Without Sandra Bernhard We’re Nothing


Adam Sandel & Sandra Bernhard

Adam Sandel & Sandra Bernhard

Who doesn’t have a question or two for Sandra Bernhard? I told a handful of friends that I was going to interview the iconoclastic comedian and I was deluged with questions that enquiring minds want to know, mostly about her decade-ago relationship with a certain pop diva.

But there’s much more to know about the multi-talented Bernhard, whose career has spanned sold-out concerts; memorable TV stints including The L Word, Will and Grace and Roseanne (not to mention posing for Playboy) since she first hit it big opposite Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s 1983 film The King of Comedy.

Her new CD Whatever It Takes, co-written and produced by Ted Mason of Modern English, drops on August 25 and all things Sandra Bernhard can be found at http://www.sandrabernhard.com.

When she calls me from her New York home, I’m eating a cookie. “I just ate lots of cookies and they were delicious,” she tells me. Before my first question, we’ve already bonded.

Bernhard recently returned from a 10-day concert tour in London. San Francisco audiences have enjoyed her annual New Year’s Eve concerts, and we met when she judged the Miss Trannyshack Pageant. “I’ve been notorious for being part of the avant-garde gay scene for years,” she says. “I’ve used drag queens in my act and I was doing drag shows in L.A. when I was 19.” 

As she stated in her show Without You I’m Nothing: “My father was a proctologist and my mother was an abstract artist, so that’s how I view the world”.

Sandra and Cicely

She stops to take another incoming call which she cuts short with, “Okay, bye sweetie, have fun.” It was her 11 year-old daughter Cicely asking if she could go to a friend’s house. Has being a mother had an impact on Bernhard’s hard-edged comedy? 

“It’s had an amazingly positive impact on who I am as a person, but my actual performing hasn’t changed that much,” she says. “But it has made me more vulnerable and more real.”

Although she’s an actress, comedian, singer and writer, Bernhard ultimately sees herself as an entertainer. Her early idols and influences reflect her diverse talents. “I loved Carol Channing, Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore, and in later years Bette Midler, Lily Tomlin, Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, Dusty Springfield, Mick Jagger… it’s a wide swath of performers.”

Which of her many film projects is she most proud of? “It’s a toss-up between The King of Comedy and Without You I’m Nothing,” she says. “Even Hudson Hawk had its moments.” But if given the chance to burn all copies of anything she’s appeared in, she wouldn’t do it. “I’m never ashamed or embarrassed of anything I’ve ever done. It’s all part of your evolution as an artist.”

After 25 years in the public eye, the role that Bernhard is most recognized for is the bisexual Nancy Bartlett, who leaves Tom Arnold for Morgan Fairchild, on Roseanne. “It was fun to be spicy and crazy like Roseanne, and the show is still on two or three times a day, so people feel like I’m an old friend.”

How does one broach a personal question to a woman who’s been so gracious and friendly? By asking if there’s one question that she’s asked most often. “Just the things we’ve been talking about, my influences and background,” she says. Isn’t there one personal question that she’s really tired of getting? “Well yeah,” she says. “But I would never bring it up on my own – so I’m glad you didn’t.”

 Sandra Bernhard


For more of Adam Sandel’s “Happy Hour” celebrity interviews on Energy Talk Radio, go to:



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