Where Are They Now: Sandra Bernhard
By Gregory Miller
Sandra Bernhard's been shocking audiences since she began doing stand-up in the '70s. She became a household name as Nancy Bartlett on Roseanne -- one of the first recurring lesbian characters on TV. Since then, she's released a number of albums, made tons of TV and film appearances, and continued her stand-up through it all.
We caught up with former Out cover girl and two-time Out 100 honoree to discuss who's annoying her most right now, Perez Hilton's character, and how she keeps her routine fresh.
Out: I saw you tweeted that your upcoming tour is going to be called Sister Cinnamon's Traveling Circus.
Sandra Bernhard: It was, but it's not anymore.
Oh no, why not?
I was kind of under the gun to come up with a title for my show because I'm going back to London. In order to make it work and design a poster and everything, it's just going to be too crazy. So I'm just calling it Whatever It Takes, which is kind of based on an album that came out a year ago. I mean, a simple poster, and we can sell the album. Sometimes I get these ideas and even if they don't come to pass, it's kind of funny to throw it up on Twitter and get people's response.
What did that title even mean?
Well, it actually' I was watching Elton John and Leon Russell last week live on Fuse. I thought my girlfriend said 'Oh, it's Sister Cinnamon.' I said, 'Sister Cinnamon?' She said, 'Sisters singing.' He had three back-up singers. I just misunderstood what she said, so it came out of that. It was fun and it was weird, that's how I roll. I'll hear something and it becomes something.
You're doing all kinds of stand-up in the coming months. All these years later, how do you not run out of material?
Have you looked around at our world recently? It just gets weirder and crazier by the minute. Add in my own personal take on my life and personal experiences. In the past 13 years, I got pregnant and had my daughter, who's now 12. It's kind of endless. We got a dog, I talk about my dog. There's always something crazy and insane to cover. Just across the board, there's plenty of stuff to talk about and keep it fresh and interesting.
Do you get along with other comics? It seems like you guys always hate each other, but I saw you gave Lisa Lampanelli a 'mazel tov' for her marriage.
I'm not really in that world so much. Every once and a while, we cross paths. I have a lot of respect, especially for women who are out there doing their thing. Lisa's a real iconoclast and just balls out. She thought I didn't like her, which wasn't true. So we had this kind of funny [situation] where I reached out to her on Twitter and through Howard Stern, so it was also like 'Oh, you do like me?' You know, she does all of the roasts. Sometimes they'll have me on, not on TV but just at the Friar's Club, and I hate roasts. I can't stand -- even if it's all in jest -- saying things about people. I find that just too much for my nerves. So when I get to a roast, I kind of shut down. So I think she took it personally, like I didn't like her. But they make me nervous, so we kind of cleared the air and became friends on Twitter, which is really fun.
Who in the media right now is getting on your nerves?
Obviously all of the tea partiers and these extreme right-wing candidates from Sharron Angle to Christine O'Donnell, and the two women running out in California. These people are just constantly churning up the negativity and the antipathy. I don't get it. I don't believe they care about this country. I think they're narcissists and they're weird. I just wish they would stop this ridiculous dialogue that is unnecessary and destructive to our culture, which is already fragile.
You came under a lot of fire back in 2008 for a joke you made about Sarah Palin. Has enough time passed that you feel like you can talk about her in your act again?
You know, honestly, I have no interest in talking about her. She shouldn't even be part of the American conversation. I find it ridiculous, so I don't even talk about her. There's nothing to say. She's ridiculous.
What about Meghan McCain. I heard you think she's a closet Democrat.
Well, she is. It's just not interesting to be a Democrat and talk about all the things she talks about. But when you're under the guise of being a Republican, and you're pro-choice, and you're critiquing your party, it suddenly makes for a good story. I think she wants to have a platform, so it's a convenient way to have it.