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The Randy Rainbow Story: How his satirical songs went viral

Randy Rainbow: Mixing show tunes, politics and comedy
Randy Rainbow: Mixing show tunes, politics and comedy 06:50

Fans flock to see Randy Rainbow's live shows because they've found comic relief from the past few years of politics and pandemic by watching his satirical videos, often skewering conservative politicians. They have made him a social media sensation, with hundreds of millions of views.

A recent video, a parody of "Little Shop of Horrors," mocks Republican Congresswomen Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert:

GURL, YOU'RE A KAREN - A Randy Rainbow Parody by Randy Rainbow on YouTube

But even his most ardent admirers may not know the real, and improbable, Randy Rainbow story. Just for starters: As he told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Rita Braver, his name really is Randy Rainbow!

"Rita, I swear to God, it's my name," he said. "I know, it sounds like the corniest stage name that you could choose. I would not do that to myself. It is on my birth certificate."

"But it stood you in good stead," said Braver.

"But I had to grow into it. I had no choice!"

Now 40, Rainbow grew up first on Long Island, and then in Florida, and credits his mother's love of musicals for his encyclopedic knowledge of show tunes.

At age eight he staged a backyard production of Disney's "Snow White," starring himself: "My mother made me a skirt. And I did this whole, you know, tour de force for the neighborhood."

"And how'd they like it?" Braver asked.

"They were very supportive, and loved it," he replied. "I don't know what the conversations were on the way home! And it's really, you know, a testament to my mother for not ever making me second-guess my decision to do that."

St. Martin's Press

He tells it all in his new memoir, "Playing With Myself" (St. Martin's Press). It's a portrait of a lonely, awkward kid who found solace doing children's theater. 

"I was chubby and effeminate, and I didn't really fit in. And so, it was a field day for the bullies at school."

A few years after high school, Rainbow moved to New York. But too insecure to even go on auditions, he worked a series of odd jobs, until he hit on the idea of making comic videos. One of the first: using an infamous leaked audio tape of actor Mel Gibson being abusive to his girlfriend. 

"His rants were anti-Semitic and homophobic, and I happen to be a gay Jew. I said, 'I'll date him.' I walked around my apartment having romantic phone conversations with his disgusting tirades":

Randy Rainbow is Dating Mel Gibson by Randy Rainbow on YouTube

His videos went viral, and eventually Rainbow hit on the idea of spoofing the news – inserting himself as a know-it-all reporter into actual events."

In this 2016 video, Rainbow became a presidential debate moderator who channels the Disney musical "Mary Poppins":

Donald Trump: "I have a great company, I have a tremendous income, and the reason I say that is not in a braggadocious way."
Randy Rainbow:  "'Braggadocious' … is that even a word?"
Trump:  "I don't know, maybe. Who knows?"
Rainbow sings: "Heeeeeee's …..
Super callous, fragile egocentric braggadocious,
likes to throw big words around
and hopes that we all notice.
If he keeps repeating them they might just make him POTUS,
Super careless, fragile ego, extra braggadocious!
[Umm, are you really gonna vote for this guy?
Umm, are you REALLY gonna vote for this guy?]"

BRAGGADOCIOUS!: Randy Rainbow Moderates Debate #1 by Randy Rainbow on YouTube

Rainbow said, "That was the mega-colossal breakthrough video that got, like, 16 million views in the first day. So, that was a game-changer for me."

He kept it going all through the Trump presidency, such as his parody of "Rent":

"Two million, a hundred two thousand, four hundred minutes
how do you measure
four years of the lies?"

SEASONS OF TRUMP - A Randy Rainbow Song Parody by Randy Rainbow on YouTube

… and into the Biden era:

"Mr. Biden, bring my vaccine,
keep me protected from COVID-19,
tell me the trick
to how I might earn a
fix of that magic Pfizer or Moderna"

MR. BIDEN (Bring My Vaccine) - A Randy Rainbow Song Parody by Randy Rainbow on YouTube

Rainbow not only plays all the parts; he handles his own wardrobe. He showed Braver his costume closet: "A nurse is a go-to for me these days. But really, frankly, they're just slutty Halloween costumes, I have to be honest with you!"

It all happens in his home studio, a spare bedroom. "Frankly, I'm often not wearing pants," he said. "I put on pants because you're here, Rita!"

Randy Rainbow in his home studio, where he plays all the parts. CBS News

"Sunday Morning" got to watch him in action as he produced his new video, taking on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' law that bans discussion of sexual orientation with young children in classrooms – the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill:

"Gosh, I'd hate to upset your Republican peers,
So let me say this soft so no one hears,
I've …
always …
been …

GAY! - A Randy Rainbow Song Parody by Randy Rainbow on YouTube

Braver asked, "You say you don't think of yourself as really being political?"

"I know. People are surprised when I say that. It's never my intention or primary objective to make a political statement. I'm trying only to be amusing, first and foremost. But I'm poking fun at everybody – all sides and opinions, including my own."

"There has been some talk that you may take this show that you've had on the road and bring it to Broadway?"

"We're talking about it," Rainbow replied. "Could you imagine that story? This schmuck in wigs in his living room making videos, winding up on a Broadway stage? I hope, I hope, I hope that it's coming."

"Sounds like a happy ending to me."

"Sounds good to me!" he said.

For more info:

Story produced by Reid Orvedahl. Editor: Mike Levine. 

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