training?

RR: I was always on stage as a kid. They put me in ballet lessons when I was 6. I was always in theater camps; in South Florida I went to a summer camp called the Hollywood Playhouse, with Josh Gad and some other notable people. Then, in high school, I did all the shows. I never really got any sort of real formal training other than just my experience on stage and community theater. I went to college for 10 minutes, and then dropped out to work on a cruise ship. I’m kind of self-taught.

CC: Your satirical writing is so good. Did you study that at all?

RR: Thank you. And no, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I’m just winging it every day. People ask me: How did you learn to do this? or Who does your editing? or Who writes for you? Really, I’m just winging it, and everything that I do comes from my appreciation for the art form, for musical theater. I grew up being obsessed with Stephen Sondheim and his lyrics. That just became a part of me and got in my ear. I try to emulate the people that I love.

CC: You do the video editing as well?

RR: I do that myself.

CC: Your timing is so perfect.

RR: Again, I attribute that to the fact that I do have a musical ear, and I think that ties into my ability to edit.

CC: And some good subjects, too, who offer a lot of fodder to play with.

RR: It’s frankly too much. I haven’t slept in four years.

CC: How did you get that catchy name?

RR: I know it sounds like a horrible stage name, but it’s the actual name on my birth certificate. My parents are Gwen and Gerry Rainbow. The origin of the name was the Russian word for rainbow, so it wasn’t even changed at Ellis Island or anything. It was always Rainbow. There are a few of us in the world. My parents didn’t have to go with the alliteration of giving me Randy Rainbow, because I really sounded like a drag queen when I was 8 years old.

CC: Is it Randall, or is it just Randy?

RR: No, it’s just plain Randy. So it works out that I do what I do, and I wasn’t a quarterback.

“My grandmother instilled this kind of comedy philosophy in me to just laugh at everything. Kind of the Joan Rivers model: If you can laugh at it, you can deal with it.”  Portrait by Dirty Sugar Photography

CC: How would your family describe you? Do you have any siblings that you’re close with?

RR: My father, who is no longer with us, was 16 years older than my mom, and he had two prior marriages, and two daughters from those marriages. My mother really made me this way, if you want to know the truth. She wanted the gayest child she could possibly have. She was the one who was feeding me all this musical theater and introducing me to Sondheim. I would wake up in the morning and she would say things like, “Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand was on television last night, so I taped it for you and then I bought you the soundtrack because you’re going to want the soundtrack.” So she had this plan from the start to have just the gayest kid in the neighborhood.

CC: Well, she saw the budding talent. Who has been your favorite subject, since you began making your political satire videos?

RR: The obvious is Trump, but really I think that’s a boring answer. For a while it was Kellyanne. I have to thank Chris for giving me some of those interviews that I ended up using. When I do my live show, I have a whole medley that’s the Kellyanne Conway medley. She gave me a lot of material, I must say. Trump has just been the gift from the comedy gods, unfortunately.

CC: It’s been a topsy-turvy week to say the least for gay rulings, with Trump pulling back health care protections for transgender people and then, of course, it was a surprise coming from the Supreme Court ruling that gay and transgender workers are protected by federal law forbidding discrimination. So one step forward, three steps back.

RR: Overall, it was something to celebrate. It was certainly historic, and I was very happy about it. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. That was only just a drop in the bucket. I’m still concerned with the actions that Trump continues to take, that are pushing us back. It’s so much harder to celebrate the achievements. It’s rough. I’m mixed about it.

CC: Because we are a wellness publication…

RR: Don’t interview me, because I’m eating pasta every night.

CC: That’s OK. It fuels your energy. How do you stay healthy? 

RR: My exercise really went out the window—these past three months have been a nightmare. But I just bought a NordicTrack, so I’m going to get into that. I like to run outside. I will say, since we’ve been in lockdown I have not had a single alcoholic beverage, which I think has been good for me, although I need it, frankly.

CC: Think about a one-man show on Broadway. It’s time.

RR: We were ready to do a one-man limited engagement on Broadway this season. We were hoping for October and, of course, that got shot to hell. It’s certainly a dream of mine. I changed agencies right before everything happened; I’m with CAA [Creative Artists Agency] now. They’re working on a lot of different things for me. I’m excited about all these projects, and happy to know there’s a lot of stuff in the entertainment industry still moving along, even as more things are shut down.

CC: Comedy is that one thing in the entertainment industry that has really been shining right now, because people need it so desperately. OK, what’s been a defining moment in your life?

RR: A lot of amazing things have happened professionally. On a larger life scale, when my grandmother passed away, that was a big thing for me. My grandmother inspired everything that I do. She instilled this kind of comedy philosophy in me to just laugh at everything. Kind of the Joan Rivers model: If you can laugh at it, you can deal with it. I kind of stole her act, really. She was so amazing in her reactionary comedy. I would be in her home, and she’d have the news on, and if there were interviews going on with a political figure, she would talk back to the person being interviewed as though she were conducting the interview. That’s how I got my comedic voice. I’m really just an old lady talking back to her television.

CC: What’s the worst job you ever had?

RR: Right before I started being able to earn a living
doing my creative work, I was a receptionist for the accounting firm that does all of the Broadway shows and tours. It was so boring that it really pushed me to pursue my creative work full time. So I quit and I took a leap. And now they’re my accountants.

CC: Oh, how funny is that.

RR: Isn’t life great.