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Candy-colored Christmas with Randy Rainbow!

by Gregg Shapiro

Randy Rainbow: "James Corden is always stealing my shine." Photo: Courtesy the artist
Randy Rainbow: "James Corden is always stealing my shine." Photo: Courtesy the artist  

Look out, Mariah Carey! Randy Rainbow has released a Christmas album that rivals yours. "Hey Gurl, It's Christmas" (Broadway Records) has everything you want to unwrap in a Randy Rainbow holiday recording. The title track, co-written by Rainbow and Marc Shaiman, is seasonally sassy, combining a sense of humor with the spirit of the holidays. Rainbow's take on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" features Kathy Griffin and Alan Cumming playing his shrinks. Norm Lewis joins Rainbow for the more straightforward "Merry Christmas Darling/What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" medley, followed by the hilarious "My Favorite Things" parody number "Trump's Favorite Things" featuring Trump impersonator John DiDomenico. All of this before Rainbow is joined by Lorna Luft on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Randy was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance of the album's release.

Gregg Shapiro: Randy, what would say are the challenges and rewards of writing a new Christmas song, such as the title track of your new holiday album?

Randy Rainbow: I found limited challenges. It was only rewarding. It was exciting for me because I got to work with Marc Shaiman, who is a great idol of mine. We sat in the room where he wrote "Hairspray," "Smash" and "Mary Poppins Returns." It was really exciting. I originally set out to write the gayest Christmas song we possibly could. I realized, as I was writing the lyrics, that I wanted to add some substance. I ended up gearing it more towards my specific audience, which is consumed with news and social media. It became my musical prescription to dial it back for the holidays and enjoy yourself a little bit.


Being a Jewish songwriter yourself, why do you think so many of the most enduring Christmas songs, "White Christmas," "Silver Bells," "Winter Wonderland," "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," were written by Jewish composers?

Because we know we're going to get paid at the end! It's an interesting thing. As a Jewish writer person, I don't know if I can be objective about that. For some reason it's in our DNA that we write good Christmas music. Maybe because there's no pressure. We're kind of removed from it enough to just have a good time and write something that's creatively satisfying. We're not thinking about all the other mishegas.

"Hey Gurl, It's Christmas" has a marvelous line-up of guest artists including Lorna Luft, Kathy Griffin, Alan Cumming, and Norm Lewis. What does it mean to have that kind of artistic support?

It's amazing! That's been one of the most thrilling parts of notoriety, getting to connect with so many of my heroes. The fact that they all said yes as soon as I asked them was mind-boggling to me.

Have you heard from the Trump clan regarding any of your parodies of them?

The actual Trump clan? I've not heard from anybody. I've not even been blocked yet on Twitter, although I try every day. I have heard from some whistleblowers that I do have fans within the administration. I'm assuming it's Melania, although I have no concrete evidence.

You also perform straightforward renditions of "Merry Christmas, Darling/What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?," "Make Someone Happy" and "The Christmas Movie Medley." How important was it to show that side of yourself?

It was very important to me, but more important to my mother, who relishes the compliments that people like my singing. To have the opportunity to showcase a little more of the non-comedic part of that was very nice. Kind of my Hanukkah gift to her.

Congratulations on having received a 2019 Emmy Award nomination in the category of Outstanding Short Form Variety Series. Is it, as they say, an honor just to be nominated?

No, I should have won! James Corden is always stealing my shine. No, it was an honor, and it was insane. I've made these videos for almost the last decade from my living room. To cut to the front row of the Emmys, sitting next to Jimmy Kimmel, and to have lost to James Corden, was surreal and a thrill. But next year I better win!


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