After spending the morning with Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, one thing is for certain: they are a dynamic duo. The two first met competing in Season 2 of Fox’s American Idol. Then a fledgling reality series, neither one could truly anticipate the human cannon they were being shot out of towards a life of fame and music. Studdard took home the trophy that year and Aiken crowned runner-up, but the two share a 15-year bond unlike other reality competitors, and they bring that charm to Broadway for a limited engagement run at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre with Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show. Watch them sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” below!
After singing for the press, the two proved audiences will enjoy an evening of laughter and superb music.
You two seem to be very close even after all these years.
Ruben Studdard: We didn't have any time apart from each other after American Idol. Clay and I did press, everything, together for a like months.
Clay Aiken: Everything.
RS: We didn't really get a chance to be apart.
CA: What was that? A chance? You didn't need it.
RS: Yeah I needed a chance to be away from you. [Laughs]
CA: I think Season 2 may stay in touch better than some of the other ones do because we just were sort of this interesting season where people still were very naïve about what the show was going to be about. And now sort of fell into this whole new world. We know where everybody is to some degree, but Ruben and I have stayed in touch ourselves probably more, I think, than anybody. Would you think that's true?
RS: I would say that's true.
Have you guys ever spent the holidays together?
CA: No I don't think we have. We spent fourth of July together.
RS: We did do that.
CA: We've done that, but not Thanksgiving or Christmas.
What are each of your favorite Christmas memories?
RS: I think seventh grade. I had really bad conduct grades, but I got a really great present: a dual cassette player-with-a-record combo of Bobby Brown's Don't Be Cruel album. Still remember that. That's one of my favorite Christmas memories.
CA: Bobby Brown what year was that?
RS: It was like ’89.
CA: Wait you weren't seventh grade in ’89?
RS: Yes I was.
CA: No you weren't.
RS: Sixth grade, seventh grade. Sixth or seventh grade. Yeah.
CA: Oh man, he's so much older than me I had no idea. I feel like this year’s gonna be my new favorite Christmas memory. I've done some Christmas tours in the past and I've always loved those. But I have a vivid memory as a child—probably not even too young, maybe 15 years old—of driving back home with the Christmas tree stuck in the car, but we couldn't close the windows because the tree was inside. We couldn't tie it to the roof without the rope being around the [tree], you know, we were rednecks. We had to drive all the way back, probably 20 miles home, in the freezing air with the windows wide open. We about all got hypothermia for that. That's probably my favorite Christmas memory. Almost dying.
Are we going to hear stories like this during your show? Is it just a full-on Christmas concert? What can people expect?
RS: Just to have a good time. I mean I think Christmas is about fun and family and the overall jovial spirit of the holiday.
CA: I like that word choice. Word of the day. Ding-ding! We will have some Christmas memories that we talk about, but we're trying to recreate these holiday variety shows that we grew up watching. Carol Burnett and I can't think of another right now. What was your favorite one Ruben?
RS: Hee Haw.
CA: Hee Haw, of course. Ruben's favorite one. So it's kind of that thing: some skits, some comedy, some bantering. We can banter.
RS: We sure can.
CA: I actually think people maybe somewhat surprised at how unique the show is. We're still both going to sing quite a bit, but I hope we make people laugh a little.
RS: I will make people laugh.
CA: Yeah I'm not very funny.
RS: People will cry when they see you. Your platinum hair.
Speaking of music and Christmas music, what is your favorite Christmas song to hear and what is your favorite Christmas song to sing?
RS: Favorite Christmas song to hear would probably be “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway. Favorite Christmas song to sing… That's a hard one.
CA: I was actually going to be nice and say one of my favorite Christmas songs to hear is Ruben singing “This Christmas” because it's very “you” to me. It's almost your song to me now. Favorite Christmas song to sing you'll have to wait because I'm gonna do it and I don't want to give it away.
You've been on Broadway before, Clay. Ruben, I know that you toured with Ain't Misbehavin'. What are you most excited to get back to on Broadway? What are you excited to experience from theatre on a Broadway scale?
CA: I think for both of us there's something about [performing] live that's not replicable anywhere else. I've done some, we've both done film and TV stuff and I don't like doing it. We both like performing live and having that live audience. Broadway specifically for me even as we do press you can see that there's something very different about the Broadway community. People are very respectful of each other. There's not that overly competitive spirit. People are very supportive of each other and I like that about it. I'm kind of excited to be able to have that camaraderie again.
RS: I'm just looking forward to being here with Clay. Performing is performing—getting onstage and having a good time. I'm looking forward to the little like quirky things that'll probably happen that nobody else will catch that go on between him and I.