Petaluma couple’s political satire video goes viral
DAVID TEMPLETON, ARGUS-COURIER STAFF | April 3, 2017
It’s also made a fan of actress-turned-activist Rosie O’Donnell.
The pointedly satirical jingle is set to the tune of “The Girl from Ipanema,” and takes a harsh jab at President Trump’s recent trips to the opulent Florida resort-compound he owns in Palm Beach. The song, sung by Sandy as Richard accompanies her on piano, is regularly accentuated with recorded voices reciting actual “tweets,” many of them originating in Scotland, posted in response to the president’s own regular tweets.
Just over 48-hours after “The Boy From Mar-a-Lago” was posted, on March 17, the former star of “The View” and “The Rosie O’Donnell” show tweeted a positive comment about the Riccardis and the video, further expanding its viewership. One week later, having since perused the local songwriters’ eight-year-old back-catalogue of similarly humorous, progressive-leaning videos, O’Donnell took to Twitter again to proclaim, in all caps, “MY FAVORITE NEW SINGING-SONGWRITING TEAM,” with the added remark, “I would like to make a guest appearance, if possible.”
“Ironically, I was struggling with laryngitis all the way through that video,” Sandy Riccardi said.
Over the last nine years, the couple has been building an international Internet reputation, fueled by a number of similarly humorous recordings. It’s an unexpected career turn for both of them, they say, though music has always been a part of their lives. Richard Riccardi, who holds degrees in Piano Performance from Oberlin College and Yale, currently works as a staff accompanist at Sonoma State University, a position he’s held since 2011. Sandy Riccardi, who earned a Master’s degree in Opera from Manhattan School of Music, is the former owner of The Music Hatchery (now the Petaluma School of Music). She currently teaches singing lessons privately at the couple’s home.
“The first satirical thing we ever wrote was a song called ‘Hockey Mama for Obama,’” said Sandy Riccardi, who wrote the song during the 2008 election cycle, in direct response to Sarah Palin.
“I have two kids who play hockey,” she said. “When Palin kept saying, ‘I’m speaking for all of the hockey moms,’ I’d sit there and go, ‘No you’re not. Don’t speak for me, Sarah Palin,’ and suddenly I had this idea of setting that phrase to the same tune as ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina,’ from the musical ‘Evita.’ I told Richard, ‘Um, I just wrote this little thing, and I want to sing it and record it, and maybe put it up on YouTube or something.’ And he said, ‘What key?’”
At the time, the two were engaged, but not yet married. That video, in which Richard accompanied wearing moose antlers while Sandy appeared in a Red hockey jersey, quickly reached over a million viewers on YouTube.
“At the time, a million views was pretty incredible,” she said. “Today, people go, ‘You only got a million? Meh!’”
After writing a few more songs, the Riccardis quickly learned that the more political their videos were, the more popular they became.
“After ‘Soccer Mama,’ we experimented for a while, putting up some jazz tunes and things, and we might get 1,000 hits,” Sandy said. “But when we’d put up something political or social, like ‘Charming Gay Son’ or ‘Menopause,’ or our other Sarah Palin song, ‘I Feel Quitty,’ we’d get thousands and thousands of hits.”
Inspired to expand the act, a live musical cabaret show was soon developed, under the title “Tastefully Raunchy,” which also became the name of their first CD. They’ve since performed the show all over the country, including a number of performances at the Metropolitan Room in New York City.
“It’s a funny show, and it keeps on evolving,” Richard Riccardi said, noting that they’ve developed two different variations of the act, one that’s political, “and one that’s just funny.”
The Riccardi’s say that they’ve made a bit of money from the videos, but only when posted on YouTube, which sometimes gives video creators a share of advertising revenues. The landscape has changed over the last few years, however, since Facebook stopped hosting YouTube videos. Facebook’s own video-hosting policies do not include returning any revenues to their creators. Though, “The Boy From Mar-a-Lago” has received 6 million views, the same video has only racked up 52,000 views on YouTube.
“If those 6 million hits were on YouTube, we’d be making serious money,” Sandy Riccardi said. “Still, it’s good PR, and it sends people to our website.”
The Riccardis believe the popularity of the “Mar-a-Lago” video is a direct result of public outrage in response to the president’s use of his own high-end resort as an alternative White House.
“For any president to cut social programs, saying we can’t afford them, and then spend taxpayer’s money putting up a huge staff of secret service people at his own resort, that’s just unacceptable,” Richard Riccardi said. “And we get to criticize that. It’s our right and our duty as citizens to criticize that. In our case, of course, we do that in a song that also makes people laugh.”
“A lot of people are talking like this,” added Sandy Riccardi. “We’re just the ones putting it on a video in the form of a song set to ‘The Girl From Ipanema.’”
As for Rosie O’Donnell’s sudden fandom, and her apparent offer to make a guest appearance, the Riccardis admit they don’t know exactly what O’Donnell means by the remark, but would certainly welcome future collaborations in any form.
“That would be amazing,” Sandy said. “And if that doesn’t happen, we can at least quote her on the cover of our next CD.”
(E-mail David at David [email protected].)