From pastrami lox to surprising her fans, I am so thrilled to have taken a trip into Sandyland with the one and only Sandra Berhard. Like Sandra sings on "Who Knew," "She trusted me, I trusted her, and now I trust you too."
My first introduction to Sandra Bernhard came in 1991 both because of Madonna's Truth or Dare and being cast on Roseanne as "Nancy Bartlett," the first openly gay character on a network sitcom. Sandra's talent, the way she spoke, her fashion style all fascinated me. But it was with the release of her album Excuses for Bad Behavior that really made me a fan. I loved that album. It made want to know more. So that lead me to finding Without You I'm Nothing, her groundbreaking one-woman show that captivated me. I loved her performance style of mixing comedy with music. I had never really seen a comedian do that before the way Sandra did. As she premiered news shows like I'm Still Here...Damnit! and Everything Bad and Beautiful, I made sure I was there watching. When I decided to give stand-up comedy a try, Sandra was one of my big influences in figuring out my own style of comedy. I made sure to always include music in my routine too. It was a thrill to meet Sandra in 2006 after a performance of her show Everything Bad and Beautiful at the DR2 Theatre in NYC. I was elated!
After years of being a fan, I'm honored to have the opportunity to interview Sandra about her annual New Year's shows at Joe's Pub, plus her illustrious career including her time on Roseanne! Sandra will be presenting Sandra Monica Blvd: Coast to Coast from December 26-31 at Joe's Pub in NYC (425 Lafayette Street). Click here for tickets!
1. This December, you are once again returning to Joe's Pub for your annual week long New Year's Eve shows. What do you look forward to about performing these shows every year? The creativity & connection to my audience at a time of year that is rich with all kinds of emotions and needs. I am there to bring everyone up!
2. What will surprise fans most about this year's show? The fact that I will have driven all the way across country to get here.
3. When you look back over your career, what are you most proud of? What do you wish you did differently, if anything? What do you still hope to accomplish? I am most proud of the continuity of my point of view that I care about my audience and the varying turbulent times in which we all live. Well, if I did everything differently we might not be doing this interview. I have a lot of projects in the works and have been forging new relationships in the business, so a lot is happening and I want to do my own line of oils too.
4. Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part 1) is one of my favorite albums of yours. I love "(I'm Waiting)," "Lonely Town," & "Manhattan." So, my questions are...what are you still waiting for? When are you or were you at your loneliest? What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan? I am waiting on every corner for the light to change and see things from a new perspective. I was at my loneliest before I had my daughter and met my girlfriend and adopted our dog George. My favorite thing to do in Manhattan is walk down to Russ & Daughters for the pastrami lox.
5. You made history when you appeared on Roseanne as "Nancy Bartlett," the first openly gay character on a network sitcom. Looking back, how do you feel that helped open industry doors for future gay/lesbian characters/shows? What was your favorite part about being on the show & working with the cast of Roseanne? Well yes, I think "Nancy" inspired and entertained many viewers and opened them up to new ways of looking at sexuality. I loved the cast of Roseanne: Roseanne, Laurie Metcalf, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, everyone was open and brilliant and did their thing without a lot of fan fare.
6. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their life by one percent better everyday. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better everyday? Meditation. I am really trying to meditate more and more and clear the confusion and chaos that only hampers my happiness and creativity.
New improved Sandy....a compelling performer who loves to engage her audience with personal, provocative, and deeply emotional content. Sandra is a sports fanatic Detroit Lions & Tigers. Venus and Serena Williams inspire her to take it to the limit. Her dog, George, a rescue from Tennessee, is a constant source of joy. Travel abroad, Morocco, Paris, London Rome inspiring. Delicious food, free range, sustainable, farm to table is a passion. The word that best describes her lifestyle is Schawazee! On the move, a fastidious housekeeper, folder of laundry and organizer keeps her on point. Fashion comes into play but does not rule her in any way. Short car trips up the California coast clear her mind. But she keeps a New York state most of all. Up late, up early. Humming, whistling, and on the move.
Sandra Bernhard began her career at L.A.’s famed Comedy Store in the ‘70s, and since then has written and starred in numerous one-woman shows, acted in movies and on television, recorded albums and authored books.
Her first one-woman show, the groundbreaking Without You I’m Nothing, ran for 6 months off-Broadway in 1988 and served as inspiration for the film and Grammy-nominated album of the same name. The critically acclaimed I’m Still Here…Dammit! opened off-Broadway in 1997, moved to Broadway a year later, and was filmed for an HBO special. The New York Times described Bernhard as a "Living, breathing bonfire" and applauded the show, calling it "an angst driven, foul-mouthed, poison-laced joy ride that banks and careens frenetically through the worlds of fashion, celebrity, rock, and religion." In 2006, Sandra’s Everything Bad and Beautiful also opened to raves. "Give the dame her due, it’s invigorating to be in the presence of a true original." (New York Times, 6/06) Her most recent show, I Love Being Me, Don’t You? played to sold-out crowds for an extended run last summer in Los Angeles. The album version of the show was released on Rooftop Records last fall, and she has been touring it with since. "She has chutzpah to spare, but it’s her articulate intelligence that earns our attention…It’s [her] combination of glamour and accessibility that accounts for Bernhard’s enduring appeal," wrote the Los Angeles Times.
From 1991-1996 Bernhard played "Nancy Bartlett"—the first openly gay character on a network sitcom—on Roseanne. And she has had guest starring or recurring roles on numerous other shows, among them: Good Christian Belles, Hot in Cleveland, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Crossing Jordan, Law & Order: SVU, Will & Grace, The Sopranos, The L Word, Ally McBeal, The Larry Sanders Show, and The Richard Pryor Show. She has appeared more than 30 times on Late Night with David Letterman and has been a regular guest of Howard Stern’s since the early ‘80s.
Sandra’s film credits include Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, for which she was awarded Best Supporting Actress by the National Society of Film Critics, Nicholas Roeg’s Track 29, Hudson Hawk, Dinner Rush, and Dare.
Sandra’s music albums include: I’m Your Woman (Polygram, 1986), Excuses for Bad Behavior (Epic, 1994) and the world music album Whatever It Takes (Mi5). She has also sung with or opened for various musical acts, including: The Pretenders, Cyndi Lauper, and the Scissor Sisters. Other notable performances include her participation in the Stormy Weather Benefit, the Rainforest Benefit, and The Elton John Tribute for Broadway Cares. "She has musicality to die for," the L.A. Times wrote recently, "a voice that swoops from the bluesy basement to a top-floor falsetto and a campy soulfulness that can compellingly reinterpret the Isley Brothers’ "That Lady" or just go nuts with "Lady Marmalade."
Sandra has also written three books: Confessions of a Pretty Lady (Harper&Row, 1988), Love, Love and Love (HarperCollins, 1994), and May I Kiss You on the Lips, Miss Sandra? (William Morrow,1998). Her work has also been published in numerous magazines, including, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveler, Rolling Stone, Interview, and Spy.
"A performer of stunning originality. Funny but foxy, super smart and slightly mad!" (WCBS) Bernhard’s live performances are a thrilling hybrid of stand-up comedy and rock ‘n roll, a raucous mix of political satire, pop culture commentary and cabaret. "The experience is like hanging out with a hip and funny friend who never fails to lift you up with her outrageous freedom." (Los Angeles Times, 8/11)