Interviewing Honey Badger’s Randall: A Life Worth Narrating

Randall Honey BadgerThese days, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone familiar with the Internet who hasn’t heard or uttered the phrase “Honey badger don’t care” or the more profane “Honey badger don’t give a s**t,” both of which have entered the lexicon via the immensely popular YouTube video The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger (2011). That short—featuring seemingly innocuous nature footage of the notoriously testy black-and-white mammal, complemented by hysterically funny, original narration—made a viral star out of its verbal behind-the-scenester, the very talented comic personality known as Randall. And although animals are a big part of Randall’s raison d’être, he hasn’t confined himself to covering just the furry creatures; in fact, his creations range from longer, sketch-like comedy videos to amusing monologues on the travails of daily life. Recently, CURNBLOG got the chance to ask him about the finer details: who he is, what drives him and how in the world he got Lucy Lawless to act in one of his films. It’s all here.

You’re so mysterious on YouTube, with the dark sunglasses, enigmatic persona and perfectly coiffed hair! Who is the real Randall, and how did you get started with the famous Honey Badger web series?

R: (Laughing.) I’m just a nice Jewish boy from New York City! I love and care about animals and our wildlife. I’m a somewhat successfully failed playwright and—I’m really a hot mess is what I am; just trying my best to do a bunch of things I love, be it narrating, acting, producing. I like my hair to look its best, so when I was old enough, I moved out west to California to better my hair and start doing what I’ve always done throughout my life: you know, narrate. Narrate animals, life, people walking down the street. Out here, a friend, D.B. “Boo Boo” Myers forwarded [another] friend (now my assistant and editor) a link to honey badger footage. The footage you see in my Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger video is what my friend showed me, and he was like, “You should narrate this!” And he was right! I’d always loved honey badgers. They really don’t care, and I love them for it! That video was the springboard for more wildlife/animal narrated work—something I, again, had always done and enjoyed doing. You see, my papa was a cameraman for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (1963-present) with Marlin Perkins. Needless to say, by the time I was three, I knew what lemurs and antelope and wolverines were. Narrating these wild and crazy animals is second nature to me, although these days, I’m getting a tad senile and am forgetting important trivia, but remembering where I put my keys 24 years ago—go figure! And, oh: I wear my sunnies all the time because I suffer from stupid photophobia! Something I developed by staring too long at the sun when I was, like, seven or eight. It’s also hard for me, because most good narrators subscribe to the notion that a wildlife narrator should be heard and not seen. But, once that ham [David] Attenborough stepped in front of the camera, that all kinda went out the window, didn’t it, sweetie?

You come from a long, distinguished cinematic line of using your own words in established media―from Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-1999). What was your inspiration for your video endeavors, and how did you apply what you learned to your films?

R: I’m inspired by animals! Furry or not, wildlife numbers are dwindling. It’s actually really horrible and disturbing, especially when you consider how irresponsible humans have been over time. So my aim is to educate through comedy. “Edu-tainment,” if you will! And it works! Peeps watch and laugh but also learn something. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they didn’t even know honey badgers existed! To introduce an animal to someone, an adult, is inspiring. Always. These days, I’m finding myself producing a lot more, collaborating with others and making funny stuff—stepping behind the camera. I love that. I’m forever learning. I’ve been working with Addiction.com in developing videos; and applying the “edu-tainment” model to a lot of my work with them … trying to change a lot of the stigma attached to addiction and to get more of an actual conversation out of it, like all the other health issues out there! I truly feel Addiction.com will play an essential role in raising awareness of addiction. All addictions. I think we all just want society, as a whole, to have a better understanding. Plus, I got to work with a therapy donkey and therapy wolves/wolf pups! So visit Addiction.com/videos and watch out for my Albert Knows series and more! I gots lots in store, honey! I’m also looking forward to narrating a bunch—not just animals, but crazy humans!

Randall Honey BadgerMost of your videos have an off-the-cuff feel that makes them endearing. What’s your process when creating them―are they scripted or improvised? How much research is involved? How do you edit the video content, and how big is your movie team?

R: Oh, thank you so much, honey! I really do appreciate that! Well, for the most part, my assistant Chrissy puts, like, everything together! He gets his paws all over everything and assembles like a beaver building a dam! Or a wombat building a fort! Then, either Chrissy or a client will provide me with “talking points”—you know, the Shih Tzu I absolutely must say, but of course I’ll say it in my own way! (Laughing.) But Chrissy does a lot of the research and then schools me. I sit and listen, take notes. And then, when it comes time to record, I have Lil’ Ray Ray in the booth sometimes to record me. Sometimes, Chrissy does it. Ray Ray does a lot of the music and color correction—boring s**t like that. And when I record, I’m usually watching the footage assembled, and I just take it from there. By the time we record, I have a one-sheet of everything I should discuss. And for the most part, I do get to it all. So it’s a bit of both, with a few dashes more of improvisation than scripted.

For one of your videos, The Gross Honey Badgerette of New Zealand (2012), you got former Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001) star Lucy Lawless to romp around in a wig, furry slippers and badger-esque makeup, digging up dirt and sleeping in trees. How did she approach the material, and what was your directorial technique?

R: Yes! That’s one of my all-time fave videos! She’s incredible, isn’t she? And let me tell you, what a voice—she can sing! I met Lucy eons ago, and we were always thinking of ways we could do something together. I didn’t want to make a cameo on Xena or Spartacus (2010-2013), though she’d always suggest I stop by and do a “walk-on.” I was too shy! So one year, while at Comic Con, she tells me she’s a honey badger! I was like, “You sure are, honey!” But no, she was serious! She really thought she was a honey badger. Months later, we met up, and Lucy comes with this amazing honey badgerette costume that she made! I was so moved! That day of filming just made me so happy! She got all “methody” and literally became a honey badgerette! She’s such a badass! While my camey-manny, Ryan P., and I were filming her, I was live narrating her every move—so on the footage’s original audio, you hear me go to town, and we just became one: I with her honey badger and she with the narration! Magic!

Are you expecting to work with any more personalities in your videos in the future? Who would be your dream actor or actress?

R: I’ve had the great pleasure to work with so many personalities both onscreen and off, and I always love collaborating and just playing. It’s important to always “play.” It keeps one young. Fresh. Quick! I’m not expecting anything but what the day brings! If Ryan Gosling calls to finally be in a vid with me or Leo calls, asking me to narrate his wolf documentary, I would never say “no” to either. I want to make music videos with Maya Rudolph, Anna Netrebko and Bernadette Peters!

Randall Honey BadgerMusic plays a crucial, ironic role in your films, with a Bach Cello Suite or Mozart sonata generally playing in the background. How do you choose the soundtracks for your videos, and what are you seeking when selecting them?

R: For the most part, I’ll leave that all up to my assistant to deal with. I’ll suggest pieces, and for the most part, if it’s for a video like, Honey Badger, P.I. (2014) or Randall’s House of Horrors (2014), I generally like to compose those tunes myself! I really enjoy singing and making music, and thanks to technology, it’s all gotten so much easier to do! So with a little help from Lil’ Ray Ray, Chrissy and others, I’m able to bring the tunes from my head to MP3 form! I’m into a lot of different music; I just feel—and I think a lot of people do—classical music is truly best suited for wildlife or, otherwise, narrations. Luckily, there’s a world of classical and opera music out there, open for exploration and rebirth in this digital age!

Some of your skits, such as Honey Badger’s Randall: Randall’s First Date? (Ever?) (2012), have an anarchic, hopeless-but-lovable-lug quality reminiscent of vintage Steve Martin in The Jerk (1979) or even Jim Carrey. How do you develop your material, and what are you looking for when you cast your players?

R: Oh, why, thank you again! That really made me happy because I do adore Steve Martin and The Jerk, as well as a lot of Jim Carrey and Jerry Lewis. A lot of those guys relied on something deeper than charm, as hopeless lovables. I think as a goofball, you have to. Those characters and the way they played them are relatable to so many. I think that’s why I’ve always gravitated toward that kind of humor. It’s lovable because it’s truthful somehow. Their vulnerability is funny. I like to think of stories that can either exist within either a two-minute or eight- to 10-minute format. Take, for instance, Randall Rants. I don’t think any have ever gone over two minutes. But, P.I. and House of Horrors are eight to 10 minutes. I even think First Date was a bit lengthy, as I recall. I remember that was a tough one to cut! Lots of action shots and everything! Chrissy was showing me early cuts of it. I don’t like to have too much to do with that process. I’ll give thoughts time to time, but for the most part? Leave me out of it—you edit. Show me the finals. (Laughing.) I come up with ideas and just call upon friends or friends of friends and actors/actresses I’ve met along the way, you know? I always like to be able to tell someone, “I’d like to work with you someday” and mean it—so I really do my best to keep in touch with those I think I’d be able to make some badass magic with! I have a posse of actors and actresses I love and just want to keep assembling; I want to exist in this, like, [John] Cassavetes type of environment, but for online videos! Is that so wrong?

Animals are integral to much of your content, and you’ve outfitted some of your videos with ways to contact organizations that address wildlife causes. Is your goal with these videos more concerned with comedy or with outreach … and is there a happy medium between the two?

R: There is a happy medium. Look, I think the goal is to do both: Educate and entertain. If I’m able to get someone who normally wouldn’t give a s**t to click a link and donate money or sign a petition to save wildlife, then my mission was accomplished, because in this world of click through, click through, watch, click, watch, click away … it’s hard sometimes to get anyone to stop and listen to anything else you want them to know or anything important you want to get out. Another thing is, people share things. So maybe you won’t click through to the Humane Society’s home page and learn more about the inhumane treatment of farmlife from my video. That’s fine, because chances are you’ll share it, and someone you know will eventually click through. That’s the hope. But I do also want the comedy to hit, because if you’re cracking up and later on remember something I said, then that’s also another mission accomplished!

Randall Honey BadgerNot only do you create hilarious animal videos and sketches, but you also sing popular songs on film, as well as make well-targeted rants that are fully in line with your persona. What’s next for you in the world of film and video, and what do you see yourself doing in the future? What does video on the web offer you as a medium … and could that be expanded to the big screen?

R: I’m honestly just doing what I love and keeping busy doing it! It’s what keeps me going! I should probably make another Oscars-themed video. (I do those every year and have so much [fun] making them!) … I’m proudly working on a video with The Humane Society of the United States regarding the sick and gross ways pigs are treated on most major farms. And I’m continuing to develop and work on projects with Addiction.com, which is just so fantastic and only keeps inspiring me. Lots coming, lots happening! Oh, I’m also working on an all-lemur reboot of Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and presently seeking some investments, but I’m confident we’ll get the $468 million we need in order to make this dream a reality! I, of course, am working on the screenplay, will play the only human role and am directing! As well, I’m looking to make Boyhood (2014) a television series, with an all-sloth-and-kitten cast! I’m really very excited about this project, although it’ll probably take at least 38 years to put together. But slowly but surely we’ll shoot this thing and get it out there! Don’t forget, readers, you can always call my Wildlife Hotline at: (209) 647-1639 or just call and leave me a message anytime at: (641) 715-3900, ext. 175732.

You can also find Randall and his videos on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/user/czg123

 

Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website: http://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn189827. He also blogs about anti-Semitism for the Times of Israel. His views and opinions are his own.

4 thoughts on “Interviewing Honey Badger’s Randall: A Life Worth Narrating

  1. i’ve heard a lot more of Ze Frank’s True Facts vids, but there’s obviously plenty of humor to go around. What I like best about all these things is the way they are taking advantage of a basic shift in distribution methods. It ties into that whole Long Tail concept which may allow for more diversity in product. In the case of artists like Randall, it seems to be working, and that’s good for everybody.

    • It’s a very creative use of the medium, and it’s become quite a popular tool. I also think the Honey Badger video caught the attention of the world at just the right moment … an ingredient that often seems to factor in popularity.

  2. I knew what a Honey Badger was, but had never seen the You Tube films from Randall, so thanks for the introduction Simon. I will be looking at more soon! Great interview too…
    Best wishes from England, Pete.

    • Thanks, Pete! It’s funny stuff, isn’t it? There’s something admirable about putting one’s own voice to a nature program about honey badgers or other critters … his reactions are, I think, what many of us feel when watching them! If you liked the his honey badger original, check out the one he did on the great white shark–it’s pretty hilarious. 😀

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