Randy Rainbow at PrideFest
If any good has come of the current regime’s first 100 odd days (each ever odder than the one previous), it’s the artistic response to them. Whether in cleverly crafted protest posters, the parade of pussy caps, social media’s mocking memes or the skyrocketing ratings of late night comedians, our current political dystopia has launched a creative renaissance. It woke the somnambulant soul of “Saturday Night Live,” revived the cauterized Colbert (and even got him a threatened FCC investigation) and spawned Peter Grosz’s “The President Show” on Comedy Central. It also catapulted gay internet niche comic, Randy Rainbow, to international celebrity status.
Back in 2010, Rainbow’s first videos on “RandyRainbowsBlahg,” like “Randy Rainbow is dating Mel Gibson,” garnered a fair viewership of avid followers. Shot in his tidy New York apartment, his shtick used one-sided phone conversations with another voice dubbed in. Often with his mother on the other end, Rainbow would inevitably be interrupted by an incoming call from his latest date, politician or the pope. Sometimes he’d burst into song, or just dish about the silly daily grind of living gay in the Big Apple. The Blahg rechristened as the “Randy Rainbow Show” as his au courant topicality became increasingly political, he moved out of his apartment and into the streets. In one episode, “Gay Boy Scouts,” Scout Rainbow sells cookies door-to-door, pitching varieties like “Fierce Marys,” “Chocolate Daddies” and “Bossy Bottoms.”
Then, propelled by the gold mine of material the 2016 presidential campaign provided and buttressed by vastly improved and sophisticated production values, Rainbow took on the persona of a smart network news interviewer (think a very catty gay male Barbara Walters). Using real clips of the POTUS, FLOTUS and others in split screen setups, he recreates those familiar, nauseatingly vapid TV exchanges with the rich and famous. Parody songs underscore the satire with awkward dead air and extended deer-in-the-headlights smiling stares add stinging sizzle to his subjects’ inevitable self-immolation.
Meanwhile, riding the wild wave of his success, Randy Rainbow will appear live and in person as the Miller Lite Main Stage host at our upcoming Milwaukee PrideFest. A star MC will be a first for the festival and, in the shadow of the looming political crisis for the LGBT community (and the world), a timely one. The question is whether millennial LGBTs, and the rest of us for that matter, are getting a motivating message for activism or merely a laugh.
We need the motivating message. The LGBT Community Center recently shared an article about the June 11 Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, DC. It added a caption “Sadly it is the same weekend as Wisconsin (sic) PrideFest.” Why sadly? Cities throughout the country are holding solidarity marches on the same day. Madison is and Milwaukee’s Pride Parade organizers, although not calling their event a protest march, have encouraged participants’ political expression.
It remains to be seen if the Rainbow resistance will make a difference. Still, I expect PrideFest’s traditional history exhibit, beyond celebrating our city’s 30th Anniversary of LGBT Pride, will remind us of our revolutionary roots and that the struggle is far from over.