Sandra Bernhard, comedian
At five, I knew how to work the room ...
If you’re feeling slightly vulnerable or insecure today, close this window right now. Move mouse to cross and shut it down. Never mind triple threat, Sandra Bernhard is a quadruple threat, having written books, recorded albums, acted on TV and in movies, and blitzed the world with her outrageous wit on the stand-up stage. Her first one-woman show ran for six months off-Broadway and her most recent production, Sandyland, has been touring the US with rave reviews for the past 12 months. The dynamo will be kicking off her Australian tour with a performance in the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival on Friday March 13, presenting a unique combination of stand-up meets cabaret meets burlesque meets rock ‘n’ roll. The Weekend Edition caught up with Sandy this week to talk social media, safari jackets and sexy interludes.
Sandyland sounds like a place we’d like to visit. What can we expect when we get there?
Free rides, cocktails at sunset, sexy interludes and much more …
Your new live show combines stand-up with rock ‘n’ roll, cabaret and burlesque, what kind of preparation did it require? We hope for your sake not crunches and cardio …
Well I do work out quite a bit, but it’s the mental intellectual acuity that keeps me on my toes – staying in touch with what’s on the cutting edge culturally is really the key.
This will be your fourth visit to the country – how do Australian audiences differ to those in the US?
I think Australians have a keen interest in the global picture and appreciate work that challenges them and presents new ideas.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve observed about us so far?
Inherently, living detached from any other land mass does a number on people … Not sure what it is, but it’s charming, ultimately!
You’ll be charming locals at the Brisbane Powerhouse on Friday March 13. What’s on your to-do list while you’re in the city?
I’ll have to discover it! I haven’t spent much time in Brisbane but I’m ready for an adventure.
At what age did you realise you were funnier than the other girls?
At five, I knew how to work the room and just kept getting better and better!
What can you remember about performing stand-up for the first time?
I wore a safari jacket and shorts, espadrilles and a hat. I did my Mary Tyler Moore impression and brought down the house at the Ye Little Club in Beverly Hills.
You started your career at LA’s famous Comedy Store in the 1970s; how have you seen the industry change over the last few decades?
Due to social media and the internet, there are a million more outlets but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier for the long haul to stay on top.
Many of us have fond memories of you playing the role of Nancy – the first openly gay character on a network sitcom – on TV series Roseanne. What life lessons did you learn during that time?
To take it all the way out, keep it real and on the edge.
You’ve done a heck of a lot of touring over the past few years; how do you keep sane when on the road?
I only go out for short spurts. I have fun but I never drink and I really watch what I eat, but ultimately sleep is the trick.
How do you unwind after a live show?
Eat something delicious and watch a little TV.
You’ve recorded albums, written books, performed on the stand-up stage and acted in TV sitcoms, films and Broadway, but what do you consider to be your greatest achievement in life so far?
It’s a culmination of all of this and continuing to stay creative, inspired and focused.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, given or ignored?
From my brilliant friend Paul Mooney, who always told me to “shed my skin” every time I walked on stage.
What’s the best thing about being you right now?
Everyone is rediscovering me and celebrating my brilliance!
What are your essentials for happiness?
Spending time with my daughter and girlfriend and our dog George.